Crimson Architectural Historians

Group – Utrecht, The Netherlands

1994 onwards

Crimson Architectural Historians are Ewout Dorman, Annuska Pronkhorst, Michelle Provoost, Simone Rots, Wouter Vanstiphout and Cassandra Wilkins. The group began in 1994, working between historical research, critique and architectural practice, with the contemporary city as their subject. They began with the city in which they lived, Rotterdam, unearthing another history of its post-war redevelopment which did not follow the received logic that demolition and redevelopment was the consequence of the bombing of the city during World War II. Crimson instead pointed to another narrative where the process of demolition had already begun in the thirties, and was enthusiastically continued during and after the war. This initial insight led to research on post-war cities worldwide, which dealt with how urban planning has been used as a political tool in the Cold War as well as in the current planning and building of New Towns.

Crimson view history not as a closed event in the past, but as something that can imbue the city with meaning across time, and their projects try to set this latent historical potential to work in the present. Their research on New Towns has led to a long-term engagement with the suburb of Hoogvliet in the harbour area of Rotterdam. 'Wimby: Welcome into our Backyard' was a series of proposals and policy-decisions for which Crimson acted as spatial agent through curating and helping to implement a series of small-scale projects such as experimental buildings, a recreational park, a festival and various artworks. During the six year project Crimson analysed, consulted and commissioned work in order to uncover and enhance the qualities of the area, and in so doing became an essential part of the regeneration process.

Their working method begins with empirical research, finding out through interviews and observations what is there both physically and socially. With this they construct a narrative for the area that is led not by the desire for commercial development but is instead a powerful and very specific story to convince people of the potential of the area. This becomes an urban strategy and in Hoogvliet this close analysis of past and present urban conditions led to highly specific proposals such as co-housing just for musicians and a park with hand-made model boats. Crimson have referred to their practice as 'painting panoramas of possibilities.'

Key Projects

  • WiMBY; Welcome into my Backyard
  • ‘The New Town’ research Project

Crimson sub-curators of Maakbaarheid - International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam," (accessed December 3, 2009,).

Other Work

Crimson, Too Blessed to be Depressed: Crimson Architectural Historians 1994-2002. (Rotterdam: 010, 2002).

Crimson and Pedro Gadanho, Post.Rotterdam: Architecture and City after the Tabula Rasa. (Rotterdam: 010, 2001).

Crimson and Felix Rottenberg, WiMBY! Hoogvliet: Future, Past and Present of a New Town. (Rotterdam: NAI, 2007). See also:

Crimson, Michael Speaks and Gerard Hadders, Mart Stam's Trousers: Stories from Behind the Scenes of Dutch Moral Modernism. (Rotterdam: 010, 1999).

Crimson, The New Town research and exhibition project:

References About

"Hoovgliet, Rotterdam, 2004,", in Verb Connection: Architecture Boogazine, (Barcelona: Actar, 2004).

"Org-wars: Post-urban Strategies by the Dutch Group Crimson," Daidalos (1999).


'On a more practical level, history becomes incredibly useful, because the confrontation with it means the possibility of adding something to a programme or a project that is new and wild. Depending on what kind of old stuff you have to deal with as an architect, a planner or a writer, there is a wild, unpredictable offering of themes, images and ideas: they can be about death, crime, sex, poverty, destruction, beauty, love, religion, ideology, nature or even about architecture. History becomes the random factor in what are usually stately conventional programmes.'
- Crimson, Too Blessed to be Depressed: Crimson Architectural Historians 1994-2002. (Rotterdam: 010, 2002), p. 8.

'[B]eing able to tell a good story, a gripping story, a touching, exciting, spectacular story is the core of designing and planning.'
- Crimson, Too Blessed to be Depressed: Crimson Architectural Historians 1994-2002. (Rotterdam: 010, 2002), p. 8.


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