Interviewed in Chicago, 23 August 2013
My conversations with Wiel Arets started in 1991, when we met in the orphanage of Aldo van Eyck, at the Berlage Institute in south Amsterdam, and have carried on until today, at Mies’s Crown Hall, where we work together at the iit College of Architecture.
The conversation we had recently in Chicago is just a small ‘pixel’ from our continuing intense exchange of ideas regarding our professional and private lives, which will, I hope, help the readers of Oris learn more about the underlying motivation of an exceptional architectural scope of work.
For the purposes of this leading article I will quote the critical observations of Robert McCarter from the book Wiel Arets: Auto Biographical References.
Wiel Arets is an architect with an exceptional sense of self-awareness; a profound ethical approach to architecture, based on his deeply-held beliefs; a humble desire to learn from certain works by others – works for which he has sympathy because they relate to his beliefs; a clear-eyed recognition of his own obsessions and intense interests, and a willingness to engage them in his projects, making his method truly autobiographical.
Arets’ works are too anchored in their places and circumstances, too directly the result of his autobiographical and auto-didactic method, too clearly an outcome of his progressive social views and too much a product of his dialogical practice of architecture, to be appropriately characterized as part of any style, school of thought, or general mode of making architecture.
The critical importance of Arets’ dialogical approach to design lies in his ability to respond to the client, site, programme, place, and circumstance, engaging each with the greatest respect and without preconceptions, while simultaneously exercising the most remarkable capacity for transforming reality in entirely unforeseen ways.
ORIS: Wiel, I’d like to begin by asking about your formative years, your studies in Eindhoven, growing up in the south of the Netherlands and your student travels to Russia and Japan, which allowed you to see the world during this very important time in your life. Would you conclude that this multi-cultural environment you grew up within, in the Netherlands, alongside the Belgian, German, Dutch, and French cultures and languages, is a situation that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life? How has this unique upbringing affected your teaching and practice of architecture?
Wiel Arets: My family and I always travelled when I was young. We often travelled to nearby Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland. I remember that my parents were always very interested in other cultures, yet, strangely enough, we hardly ever travelled within the Netherlands. I don’t even remember the first time I went to Amsterdam with my father. What I do remember is going to Cologne, Antwerp, Liege, Frankfurt and Munich – we always went south. I would say we mostly travelled in Germany and France. Being born in an area with many people, from all over the world – amongst teachers, engineers and miners – allowed my childhood to be very open and modern, in the sense of its context. My parents’ house was quite normal, yet its furnishings were what some would call ‘Mid-century Modern’; our furniture had stainless steel frames and fantastic coloured fabrics. I grew up in a very modern and very-multicultural environment.
I studied at the Technical University of Eindhoven (tu/e), where I was very curious about, and very interested in, physics. During my childhood, a scientific journal would arrive in the mail every week, showcasing the world’s latest innovations and discoveries. These feature articles always captured my imagination. When this journal came each week, I always read it. But just a few years later, the media landscape changed, and suddenly tv took preceden, in terms of communicating new ideas to the world. At tu/e, I began my studies as a physics student, and during that time the school was very much hands-on, and focused very much on engineering. It was there that I first worked with a computer, but we also used our hands. My idea was that at university I would be, every day, in the library for three hours. And that’s what I did. It was an incredible environment to be in, reading about philosophers and architects that perhaps others at that time weren’t interested in. During this period I become interested in what was happening in the usa and Japan, but also within Europe. I also went to Paris quite often. There were always lectures within a few hours’ drive of Eindhoven, and I was very much involved in the events happening within that radius. And then of course, I went to Russia.
ORIS: After your graduation, and after you established your office in Heerlen, you were invited by Alvin Boyarsky to teach in London at the aa School of Architecture. At that time the school was, perhaps, in its golden years of architectural education, with Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid and Elia Zenghelis, and many others all present. How did this experience, of being in London during the early 1980s, immersed within this very intense environment, affect you and your outlook towards architecture?
