In memoriam: Koos Bosma

On 10 September, after complications arising from an infection on top of what he had somewhat laconically described as ‘a slight heart attack’ earlier in the week, our dear colleague, Prof. Koos Bosma, passed away.

09/11/2015 | 10:57 AM

Koos BosmaKoos Bosma came to the VU in 1991 as a lecturer in the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Arts, after an earlier position as researcher at NWO, followed by a post as senior researcher at the Netherlands Architecture Institute. In 1992 he obtained his PhD at the University of Groningen, where he also had gained his master’s degree. In 1993 his thesis, Ruimte voor een nieuwe tijd: vormgeving van de Nederlandse regio 1900-1945 [Space for a new time: design in the Dutch region 1900-1945] was awarded the Karel van Mander Prize.

In December 2002 Koos Bosma was appointed associate professor and in May 2004 he became full Professor of the History of Architecture and Heritage Studies. In that position he played a crucial role in giving shape to the Faculty’s new Bachelor/Master structure, in particular with respect to Art History. During these years, along with a small group of architectural historians and archaeologists, Koos was also involved in the development of the Master in Heritage Studies (of Town and Country), now Master in Heritage Studies.

In his inaugural lecture, ‘De verbeelding van tent en piramide. Architectuurgeschiedenis tussen autonomie en dienstbaarheid’ [Imagining tent and pyramid. Architectural history between autonomy and service] (held on 2 November 2006 and later developed into a substantial publication), Koos convincingly presented the dynamic power of the discipline of architectural history.  Formerly a crucial part of art history, the discipline had acquired more depth and breadth, with the architectural historian as the expert par excellence who, without wishing to be an architect, was in a position to form a critical judgement on the many aspects attached to architecture, including urban planning and landscape architecture. From this point of view, it was only to be expected that in 2008 Koos emerged as one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the successful research institute CLUE. From the beginning this institute brought together scholars from many disciplines and from various faculties, focused on heritage and the history of the cultural landscape and urban surroundings.

Koos Bosma approached architecture as an all-encompassing field that demanded broad consideration, or, as he put it in 2004: ‘From chair to parliamentary seat, from pavement tile to university campus, our surroundings cannot be abstracted from the processes of design. These processes, without exception, relate to a range of technical, cultural, ideological and aesthetic sets of values and preferences; they are the subject of scientific and policy-based reflection, and form humus for our teaching.’ This broad view of architecture is also to be found in his articles, books and the numerous publications in which he as writer, compiler and/or editor played a major role.

Within the VU Koos Bosma fulfilled numerous functions on top of his position as Chair and his role as PhD supervisor. He was active in the management of CLUE+, as head of the department of Art and Culture and as advisor to the University’s Executive Board on building projects. Outside the VU Koos was, among other things, a member of the NWO Humanities Board (2007-2013) and various NWO programmes and advisory committees. In addition to his editorial functions for professional journals, he was also a member of the advisory committee of the Netherlands Architecture Fund, of the Commission for Aesthetics and Monuments of the municipality of Amsterdam, and a member of the programme committee of ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam).

With the death of Koos Bosma we lose an outstanding scholar, a passionate and inspiring teacher, and a benevolent interdisciplinary academic whose legacy we shall long cherish.