Principal of Archi-Tectonics and professor of practice and the director of the M.Arch II Program at U. Penn, Philadephia
In New York we designed the V33 building (a Chelsea townhouse) and the LRH building; both are under construction. Internationally, we have the Ports 1961 flagship stores in Shanghai and Paris in construction. We’re also designing the Tashan restaurant and lounge in Philadelphia, and a large corporate building in New Mexico. It is great to be designing a structure in a vast mountainous landscape!
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
When I was a kid, we moved 15 times in the 17 years I lived with my parents. They loved to buy and build new houses, so I spent a lot of time packing and unpacking, and on construction sites fighting for the best bedroom. Now I love to be on construction sites. My favorite is the big pit in the beginning, with all those people weaving rebar.
FIRST STEP ON A PROJECT
I imagine the whole thing in 3-D. It “floats” in my head a while before it comes out. We design all projects in 3-D software and incorporate a specific efficiency and conceptual innovation for each one. I like to think that construction can learn from the detailing in car design.
LAST STEP ON A PROJECT The small, small, small details. I love to finish something to perfection, especially the bottom of furniture and the hidden parts of a building. Afterward, celebrate.
HOW DO YOU BREAK A CREATIVE BLOCK?
Usually I like to design when I am in a busy spot and moving. I travel and draw in the plane and on trains. At home, sadly, I eat Belgium chocolate to get going!
I am working with the MacDella Cooper Foundation on helping 200 Liberian orphans to get a school/orphanage in Monrovia. Great work, which is very rewarding, especially when one sees those little faces with huge smiles!
I am kind of a perpetual student. I first did a few years of sculpture at the Rotterdam Art Academy. After that I did my master’s in architecture in Rotterdam and then came to New York to do my postgrad at Columbia University. Ever since, I’ve taught, just to keep researching.
Paul Meuwisse was a great professor at the architecture school in Rotterdam, and he was the one who introduced me to modern philosophy and to people such as Gilles Deleuze, Paul Virilio. Also my former boss Harry Swaak, head of a lighting-design and manufacturing company called Lumiance, in Holland, gave me a lot of trust, and allowed me to build all their 3-D marketing structures. He taught me how to run a team of people under harsh circumstances.
My team. And I love working with people in other related research fields, like the MIT Media Lab.
A Vitra chair I have had for a long time, designed by Alberto Meda. I am a huge fan of Meda.
OFFICE SOUND TRACK
A mix a former coworker made for me on my iPod. Thank you, Wouter! I added some Satie.
Our office mascot: my golden retriever, Snoes. She manages to be in every photo taken and always positions herself in the center of the shot. She is famous for her “hugs” and belly rubs, and the way she sleeps in the middle of the office on her back with paws in the air.
MOST USEFUL TOOL
TED.com and A Thousand Plateaus,
by Deleuze and Guattari
BEST PLACE TO THINK
In the plane or at the ocean
My black leather Knoll sofa
My Moroso chair designed by Patricia Urquiola
Travel the world, go to Mali and see Dogon architecture
Books. I still like their physical presence and having a wall full of them to browse through.
Problems. As Bergson said, don’t solve a problem; create a “real” problem. Which essentially is how we develop our projects. We start from what we think is the essence.
LEARNED THE HARD WAY
Doing things for free, except for the orphanage. It always led to trouble.
Every project is my dream job. We’ve been extremely lucky with our clients.