We are convinced of the power of design in collective private commissions (CPC) by the eighteen houses which we designed in 2005 in the Line in Groningen. We have for this developed a design for an optimal spatial quality for the location and free layout possibilities. Subsequently, the various living styles and needs of all residents were incorporated in their format, which was expressed on the street by choice of windows, floors and colors.
This means that you as an architect do not have complete control over how the buildings will look. Once these homes were completed, there was a surprising scene. Not only the different needs and styles of the residents are realized but also a unique neighborhood was created: collective development provides an opportunity for a special interweaving between collectivity and individuality.
Since then we have been fascinated by the collective design process and collective living. It is a setting in which we as architects can play directly with the tension between the design of the building and the street; the tension between the expression of individual power and the outcome of the collectivity which aims for a sustainable neighborhood.
The premise of such a statement is that individual residents have come together to provide a cozy and sustainable neighborhood with less money, where they can build their own home to their own wishes. This principle requires individuality and collectivity simultaneously. We see it as a great opportunity to work out the optimum tension, a tension that at a regular task is not present and it gives an opportunity to create an authentic and unique area. That is what we are concerned, a very important aspect of sustainability.
The environment is one of the main departure points and also an end point of the design of a building. Besides the existing streetscape and landscape, the history of the area inspires us and our goal is that with our building the neighborhood becomes a higher quality.
In complex urban situations the layering of history, the intense traffic, the high density of the population, the mix of housing with commercial and cultural program challenges us to turn our thoughts to delve into the possible chance for architecture to contribute to such an intense urban environment.
In such projects architecture is not a solitary object that is independent of the environment. More, a clear and strong exchange with the city is requested. To give a good answer to this a sharp analysis and clear vision is crucial. Through the experience of Moriko Kira as commission member of the Beauty Commission of Amsterdam and unrealized urban projects in the Netherlands and Japan, we have developed expertise in various urban contexts. Projects of buildings with shops and homes, as Shinjuku in Tokyo and Miquel in Amsterdam are a good example.
In the more rural and scenic locations giving attention to the quality of the environment by such as careful allotment and integrating the green and the landscape is very important. This allows us to create a pleasant and special neighborhood with simple architecture. You might call this like 'micro-urbanism'. Good examples are our homes in Emmen and Meppel. In the project Julianastraat in Emmen a village-like environment was created by a clever allotment with alleys. In the project in Meppel a green landscape was designed that reflects the surrounding river and the forest. If the environmental concept has a clear and lasting quality, then the architecture itself can be just very simple. The ensemble of buildings and environment ensures quality. And just as it is about the neighborhood and not on individual buildings, the quality of the neighborhood can be maintained longer. In this way the value of the homes is permanently, for a longer period.
During the renovation of existing buildings we enjoy discoveries and the extraordinary freedom. Faced with an existing building as a starting point for a new interpretation, we note that we always engage and learn as much as possible of the specific vision, design and technology of the period in which the building originally was created. The best part is that we have given an opportunity or need to get outside our normal thought patterns: the limitations of the existing building often creates a new strategy, design and construction methods.
Each building owns a certain knowledge, beauty, logic and technology. In a renovation this is just given in your arms to make it a part of the future quality. To realize every new feature, program and comfort in the existing building we are actively and parallel busy with various aspects of the existing building, to unite this with the new interpretation. Our approach is that this struggling with the existing building leads to a clear vision and intervention.
Very active and creative we are concerned from different perspectives with the meaning of the existing building, to make the existing an intrinsic part of the totality of the new frame. The boundary between the existing and the new disappear: they are together one. That is what we always want to achieve. When the building is completed, it is important to us that the whole of history and new interventions is obvious.
An example of this process is the conversion of the Remonstrant Church in Groningen. From a building with only one utilitarian function, namely worship, this church was converted into a building for different functions which can proceed independently. An important part of the assignment was to be able to use the offices without mutual disturbance between offices and the main hall. This is completed by creating next to the existing building a new entrance, containing also vertical transport and sanitary functions, and situating the offices above and around the church hall by adding a new layer.
In our homes we are always searching within a simple structure in which the spaces are interconnected, where the residents experience various experiences. This results in different volumes of the spaces, the light and the relationship with the outside. This is the quality of the home that we always look for at the design of houses. The basic starting point is the wishes, dreams and experiences of the client and the location of the building. The building is a means to create the relationship between the spaces themselves and inside and outside. The design is a quest to find an optimal relationship together with the client.
Project Hakone and Steiger are good examples of our approach. Hakone is located in a wooded holiday village and the desire of the client was a relaxing weekend house with the feeling of a house in a forest. By the changing height of the gabled roof different spaces and openings to the outside appear and inside the residents enjoy both the intimate space as the great view to woods. At the house on Steigereiland the void was used to create different spaces with light and vision. The large window on the first floor on the south brings the light and the sun through the void into the kitchen and mezzanine. The high glass windows on two floors makes the deep lawned garden part of the interior.
