Sophie Floor Wartenbergh, 24, Netherlands

DesignLab Graduate 2017

The intercom turns on: “Dear students, it’s half past nine, the academy closes in fifteen minutes. We will be open tomorrow from eight o’clock. Please take your belongings and go home. Thank you.”

"Like creatures coming out of hibernation I see students crawling out of their den. A group is formed and they start to descend the central staircase of the Rietveld building. I let them pass. The quintet doesn’t speak. Their glance introverted. A state of mind I know so well; the typical ‘what-still-needs-to-be-done-before-assesments-look’. 

It is one of the specialities of the staircase to generate a moment of overview: the moment you can’t do anything enables you to see everything.

Though the glass facade darkness is taking over which makes the separation between inside and outside even bigger than during the day. The night pushes itself onto the glass. He even seems to push further inwards, but the three concrete columns won’t let him in.

To me, the staircase presents itself as a beacon of clearness surrounded by the chaos of the academy. For a moment he puts his arm around me and takes over control.

Step by step by step.

My own footsteps.

Nothing else.

Sometimes when you enter a space, it seems so familiar it feels like home. There is a recognition that can’t be denominated. The space moves you often without knowing directly why. You are part of it. Your entire being is taken along in the surroundings. 

The Rietveld Academie is such a space. Where I feel at home. Where I can dwell. Even though there is no bed, and you can’t take a shower either -as a matter of fact, you could back in the day-. But nevertheless it is more a home to me than some places that actually have been. 

Our shared history contributes to this feeling, but from the first time I entered his glass doors, I immediately felt at ease.

Looking back at my years at the academy, it strikes me that the thing I got most attached to is the building itself. A friendship arose between the space and me which I will cherish. Still it tells me stories I have never heard before. And takes me to spaces I have never seen before. As if you suddenly find a hidden doorway in your own home. This building taught me to see the richness of our surroundings and evolved in the most important lesson I have learned during my Rietveld education: develop a resourcefulness to see what’s hidden behind the ordinariness of daily life. And be able to translate that into a ‘strategic intervention’.

Like artist Caledonia Curry puts it beautifully: 'it’s almost like you create a little opening into that childlike part of yourself - the part that’s usually ground down by the relentless gruelling details of every day - and if you can break that open then there is that feeling of a lot more possibilities. The world is stranger, there’s a lot more going on than you thought five minutes ago.'"