Ole Bouman (born 1960, Amersfoort) is a Dutch German historian, writer, publisher, photographer, curator, lecturer and practitioner in design and architecture. Since the 1990s, he has proposed multiple new design concepts, such as RealSpace in QuickTimes, Egotecture, Unsolicited Architecture and Architecture of Consequence. He founded several new culture brands, such as Volume, the New NAi, the Value Factory and Design Society. Over the years, he took up a variety of institutional roles, including heading the architecture journal Archis (later Volume Magazine), visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hong Kong University, director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi), and creative director of the Urbanism/Architecture Bi-City Biennale of Shenzhen/Hong Kong (2013-2014). Currently, Bouman is the Founding Director of Design Society, an initiative of China Merchants Group and the Victoria and Albert Museum in Shenzhen, which opened in December 2017.
scroll to read personal story
I was born in the city of Amersfoort to a German mother and Dutch father, close to the place where not much earlier, the country of one parent had capitulated to the other parent’s country. Their plight during the years that followed, and their peculiar bond thereafter, was rarely discussed, but must have been a defining feature of my upbringing. Architecture, as the subject I chose to dedicate much of my professional life to, must have symbolized the renaissance of what they saw destroyed in front of their eyes when they were coming of age. Architecture, the medium of humanity defying its biggest threats.
However diverse my activities, architecture has permeated throughout them all: architecture not so much as the art or technique of making buildings, but architecture as the intelligent way to organize our lives on earth, and infuse it with purpose. Architecture more as the drive to invest life with meaning, than as a specific technical skill. It concerns an intelligence that is by no means confined to trained architects, and a purpose that inspires the minds of many more besides the clients who is able to pay for it.
Pursuing this intelligence and purpose led me to many different roles – writer and critic, editor and teacher, director and founder of new institutions. On numerous occasions, what began as a job, later turned into a new foundation: from a lecture series to the manifesto The Invisible in Architecture; from Archis to Volume; from a design studio at MIT to the Studio of Unsolicited Architecture; from curating a biennale to establishing the Value Factory; from the Shekou Design Museum to Design Society.
What all these projects seem in retrospect to have in common is the desire to turn analysis into action, and into a new reality. If architecture is the act of resistance or even revolt against a life without purpose, then it is not enough to talk about buildings or even just make them. What is needed is to imagine, conceive and create the situations that matter, and to halt, if only for a moment, the relentless march of time.
This website publishes mainly work that has been originated, initiated and executed by myself, and which consistency, I believe, is worth revealing. However, the modalities of those works have varied. A selection of them have been co-authored or co-curated. Sometimes I acted as a client or a commissioner. Crucial creative roles of others are mentioned in the relevant project presentations. Special thanks for the website design work by Xiaoqian Cai.