Your office is based in a cooperative and communal working space in Amsterdam, so you started your studio among many creative and ambitious entrepreneurs. A few project opportunities came along which you didn't want to turn down and you set up a studio. However, it was never your intention at first, why?
Looking back, I realise that—besides the projects I started at that time—my view on architecture didn't quite fit within the landscape of prominent architecture firms. If I compare these methodologies to my own work, they feel to hasty; as if I miss a step or overlook an important element in the thought-to-design process.
You describe your approach as holistic. Can you explain your methods in working towards a design?
I am consistently fascinated by how people, individuals or groups, behave, and in what way we as architects contribute to their lives. In some way I feel responsible to really dig deep into human action; what, mentally and physically, moves a human? Hence, friends and family are of great importance and inspiration to me—to observe how they routinise their daily lives. My working process consists of extensive research and writing. Writing for me is essential because it provides a liberal framework to capture sense, feeling and emotion. Scribbling down my thoughts in words creates a narrative which is unbounded; you can add in any aspect, experience or detail that you strive to include in your final design. Of course, throughout designing you start prioritizing and perhaps erasing, but returning to the notes regularly keeps me on track and engaged with the narrative; a gentle reminder to pay attention to human experience and details. On the one hand, this writing process strengthens my designs. On the other hand, the writings add a layer to the visuals we make, a layer that's all about senses (not only sight) and the passing of time.
You work just by yourself and collaborate with others when needed?
I have the affording position to fit the team to the extent and criteria of new projects. I enjoy the changing dynamic of teams. It is a very holistic way of working where all aspects of the design process are interwoven. We develop together, instead of distributing different design steps among different people (such as 'a detail employee' and a 'model employee') which is common in architecture firms.
The fact that some firms hire 10 interns to come up with 50 different form models seems inefficient to me: why not invest time and energy in teaming up a small and complementary group of people and come up with several meaning design solutions? The tendency of specialization is a serious problem to the profession. As Siza says, an architect is a specialist in non-specialization.
What do you hope to achieve with your designs?
I believe in an architectural soul, meaning an emotional power within architecture which can communicate with people if designed with caution, empathy and understanding. I want architecture to move people.
Thus, almost like a gardener we carefully look a things in the projects that work and cultivate them, or take out what does not work. Actually, the projects themselves are more and more about the relation between nature or landscape and construction or buildings. This translates to many aspects of my designs, such as materiality and interaction between people and space. I strive for honest [integer in Dutch - which translates difficultly] designs, buildings in which experience is focus. For me form comes second.
Anything else you would like to add for our readers?
As architects we take part in shaping people’s lives. Some fellow architects work 80 or 90 hours a week. Personally, I think balance in your personal life, investing time in your family, friends and own health, ultimately flows into a more positive and productive work ethic. I have experienced that staying sane and healthy provides a much better base for good design than overworking yourself. How can you design for people's lives if you don't have a life yourself?