Shaping public spaces; offices, theaters, airports, libraries, catering, working in the field of tension between the large, extroverted gesture of architecture and the intimacy of the space within it, inspiring and livable, sustainable spaces where the well-being of the user comes first. What do we as interior architects actually do? What drives us, where do we want to go? Essential questions, worthy of pondering. A vision of our profession;
To us design means first and foremost: to listen very closely. To listen to the client and all other parties involved. What is it exactly that they want? What is the ‘question behind the question’? What interests are involved, what desires and requirements? And then we need to listen very carefully to ourselves. What do we think of it all? What does our experience tell us? Does, what the client wants, make sense or should we try to find a better solution? We need to start up a dialogue and discuss all these issues. Our business is all about listening, sensing, analyzing, sorting and eventually converting the request into an innovative solution.
Often our projects are complex tasks, interior architecture but on a larger scale. The cushions on the sofa in a lounge, the plants in the hall, these are merely the last steps just before completing this type of assignment. We start by approaching the project from an architectonic perspective. We analyze the functions and how the building is going to be used, and then we research how best to organize the interior within the given space. To ensure the interior spaces optimally match their function and use, it happens regularly that we need to carry out structural alterations: adding or moving stairs, an entrance hall, a passageway or mezzanine. Our work is based on a total concept for the entire project. When we have finished, all the interior and exterior elements must blend into one entity, with each detail contributing to the desired result: from climate control to door knobs and from lighting to the pattern of the carpet.
Light and rhythm
When organizing all the separate elements of a space, our most important tools are light and rhythm. Natural daylight is essential to how an interior space is experienced and it must be able to work its magic as unobstructed as possible, with additional artificial light where necessary. Light gives a space depth and contrast. It emphasizes the shapes and rhythm of the architectonic elements. Light in combination with rhythm brings a space to life.
The human size
When everything has been completed the user is the last person to walk into the space. And this person should always be first and foremost in every designer’s mind. How will a person (visitor, employee, resident) experience this space, will this person feel safe and comfortable? The exterior is the shell that preserves the interior, the usable space. The main aim of the space is for it to be used, which is why the interior is so important: this is where the human scale is created. In the end, the work of an interior architect is all about creating a ‘second skin’ inside a building; this is the environment an individual will immediately feel connected to and experience most strongly. Spaces need to feel comfortable and safe. To achieve this, you need to make sure that a space is completely natural. The moment you enter a space it must be recognizable, you must be able to find your way around immediately. This means everything must be in harmony: lighting, acoustics, climate control, routing, materials. Well-chosen shapes, colors and materials will ensure that the environment has a positive effect on people.
Sustainability is gradually becoming a cliché, but that does not affect its importance. In our view the most obvious interpretation of sustainability is: to carry out projects that also provide long-term benefits for the customer. Material, finish and details are very important. At some point the wear and tear through time will always become visible, but the actual product should last for a long period of time, even from a visual point of view.
Also in an ecological sense we aim for sustainability. This means that we use mostly materials that are not too much of a burden on the natural resources, and we search for energy-efficient solutions for lighting and climate systems.
Sustainability and innovation can form an excellent combination, if you carefully consider the solutions and work out all the details.
Surely you would think there is nothing more sustainable than giving an existing building a new purpose. Yet in practice this often meets with a lot of resistance. Building ‘for eternity’ is seen as conservative and undesirable, certainly in times of a booming economy. Property developers can profit a lot more from new developments. And then of course old buildings must be suitable for a new purpose, with the added problem that often all the legislation and regulations are not attuned to this type of project. Yet in antiquated areas, putting the existing buildings to new use can lead to amazing developments. More use should be made of such opportunities. For our firm this type of project is always seen as a challenge. This is where we encounter outstanding examples of complex issues that we enjoy solving so much. The revitalization of existing buildings demands a high degree of ingenuity and innovative capabilities. When renovating and finding a new use for listed buildings, our point of departure is always to leave the historical and architectural qualities intact to the greatest possible extent. Any changes are added to the building as a sort of ‘build-in package’. Sometimes it blends in, sometimes it gives a contrast, but it never competes with the original foundations. And not only attractive listed buildings are suitable for this kind of approach. There are many antiquated and often unattractive properties that can be transformed into a modern and attractive building.
Modern organizations are continuously evolving, and a core concept is flexibility: being adaptable and pliable. In a metaphorical sense of the word this can be applied to the character of a person, organization or building, symbolizing the ability to easily adapt, should the situation demand it.
Modern individuals are able to work anywhere, with the help of the continuous development of communication aids. Fixed office spaces no longer fit in this picture. The ‘new way of working’ demands a different work environment. For example, just think about organizing the workspace based on activities: concentrated work in a quiet room, consultations are a meeting room, brainstorming in an inspiring room, and even working from home can be included in this concept. The flexible configuration of workplaces offers organizations the additional benefit of using spaces more efficiently.
For this concept to work in practice, the interior design needs to offer as much support as possible for all the new functions, without making the configuration too inflexible. Yes, it’s all about flexibility.
The interior architect as a producer
Complex projects require a very close collaboration; with the customer, and also with the architects, contractors, fitters and consultants. As an interior architect you need to take all these different interests into account yet continue to believe in your own vision. Within this dynamic unit we find that an interior architect must take over the role of initiator, inspirer and central point of contact. This is the person who can oversee all the facets and interests, who can switch from the construction of a new entrance to the color of the tiles in the cloakroom, and first and foremost: this is the person who, amid all the different voices, can represent the user. This makes a good interior architect a producer, someone who knows how to blend all the different disciplines into one combined unit.