The street, the square, the public building such as a museum, hall and pavilion. Sometimes it's about the public space where people meet, sometimes it's about specific cultural purposes. To understand the essence of the occasion and the cultural historical context is the basis for the design to bring together the frameworks of the project such as program, installations and budget together.
The pavilion at the cemetery Heidehof is an example of a meeting space for the visitors of this cemetery. A pavilion where the visitors can take rest and meet each other was the challenge of this project. Our question was how our pavilion could receive people in this mood the right way. We found that buildings and objects of daily and secular tasks can not a good reference for the development of this design. We investigated the tactility of nature and of the hands and a feeling of space in which visitors are embraced. The warm curved spaces embrace the visitors. The rooms provide a constantly changing feeling and also views to the landscape of the cemetery are changeable
We are looking for architecture that gives a specific experience; the perception that desires the challenge to our belief. In architecture It's not about abstract values such as m2, m3 or €€. What it is about is how the users, visitors and passers-by feel around and inside the building and put it in their physical and personal context. Architecture can be related to speed, intimacy, distance, hardness or softness, open or closeness. It is a specific composition of the sensory components that the building radiates and their effect on the dynamics of time and distance.
Naturally, the program of requirements rarely talks about amenities. At most, the urban plan of the location or the historical context van give a key for this. We believe strongly that this is actually the essence of the project, the essence that 'architecture' distinguishes from a 'building': the cultural value. The design process revolves therefore in our opinion to the specific advantage of the amenities of the project and finding and defining the means to translate these values into physical architecture.
In some projects the amenities are leading. In such a case, the determination of the spatial organization, construction or materials is preceded by an examination of the sensory aspect of the task. This aspect is not determined by drawing the normal means, but by means as words, images and reference models. Only when the perception is clear, the process is started with the determination of geometry, construction, and materials. We now look for a logical application of all parts.
We attach great importance to carefully dealing with materials, the environment and the natural environment. The design starts with an analysis of the task and the location to develop an integral sustainability concept, with basic aspects the architectural principle, the choice of materials and the energy concept. Our proposal differs depending on the scale of the task, the location and the existing situation. The starting point is always to be as independent as possible of the installations, which often has a high investment requirement and a short lifespan.
The translation of the sustainability concept starts with a compact and efficient building which is well insulated and makes optimal use of solar energy and natural ventilation, possibly supplemented with other renewable (energy) solutions, such as a heat pump, solar or heat recovery. In addition, we apply in our designs sustainably produced materials requiring minimal maintenance.
In the pavilion at the cemetery of Heidehof sun and heat are central to the sustainability concept. The space in which people have to work were put on the made with the least sun, so that there is no cooling is needed. The main hall is situated on the sunny side. The heating of this hall is used by rewinning the heat in the system (hot water and air heating). In a monumental building, we strive to implement sustainability measures that suit the character of the building. In the Remonstrant Church in Groningen we chose, for example, to reuse the original technique of the natural ventilation channel.
We see sustainability as a contribution of the architect in society, the non-convertible significance of a place for the coming centuries. Through a concrete construction method, materials and techniques within the given conditions we ensure that this durable meaning of life is possible.
The design of the interior are important means of communication on the vision of the company and the organization. The reception, the workplace environment and meeting places show how the organization relates to its clients, relations and employees. People associate the quality of the spaces and the materialization with the services and products of the organization. Of course, the workplace is also a translation of the work process of the organization. Meanwhile, a careful design reinforces the communication in between and the team building.
The interior of the European headquarters of Nikon is a good example where the interior expresses the facility's vision of the company at various levels. The company culture of Nikon, an international leader in compact to professional cameras is characterized by the dynamics of product development and marketing and the particular mix of people of various nationalities, ages and disciplines. This has led to a transparent, dynamic and communicative layout and atmosphere. The use of materials such as steel, glass and wood, the precise and technical detailing and using a color spectrum is associated with the services and product experience from Nikon.
The work field of architecture has to do with different scales from town to object and responses are expected to questions on the changing society. Shaping the concrete assignment alone does not provide sufficient space for thinking and research. Taking the initiative yourself to delve into various topics is necessary.
One of our main thinking areas is the changing relationship between the city, building and people. Historically and culturally, this is organized in every country in a specific manner. Because Moriko Kira originally comes from Tokyo, our first studies were on the differences between the Dutch system of urbanism and architecture and that of Japan. Both of them are organized in a complete opposite manner. The Netherlands has until now top-down planning and Japan bottom-up private initiatives. In this way the role, the expression and significance of architecture in society and the cityscape of both countries is so extremely different, and deepening into this has helped us to develop our vision of architecture.
We believe in dynamic dialogues and mutual inspiration between the city and its architecture. Therefore the harmony of the townscape as a whole is important, and meanwhile the initiatives of any significance of buildings. This conviction is caused by the investigations of both urban and architectural culture and systems and on every project we try to give answers in their own way.
Our interest in the relationship between the city, the building and life is inexhaustible and we believe that in the better position among the top-down planning and bottom-up initiatives will become increasingly important in the future. Here we focus our investigations.