Wiel Arets: First, one has to understand that I studied in Eindhoven and not in Delft. This may not seem like a big difference to someone unfamiliar with the Netherlands’ architectural educations, but the Technical University of Delft (tu Delft) is a design school, and tu/e is a polytechnic. At tu/e, Geert Bekaert was a very important Belgian professor for me, and probably the person who first introduced Koolhaas to the Netherlands. Bekaert’s writings are very important, both to many others and myself. Because of him a lot of philosophy was imparted within the school. At that time the university was interested in highly technical ideas and problems, and Bekaert gave the university a completely different outlook on what that meant via his interest in philosophy. Hans Tupker was then also a young professor at tu/e, and perhaps he didn’t have the biggest architectural firm, but what he was doing was travelling around the world, and he introduced to that school, and to me as well, the work of Judith Turner and Zaha Hadid, who at that time had just finished her diploma at the aa. I was incredibly interested in these people then, and continue to be interested in them today.
The years I spent alongside Alvin Boyarsky, who was then the aa’s director, were highly influential. I was very much aware of the debates concerning Postmodernism and Deconstructivism, and all of these ‘movements’ happening in architecture. But I wasn’t interested in all that, and neither was tu/e. Instead the school looked in other directions, such as the debates happening in Italy and the usa, for instance. When I arrived in London, Zaha alongside Rem and Peter Cook and Peter Wilson, confronted me as professors at a time when Bernard Tschumi had just left. Everything happening at the aa at that time was not just an internal debate. The aa was not a part of the isms being practised outside the school, except for Charles Jencks, who very often initiated debates on Postmodernism. Boyarsky always wanted to include everyone. He was clever enough to understand that he needed to invite different contemporary voices to the school. When Ben van Berkel finished his studies he also taught at the aa. It wasn’t a school where students worked all day on their projects, but instead a place where dialogue and discourse happened. There was just no space to work there, in the sense of producing physical things. But there was space for lectures and debates and discussion. The aa was an integral part of London. I flew back and forth between England and the Netherlands every week for many years, during the time that Boyarsky also invited Peter Eisenmann, Tony Vidler and John Hejduk to teach, and suddenly the American architecture scene flew back and forth to London, too.
ORIS: Wiel, it’s clear that your time spent studying and the periods directly thereafter were of great importance to your own architectural development. Continuing in time, I’d like to ask about your first major building, the Academy of Art & Architecture in Maastricht. I remember, during our time together at the Berlage Institute, that students were always approaching me, asking me to arrange a study trip to visit the building. And we did end up visiting the project with the students. A couple of months after, I went there again, this time with Kenneth Frampton. In one of his texts on the building, Frampton noted how he had never seen such a level of maturity in a work by such a young architect. Indeed it was for everyone at that time, being there and seeing this building in this medieval setting of Maastricht’s inner city, completely unique. And as Frampton noted, it is a very mature work. Could you explain the importance of this building to your practice, your office, and your own architectural definitions?
Wiel Arets: When I was shortlisted for the Academy of Art & Architecture in Maastricht, I had just finished a small shop around the corner, the Beltgens Fashion Shop. While working on that shop, I was interested in the idea of the entrance door being higher than the front façade’s window. The back window of the shop, which overlooked the courtyard, and the front door aligned so that the whole building block became the façade. It was an attempt to compress the space’s features into a flat image when seen from the street, in which the viewer could simultaneously see through the entire space. The client had a small budget and so I chose to use only one oversized piece of Corten steel and cut the window and door from this one steel sheet. If you were to ask me why I used steel, the decision was of course conscious, as that part of the city has a burnt-maroon cast to it due to the surrounding brick façades. So I had to consider what the shop would look like as it began to age. Shortly after it was completed the city was awarding an architecture prize for the very first time. The jury had shortlisted about 10 different buildings, excluding this shop. There were three jury members, two from Belgium, one from the Netherlands, and they decided who would win the prize. One of those members was Geert Bekaert. After their selection of the award’s winner the jury walked by the shop on their way to dinner, and during that dinner they discussed this shop, and asked themselves and the city officials why it wasn’t shortlisted for the prize. There was a heated debate, and to cut a long story short, the shop was eventually awarded the prize. It was a great honour. There is even a drawing of the shop published in the book Wiel Arets: Inspiration & Process in Architecture (Moleskin, 2012), showing its compression in axonometric, and rendered in fantastic coloured pencil.
