Besides our work on our projects we research on various topics that interest us. Sometimes, this is project related, but it is often independent from, bigger than an ongoing project. We try to keep developing ourselves on these important themes and every now and then, we get to write about are findings.
As you can read on the homepage of our website, this is the key point in our approach to architecture. The word user has (unfortunately) become a buzzword the last few years, but we are talking about more. It is about the experience of the user.
In our view, the experience of two types of users are important. First, the direct user, who uses the design in its function. For example, the visitors of a theatre, or those who park their bicycle in a bicycle parking. In addition, there is the indirect user, who does not use the design direct in its function, but experiences the influence of the design. For example, neighbours or passers. We see both of these, equally important groups, as the user of the design. We have a close contact with the user, finding their wishes regarding the experience of the task to be designed by us. They are our focus.
In this study, we look both in our own as in several key adjacent disciplines to find out the needs of the user. For instance, we are much engaged with literature from the field of 'environmental psychology'.
If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Daylight is (obviously) very important for people. Light gives security, because it provides visibility and overview, it gives energy almost literally and it changes the view and the experience of the spectator. In short, people are inseparable from light. Therefore, it is governed by the Dutch law, that light must enter living areas and when one is working, there are strict requirements for lux and daylight in workplaces.
For us, the influence of daylight goes even further. It forms the space and when one is smart about it, daylight can create fantastic effects and spaces. Visibility is inextricably linked with this. The play between light and sight and to show or not show all of it is architecture.
In this way, we do a lot of research on the influence of light and sight and we try to look at both from the experience of the user. Trough simulations, which is well applicable on this theme, we can research in image the effects of certain interventions. Besides seeing enough daylight as a baseline for designing is means a lot more for us. It shapes the design. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Details and materials
‘Architecture is the materialization of higher ideals’ wrote architect Friedric Gilly already at the end of the eighteenth century. In order to bring our vision and ideals in architecture in practice, they must be brought from idea to something that can be really built. It has to be materialized. Precisely this materialization has our interest: to conceive and design smart, beautiful detailed, sophisticated and integrated solutions for details is essential.
Partly because of gained knowledge in the second master Building Technology, we have some knowledge of the techniques of building and materialization, but we are mainly interested in the possibilities of what materials and materialization can do for the image. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Sustainability is a buzzword. Architects pretend to design sustainable designs by placing solar panels on the roof and placing a wind mill onto a facade, whereby the building indeed demands less fossil energy. However, the building is still using too much energy.
The real benefit that we can achieve as an architect lies in something else and can be achieved without having to make concessions to the design. The building itself should be well oriented and can react to its surroundings using open and closed parts. Second, gains can be achieved in the field of materials. Smart solutions can yield extra square meters, provide gains in labour, transport, and heating costs and can be very durable.
And finally, most importantly, we think that the task of the architect is to create designs that last many years and that fit the wishes of the client, now and in future developments. Not just functional. But particularly in experience and beauty. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Repurposing and renovation
The theme ‘conversion of existing buildings’ and subsequent to that 'renovating existing buildings' is more relevant now than it has been in a long time. This is largely because there are many buildings built since the beginning of the last century that are still able to remain and function easily, construction wise and material wise. Demolition is not required. The building itself, consisting of the structural frame and facade materials, is still perfectly usable.
Of course we are interested in and work on projects with new construction, but a significant proportion of our assignments consist of renovation and conversion. Developers have premises in possession which are filled in with interior walls through the years and which are functionally not good any longer and are not able to be let. They can serve only one function, such as office space, and there is currently less demand. Right now we have some commissions for which we do design research into what is possible with the existing building without demolishing it. How it can get a new life and again meet the requirements and demands of today? In one particular case, we made a design for homes in a beautiful old building that for years has been used as an office. At this location there is a lot of demand for housing, so there are opportunities.
But this theme also fits well with the demand from private home owners. We have multiple commissions on these sort of assignments as well where we build extensions to over 100 square meters per house. These were often small and outdated homes, completely transformed to fit the needs of our time.
We also do, apart from commissions, research on this theme, for example, by looking at the opportunities in the field of renovation and sustainability. A second facade or expansion which functions as new facade and is able to yield huge energy gains. While being part of a beautiful refurbishment or redevelopment which can be payed back in time. Not going for demolition itself is a sustainable approach since it allows continued use or reuse of existing materials. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Use of underground space
Even before the establishment of our office, we became involved in the issue of the use of underground space. During our joint graduation we have, driven from an urban research, created a design for an underground theatre underneath the station of Haarlem. We were free to set up our graduation plan in terms of program and trough various variants and options, we became interested in staying underground.
