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Black-mantis vehicle uses a Cold War hangar as creative burrow

When the doors of aircraft shelter 610 on the Soesterberg air base open, there’s no way to prepare oneself for the “giant arthropod”, “steel monster”, “monstrous black behemoth” that rolls out. Practically, it’s a kind of office on wheels- a mobile research space – that takes participants to new places, physically and mentally, as the structure rolls down the long runway at the former NATO base outside Utrecht (the Netherlands).

In 2013 brothers Ronald and Erik Rietveld – an architect and philosopher by training -, who operate “at the crossroads of architecture, art and philosophy”, were given the keys to a vacant aircraft shelter. Along with Studio Frank Havermans, they spent the next year and a half creating a structure that would cause visitors to rethink the history of the Cold War air base.

Secret Operation 610 is massive, 4.5-meter-tall (15 feet) beast. Towering above the metal “legs” is a diamond-shaped capsule that serves as an ambulatory think tank for scientists and artists looking to escape conventional boundaries. The space can be customized – a meeting table drops from the ceiling, chairs can be folded out of the floor and walls – and moves along a three-kilometer-long landing strip to assure that views/concepts/reality aren’t taken for granted.

Like so much of RAAAF’s work, Secret Operation 610 is a real-life “thinking model”. For the Rietvelds “every project is a manifesto in itself”. “Vacant NL”, created for the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, “calls upon the Dutch government to make use of the enormous potential of inspiring, unoccupied buildings”; they calculate 10,000 in the Netherlands alone.

“‘The End of Sitting’ is a thinking model that questions our ‘sitting society’” and our reliance on chairs as necessary objects. They explored different standing positions and the possibility of “radical change for the working environment”.

Additional media:

Secret Operation 610
Video: Moving Films
Photography: Michiel de Cleene, Raymond Rutting

The End of Sitting
Photography: Jan Kempenaers (color), Frederica Rijkenberg (black and white)
Animation: Olivier Campagne, ArtefactoryLab

Bunker 599
Photography: Allard Bovenberg
Video: Roberto Rizzo

Vacant NL
Photography: Rob ‘t Hart

Firemen Walk With Us
Photography: Rob ‘t Hart, Huub Meijers
Video: Moving Films