As for the Academy of Art & Architecture, nine architects were shortlisted including myself. Every one of them presented a conventional design that shuffled the given programme. I approached the jury, explaining that the site had three trees, that it was disjointed, and further explained that the building would certainly need to be divided into two separate buildings with a bridge connecting them. I ended up telling the building’s design competition jury the same narrative Alvin Boyarsky had once told me about the aa; I explained to the jury that there needed to be lecture rooms, installations, a gallery, a café, a library and a large staircase. The narrative was a mental construct of the building, explaining how its bridge would work if the routing of the building were to be weaved through it. Then the question was: What should we do with the façade? The school didn’t want the building to impose on the surroundings – a medieval city – and they certainly didn’t want students to be constantly moving behind windows, with rubbish visible from the exterior, adding a sort of visual pollution to the neighbourhood. I proposed that we made the building’s glass frosted, so the people inside would be able to concentrate and the people outside would only see the glow of the building at night and figures moving behind its façade. I also presented an image of a jellyfish, with its tentacles, to the jury. When I was awarded the building’s design we had to translate that idea into a physical material, and so we ended up constructing the building in concrete, using glass brick to cover the floors, ceilings and windows. It’s obvious when one looks at this building that the glass block is perhaps too industrial, or too reminiscent of the Maison de Verre. But I never considered that work to be a precedent in any way. With this building, as well as with the Beltgens Fashion Shop, my architectural language began to shape; it stemmed directly from these projects. In this respect, I could also mention the Allianz Headquarters, currently finishing construction in Zürich; it has four bridges and each bridge has been covered with glass, both below and above.
For me, architecture is never an image. But, of course, what one sees, visits, experiences and digests influences one’s perception. The people in my office know that I always try to reset, from the beginning of every project. I always begin with a blank piece of paper and really attempt to create something new. But I never do this for the sake of new. The moment one begins to copy-paste, in my opinion, one will never arrive at the essence of what the work really is, or perhaps should be.
ORIS: Another building from your oeuvre that I’d like to discuss, as it is quite canonical, is your library on the Uithof campus of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. My daughter Kora studied at the Faculty of Medicine and saw the library open on the campus. She experienced the library as a student, as a user, and she found herself incredibly focused when studying inside. It’s not a library where one simply comes to read books. Today this type of building would more than likely be restricted due to diminished budgets, but this building really is an incredibly important contribution to the entire Uithof campus in Utrecht, and it was built during a very ambitious time in the university’s history.
Wiel Arets: I’m happy you mentioned your daughter in relation to this project because she is a layman. What I like about the Politea is that the architect and the layman are in discussion. And that’s another reason why I started to write the publication I’m currently working on, called The Unconscious City. Most people who deal with buildings are not architects or specialists – they are laymen. When the client of the shop in Maastricht asked me to do that building, I had to have many debates about the window being low, and how people would be able to look inside, among many other points of discussion. At the time I was also doing research on cinema at tu/e, and I knew that cinema was either for laymen, who only want to be entertained – something we could compare to pop-architecture – and that there is also cinema, where people allow themselves more time to observe. And even if one is not a director or expert on film, one can gain much from it
Back to the library in Utrecht; it was a competition. Aryan Sikkema was the head of building at the university and a very interesting and powerful person. The director of the library was, however, a very clever guy whose knowledge about architecture at that time could have been considered to be that of an interested layman. Yet he knew everything about how a library should operate, and was very clever and open to developing the entire programmatic strategy of the building over many meetings and dinners. At that time I was also presenting my design for the Moma extension in Manhattan and there were four board members on the jury. I presented the project in Manhattan, and the jury had asked us for two options. But of course when one has to present two options, it will always be more difficult. 10 architects had to present two options each, totalling 20, and I knew that that could potentially be very confusing. After presenting my design for moma, someone from my office met me at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and gave me a carousel with 84 slides in it, to present to the jury in Utrecht.
