Paul Kuipers

Paul Kuipers


A place to hide for Edward Snowden

Het Achterhuis (The Rear Annex) is a spatial manifesto to address the importance of transparency, a fundamental digit in our democratic system. Het Achterhuis is a place for Edward Snowden who revealed important information about how governments and corporations are monitoring the population and stealing their data in order to manipulate it. It forced him to run away and he ended up stateless, requesting and being granted asylum outside of his own society. Time and again, we see that people who fight for openness have to encrypt themselves; running and hiding, or even worse, losing their citizenship.

Het Achterhuis is a place to hide for Edward Snowden in Amsterdam, which is, according to writer Russel Shorto, one of the most liberal cities in the world. This paradoxical theme of revealing by hiding became the foundation for starting a mass versus void study. It was an architectural tool to research the interrelationship of spaces.

Het Achterhuis aims to attack a legible organisation of spaces, which would have been the most obvious choice when we think about transparency. Instead, it tries to confuse by introducing a mystery in the spatial order. Het Achterhuis is a labyrinthine configuration of spaces. It refers to the strategic function of the labyrinth to confuse, as well as to its ability to entertain and reflect.

Het Achterhuis reinterprets a typical Amsterdam typology of the canal house and re-enacts the internal gardens of the 17th century canal belt as a place to hide. The paradox of revealing by hiding demands an ambiguous place. It can never be a single shelter for the individual, who, in the case of Snowden, serves a public debate. Het Achterhuis therefore functions as a server in the community. It simultaneously protects the individual and makes connections within the collective.

Het Achterhuis functions as a firewall for Snowden, as a server with public programmes and as a gateway for passers-by. That means that the inhabitant becomes a host for public events in the private realm. At the same time, Het Achterhuis adds a new event to the city: a cryptic pass-through in the urban fabric. Het Achterhuis hides and reveals at the same time.

Graduation committee: Machiel Spaan (mentor), Marlies Boterman and Ronald Rietveld. Additional members for the exam: Ira Koers and Jarrik Ouburg.

Back to list