When one wants a large program like a theatre, and the desire is to place it in the centre instead of on the outskirts of the city, why not build it underground? What are the drawbacks? First, we have looked in a comprehensive study at many practical aspects that draw questions ranging from constructive possibilities, the additional costs and the fire requirements for facilities, the materialisation and construction methods. Of course it is more expensive, but when the situation and the demand both have building underground as a ideal solution, this can be outweighed by the profits that the plan provides, in this case, to the city and will it appear to be at least possible. In the document ‘Ruimtelijke Verkenning 2000', the investigation commission already mentioned the Dutch undergrounds a ‘promised land and a last frontier’(VROM,2000).
From here , the question remained: Where does one want to go underground? We have researched and still research, if it is possible to create an underground stay from the various themes that we encountered(e.g. type of spaces, ‘wayfinding, cognitive dissonance, expectation, basic attitude, instinct) that is pleasant and interesting for the user.
We see the use of underground space (since) as part of the Construction and architectural world, with an lot of potential in it and as a subject, which we want to explore in greater depth. In 2012, we have made a design, commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam, for an underground bicycle parking with square for the Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen in Amsterdam. Currently we are working on a smaller scale, on an underground extension to a home. We were also involved several times at symposia as an expert on this subject. From the Centre for Building Underground to KIVI to Indesem.
Our starting point is that the use underground space offers many opportunities, but only if the choice to build underground has an absolute value compared to the cheaper, more common and easier building above ground. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
The Netherlands, but the rest of Europe as well, has a number of municipalities and regions that have to deal with declining populations and a changing demography of residents, also called shrink
. Young people move to the big cities and the inhabitants of the villages are aging. Shrink results in unoccupied homes, not used offices and empty shopping streets which has a major impact on the spatial development and the quality of life.
Each contracting region in the Netherlands has its own opportunities and abilities
that can be enhanced to increase the quality of life in a town or city. This can be a historic centre, proximity to primary and secondary schools or for example the presence of a beautiful green landscape or water. Because of our interest in the built environment we have investigated both the cause and possible strategies to shrinkage, where we came up with ‘acceptance’ as a strategy to be a unpopular but good and sustainable solution.
Shrinkage is often contested by local governments by investing in shopping areas and by building more homes on the high-end market in order to attract more people. However, there is also another possibility; Accepting the populations decline where the consequences are monitored properly. A city, town or region will be forced to think about his abilities to emphasize those facts. This allows for enhancing the quality of the living environment for the current residents so that the downfall of inhabitants stops, and an increase may be even made possible again. For example, strengthen the historic centre by improving access and identity and do not invest in the shopping area with the empty shop premises. Pick up the cause at the base and prevent "sticking plaster", only thus you create a sustainable and stable future. As an example, we have developed this strategy for a city in Limburg, for more information please contact us. If you would like to know more about our research on this subject, please feel free to contact us.
Since a construction method is not easy to see in project photos, here a brief explanation about the realization of designs and more specifically about wood and CLT. Over the past years we have always been looking for smart (and therefore time, material and cost-saving) construction methods to realize our designs. A design is one, but getting it cleverly constructed and realized is an equal second step.
From the start of our office we have a passion for this, as seen in our text on the ‘detail’. We have realized several designs by applying prefabricated wooden elements (cross laminated timber known as CLT) and working with timber frame construction for the floors and walls of a building. By thinking in terms of construction options, we realize lighter, more sustainable and smarter designs. This beyond the standard lines thinking we also do with other materials and construction methods.
Since our research into the reuse and renovation of existing school buildings in 2014, we have been involved in this task through our projects and research. We would like to further explain this subject, as it is not so easily displayed in the projects or research page on our website.
Many school buildings are decades old and no longer meet the current standards for spatial possibilities and use, but certainly also for the indoor climate and energy consumption. Demolition and new construction is often the chosen path, but there is an alternative: a tailored renovation specific to that school.
For example, a post-war school often has beautiful high and large spaces with many windows and is well built. What we strive for is to use the 'old' qualities again with a design that is in line with the current and future wishes of a school board, to create extra space for this (which is often relatively easy to realize in or on top of the building) is) and equally sustainable.
The school gets a contemporary and fresh look with its own identity, and meets current standards. We believe that for certain schools these renovations can be smarter and cheaper than a new construction, including future use. This certainly does not apply to every school, sometimes new construction is the best option. But many buildings offer an enormous number of possibilities and with a cheaper and quicker construction design, several schools can be modernized on a short term, whereby the children and teachers are able to teach in a building with a healthy indoor climate.