I arrived in Utrecht a few hours later, fresh off the plane, knowing that I had only one hour to present my design for the university’s library. I decided to take a postcard out of my pocket which one of the jury members of the Moma competition had given me during my presentation. It was a postcard of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie. I knew that I had just made a big mistake during my presentation in Manhattan where we were only allowed to present 20 slides; the jury was totally confused. Instead, I decided to explain the design to the library’s jury, and so I sketched my presentation, and eventually sketched the whole building. The sketch showed that there were some clouds; these clouds would be the building. I explained to the library jury that if their university were to put 42 million books in that space, and if we together were to condition this space, in a very specific way, that it would be able to become their library. In the end the jury did want to see the 84 slides, and I did briefly flip through them. But I explained that they wouldn’t be happier after I had, because this is the building, and this is what we’ll do. I also explained – and this is very important – that I couldn’t tell them more, because I had to know my client. That’s crucial for me: I want to know my client and I need to have a concept. In my work, one will always see that it’s the programme, flexibility, routing and the materials that construct or bring light through a façade. Acoustics are also incredibly important to me. Like a good restaurant, a good building should make you feel at home. And that’s what we tried to do, and achieved, with the Utrecht University Library.
ORIS: I’d like to continue with two smaller houses from your oeuvre, the Hedge House and the Jellyfish House. With the Hedge House, which you built in a protected garden of a 17th century castle, the project was labelled as an art gallery, yet was built under the guise of a garden shed. And the Jellyfish House, in a Mediterranean context, has been an incredibly interesting contribution to the rather standard private villas in Marbella. I’ve read about your relation to the tradition of the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), and the belief that we can still have expressions of total works of art, where the client and architect work towards a private or semi-public typology. This often leads to your clients living in extremely cultural environments, within their private domains. Could you elaborate on these two works?
Wiel Arets: I was very impressed when I visited Cape Canaveral for the first time, seeing the spaceship that was on the moon. There, one can see how this vehicle was made. And I was impressed not only because of its design, but also the fact that it worked for its purpose without striving to aestheticism. The reason why I’m against formalism, and the reason why I’m against beauty for the sake of beauty, is that it’s fashionable and short-minded, and therefore won’t last. Aging is not a bad thing. Humans are part of a momentum in history, and we should change with that path and enforce its limits. Just because we can walk on our hands, why should we? So the engineering of these space vehicles is important to me, as are their stories. How can one combine stores, engineering, making and programming, and what is the purpose of all that? I always try to go one step further in every project I do in order to understand the question of the client. And that’s a question the architect cannot answer.
The Hedge House began at the same time as the Jellyfish House. The clients of the Hedge House were art collectors and had been following my career. When I received the Maaskant Award in 1989 they approached me to say that they were interested in working with me, though for what they were not yet sure. In the end they asked me to design a small house for their chickens, and whether that was a joke or not I still don’t know. The husband later invited me for a glass of wine, which he hosted in the stables on his castle’s grounds. He showed me a small area of the garden, and asked if we could perhaps build something small, perhaps a chicken house or orchid room. He knew what he was doing, knowing that he wasn’t allowed to build on the grounds due to the fact that his house is listed as a state monument in the Netherlands, meaning it and its grounds are protected. We decided to put a structure there, and when we first presented it to the city hall they said it was impossible to build. So instead we made a chicken coop an orchid room for his wife, with a kitchen and dining room, and an art gallery as well. In section one sees these four programmes, sunk into the garden’s grounds. We combined these programmes into one entity, with the museum spaces below. In the end, the project became a hedge house, for chickens, garden tools and orchids. And it’s also a museum.
Key to that project was the engineer. And in all of my work, including this one, the collaboration with engineers has been vital. Van Rossum and Rob Nijsse are engineers I’ve collaborated with on almost all the buildings my office has done. Later I began to work with others, but these two were initially very important to me because we always worked towards building a structure that wasn’t cladded. The structure is instead the end product, and that is very difficult. Most of my work with engineers has not been to make a building’s shape work, but instead to make its climate work. For how small the Hedge House is, it was extremely difficult to create its construction, given the installation needs and other practicalities that come with building in the Netherlands. A lot of concrete in this building is actually hanging in tension and is not under pressure; the same is true of the azl Pension Fund Headquarters in Heerlen. With the Hedge House, the routing from exterior to interior is incredibly important, and so it needed to be able to be programmed differently, during different periods of the day. Buildings simply need flexibility.
