Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

Wood and Straw House . Olst

Gijs Van Vaerenbergh . photos: © Johnny Umans

Shelter was conceived as a part of the 2023 IJssel Biennial, an exhibition of art in public spaces along the Ijssel River in the Netherlands. This particular edition, titled Ground-Notes (Grondtonen) zooms in on the relationship between human and nature, and deals with the impact of climate change on our landscape. The outdoor exhibition featured 27 temporary, monumental works of art created by international artists, interconnected through a bicycle route spanning over 100 kilometers.

The installation Shelter also explores the relationship between humans and nature. The work features a simple roof structure intersecting with two trees. Shelter combines two contrasting ideas: that of contemporary vernacular architecture (a distinctly human concept), as exemplified by the commonly seen roof construction in today’s architectural landscape, and the concept of nature, embodied by the trees. As such, the installation provides a sheltered space alongside the street, formalizing what the trees have always naturally provided—an inviting opportunity to pause, stand still, and immerse oneself in the surrounding landscape.

Shelter, as an architectural gesture, reminds of Laugier’s concept of a primitive hut. An iconic image and architectural statement from the 18th century, that harks back to the basic principles of all architecture and tells a story how architecture emerged from nature through the use of readily available materials. The roof structure, however, employing modern construction materials such as wooden beams and roof slates, also sets itself apart from Laugier’s concept and points to the complex and intricate relationship between architecture and nature.