* MECANOO ARCHITECTS – 10 STATEMENTS

1. Land as an Expensive Commodity

The difference between Los Angeles and Tokyo is obvious to everyone. Los Angeles, the city of the twentieth century, is designed for cars, which are literally given more room than people are. There are more square metres of car parks than of built-up areas. There is an abundance of land and it is almost valueless. This is bound to change in the twenty-first century. Tokyo is a gigantic village of millions of people and public transport. Every square metre has been thought about and put to use, above and below ground. Land is very expensive, even more expensive than the houses and buildings that stand on it. The Netherlands is a country with a high population density and a shortage of land. At the same time it is the country that wastes its land because the price of land is much too low. We have to search for intelligent solutions such as dual use of land, inventive combinations of infrastructure and building.

2. Love of Nature

The Netherlands, the most malleable country in the world. The land of water, wind and clouds. The Dutch landscape is not static, but it is changeable with contrasting ingredients: order and chaos, polders and lakes, canals and wetlands, dykes and river forelands, wet and dry. With the help of engineers you can build everywhere. There are no limits, the land is so malleable that you can destroy it too.
Nature has an irreplaceable value and beauty, many colours, materials and textures. I want to draw on the wealth of water, skies, trees and leaves, grass, stones and rocks. I use materials like wood, bamboo, zinc, copper, concrete, glass and steel in compositions full of contrasts.

3. Collective Responsibility for Sustainability

The Netherlands is a country with a very strong tradition in the field of collective responsibility for the management of the water. Unambiguous agreements regulate the land and the water – literally, because otherwise we would all drown. The collective responsibility for water management should be extended to a collective responsibility for the sustainability of how the country is ordered. After all, that too is a question of the survival of us all..

4. Wealth of Urban Planning

It is as if we have forgotten the wealth of urban planning possibilities for housing. The house with a garden and a car in front seems to be the greatest good on earth at the moment. Society consists of very diverse types of family and an ageing population, and it is multicultural. The steadily expanding potential of technology, communication and services will become part of new ideas about housing and care and homes for work and recreation too. The acquisition of mobility, the car, calls for integration in new urban planning typologies without dominating or disrupting the public space. We must design buildings and houses that, like the time-hallowed Dutch villas, can stand up to the big changes in use and beauty.

5. Cooperation as challenge

Interesting developments in architecture are produced by those who manage to create the freedom to experiment and to work together within the fragmented practice of design and building. As a result of changes in the design assignments, architects increasingly carry out their profession in collaboration with other disciplines. In order to achieve the aesthetic of mobility, I want to work with road and hydraulic engineers and landscape architects. This means experimenting with combined programmes, constructions, water and materials, but emphatically without the loss of the architect’s own role and responsibility.

6. Director and Script writer

The Van Nelle factory, the Rietveld Schröder house and Villa Mairea are traditional examples of innovative architecture resulting from an inspiring relation between client and architect. Times have changed and the placing of commissions has become more diffuse, consisting of forms of association between the government, property developers, investors and consumers. The architect no longer supplies the design alone. The architect performs the role of director and script writer in a more hybrid process. The architect tries to find out what the client really wants by means of ideas, images, atmospheres, scale models and drawings.

7. Handwriting and Language

Discussion about style is interesting, but not essential in the long run. The best example of this is the composition of two houses that we developed for Alvaro Siza in The Hague: one in the style of the Amsterdam School, the other in the style of Neue Sachlichkeit – two styles that competed with one another in the Twenties and each thought it was the true one. The beauty of the project lies in the combination of introverted and extroverted, heavy and light, tactile and abstract. Style is an outdated phenomenon. Architecture needs a handwriting that can write in different languages in order to be able to respond adequately to each location and assignment.

8. Composition of Empty Space

There are no rules for making a composition. The most I can do is to refer to a Japanese book describing the rules for arranging and serving a meal. Working with unambiguous geometry and symmetry is strictly prohibited because it is not exciting. Space, or rather empty space, is an essential part of composition, rhythm and elegance. The space between contrasting forms, round and square, long and short, big and small, brings out each form better, and this is true in architecture as well.

9. Analysis and Intuition

You can try to analyse everything, but a lot is just a question of intuition. The work of David Hockney has always appealed to me. I detect a non-dogmatic, optimistic attitude to life in his work, and the courage to experiment in art with new techniques. An attitude like that is a source of energy and resilience within the complex force field of architectural practice. And the combination of analysis with intuition is worth its weight in gold for architecture.

10. Arrangement of Form and Emotion

Charles and Ray Eames were able to combine technical, human and playful aspects in a single solution. They experimented with new materials for their chairs and discovered their limitations as they went along. That led them to look for new solutions all over again. They were designers without dogmatism, and never lost sight of comfort. They are the uncrowned king and queen of arrangement. Their work has a permanent inspiring value. Their house was built in 1949 in the hills of Santa Monica near Los Angeles, in a beautiful situation behind the eucalyptus trees. It shows what happens when you combine the technical with the sensorial. Architecture must appeal to all the senses and is never a purely intellectual, conceptual or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining all of the individual elements in a single concept. What counts in the last resort is the arrangement of form and emotion..

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