The Jellyfish House, on the other hand, took us about 10 years to build, and that time was spent pushing the work as far as we possibly could. We ask a lot from our clients, engineers and consultants; yet we never spend more money doing this – it’s always done within the budget. For this particular house, the client asked us to build a house in Los Monteros, Spain. It’s a very interesting location on the coast, between Marbella and Malaga. Within a development from the 1960s, there was one plot that had not yet been built. It was a rectangular plot close to the water, and the client – who is Belgian – had just completed a new house for his family in Belgium. He told me that he wanted this house in Spain to encourage and invite his family to relax there. I’m not sure if this was another joke or not, but when I asked what he would like to have in his house, he said an aquarium. Because of this rectangular plot, we were given the opportunity to flip the house upside down, since the site’s sun was mostly blocked; and so I proposed to build the pool on the roof. It made sense. The roof became the structure, with one column, with a glass floor and veranda to the kitchen, so that when one’s cooking, people can be seen swimming. We challenged the contractors with this project. And at one point they even called the client, asking to no longer be responsible for the building once the pool was filled, which of course didn’t happen. Though when the pool was first filled, to test it, the building deflected only 3mm, after 24 hours. It’s a house that’s built in such a way that the owners’ children can go to the beach, enter the site and head directly to the pool on the roof without ever going inside the house. The exterior routing, from the sea to the roof, is completely independent of the house’s interior; it’s both slow and quick. The experience of swimming in this pool is simply amazing. The client recently told me that no matter what happens his house would always be there.
ORIS: Indeed, that house will be there for a very long time. Wiel, I’d like to continue with a situation you’ve found yourself in during the last five years. In terms of architectural offices, you have actually experienced the enlargement of your office and the scope of your professional activities by working in Chicago and opening offices in Switzerland and Germany. What are your reasons for these recent changes, and how have these changes affected the development of your projects Schwäbisch Media in Ravensburg and the Allianz Headquarters in Zürich, two projects that best exemplify the state of your work, as it is right now?
Wiel Arets: Schwäbisch Media came about due to our winning a design competition for the new office of this publishing company. It’s situated in the centre of the medieval city of Ravensburg, Germany. We developed a strategy for an office with 350 people which is also freestanding. We explored the idea – drawing inspiration from the surrounding traditional German fachwerk villas – of setting up five separate ‘villas’ for these employees to work in. All the other competitors had designed great buildings, but none of them searched for a new typology. The company is composed of several smaller companies, and we wanted to give them a smaller scaled environment where all branches could work in one building. Because of this, we wanted to impart a domestic atmosphere on these working spaces by connecting them to the more communal spaces, such as the lobby and café. There are gardens between these ‘villas’, and a glass fence surrounds the project’s site, becoming its façade at certain points within this perimeter. The volumes on the first, second, third, fourth and fifth floors all look towards one another, with gardens separating them. And by going downstairs, the employees can access these other villas. Our idea was give this rather large property, a building with 350 people, the sense that its employees would be living and working in this environment; they have the possibility to be outside, to meet one another and to communicate in a very informal way, while still being ‘at work’. By allowing and encouraging this, the building is always alive, both during the day and the night, both inside and out. These employees now feel at home. That notion helped me to understand that it’s not only me, and other architects, who are living in this 24-hour condition. And in that way, it’s a very crucial work for my office.
Regarding the Allianz Headquarters, Switzerland is a very different country in terms of its building practices. About 15 years ago I was asked to be on a sort of jury to advise the city of Zürich on its ideas for its redeveloping areas, such as Escher Wyss, which I think is one of the most interesting areas right now in Europe. It’s defined by a roughness, as it’s a former industrial area, yet 24-hour life has already begun to appear. My office developed a strategy for the city called ‘rough premium’, which was for the western side of the city. My office has also done proposals for the eth in Zürich and the city continues to become even more interesting for us. When we were awarded the Allianz Headquarters we decided to open an office there, too, and it’s the first building that we will complete in Switzerland.
The Allianz Headquarters is very near Zürich Airport, in an area called Wallisellen. It’s an emerging district with offices, shops and housing, and it will be very important to the city’s public realm. We were able to have a debate about the urban proposal, and within this constellation we were awarded the area’s tower and a smaller five-storey building, which at the beginning were not connected. The client is Allreal, as the developer, and the user is Allianz, who have a long-term lease. And so we had to consider what would happen to the building in the future, and who would be renting which portions of it. Maybe in 15 years it will be a very diverse hybrid building; we just don’t know. While working on the tower and the adjacent five-storey building, we started to develop the idea of a larger company working in this massive tower and the smaller building. People can freely move throughout these connected buildings without using a lift, as the floors are connected with voids and staircases, so that people can move through the building as a landscape. At a certain point it was clear that to activate the adjacent Richti Square, and to create an urban context near this building, its ground floor would need to contain shops and retail spaces, accessible from the square. These two buildings are connected by a series of four bridges which are for circulation but can also be used as a conversation places, as each is eight metres wide. We started this project as an urban proposal, and after much debate while working with the client, we developed the strategies for the structure, the façade and the ceiling. This project was actually the first time that we really spent endless effort on a building’s ceiling, which became a sort of fifth façade. The heating, acoustic and ventilation needs of the building are all met by components of this ceiling.
The Allianz Headquarters’ façade is composed of a closed cavity system, with a metal curtain hanging in this space that moves to shade the building in accordance with its changing daylight needs. If one were to look up at this building from below, there is the question of what exactly the building is: is it an office, a school, housing? We didn’t want the façade to show the programme. The lower stories are hybridized, used for conferences, restaurants and even espresso bars. The building animates the public realm and the public realm activates the building. Working ‘in progress’ on the building allowed me to realize that it already had a life before it even began its first occupied life, knowing it will have many more lives in the years ahead. And I’m sure that this building will be recognized as a new typology. I hope that it’s seen as a positive virus, changing its surroundings when they are confronted with it, while giving the people who use it new opportunities concerning their daily flexibility. Buildings should be state-of-the-art, but not in a way that they are high-tech machines. A building is still a one-of-a-kind product, developed by an architect, for a client, on a particular site, during a particular moment in time. We should understand, in regards to ‘Rethinking Metropolis’, that buildings play an important role in the constraints of a city.
ORIS: I’d like to conclude with a question concerning why we’re here, in Chicago, conducting this interview on the South Side of the city at the most famous architecture school in the world, the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture (iit CoA) where you are currently the Dean. Where would you like to take the school in the years ahead, and in what ways will Nowness, the school’s first publication under your direction, and the conceptual umbrella of ‘Rethinking Metropolis’ influence the research and education here in Chicago?
Wiel Arets: Teaching or leading within academic institutions, such as the aa, Columbia, Cooper Union, Berlage Institute, UdK, and now the iit CoA, have all been conscious decisions, to allow me to look for a moment. I felt I could contribute to these schools. Alongside my career as an architect I always considered these appointments to be the right decisions. Being at a school, where the work I produce as an architect, whether writings or buildings, allows me to bridge the professional practice of architecture with its more academic concerns. Sometimes one doesn’t know why they react to a question or situation the way they do. But when I first came to Chicago to lecture in autumn 2012, I could feel that the city had an incredibly positive attitude, that its public realm is amazing and that the same is true of its culinary scene, which I also find important. The city is very dense in certain areas, and yet 200 metres further to, for instance, the east is Lake Michigan, and to the west is Michigan Avenue with its famed retailers. The life that I experience in Chicago and the way the school’s international momentum is gaining speed, alongside the positive political climate of the city, have allowed me to think that I could really contribute to this school.
After my two latest research topics, at the UdK in Berlin, ‘Unconscious City’ and ‘Tokyo Utopia’, I knew that research was something I was once again ready to delve into. And here in America people are creating new ideas and new inventions every day; perhaps the most promising example is the Tesla electric car. We, as humans, plan for living on Earth. Yet, as I wrote in Wiel Arets: Autobiographical References (Birkhäuser, 2012), the world is becoming one big city and so we should understand that the area outside this planet’s orbit will one day soon concern us, too.
Architecture and its concern for technology are seen as very important at iit. My predecessor, Mies van der Rohe, worked on many interesting buildings here in Illinois including the Lake Shore Drive Apartments, the Farnsworth House and of course the home of the iit College of Architecture, S.R. Crown Hall. We can learn from Chicago locals about how we should approach these new realms. The belief that we live in a natural flow of technology, especially here in the usa where new technology continually infiltrates daily lives, is one reason why I truly believe that my endeavours at this school will make it the address within architectural education worldwide. Chicago’s mayor is excellent, iit’s leaders are distinguished, the CoA’s faculty and administration are poised to begin the 2013–2014 school year and I’m certain that the city’s current political climate will ensure the sustained success of this school, well beyond my tenure.