Nathalie de Vries founded MVRDV in 1991 together with Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs. Early work such as the television centre Villa VPRO and the housing estate for elderly WoZoCo, both in the Netherlands, have lead to international acclaim and established MVRDVs role in the international architecture scene.
MVRDV have recently been voted #44 of the worlds most innovative companies by Fast Company. I have always been fascinated with the work of MVRDV because of their radical methodical research: on density and on public realms. Nathalie de Vries lectures and teaches throughout the world.
1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?
N.DV: That is our realized work, but after five years or so. Not haunted anymore by what could or should have been, just seeing it in full use being a real addition to people’s daily lives. The architect is forgotten.
2. Your work is heavily underpinned by research and methodology, what is the primary motivation behind your work?
N.DV: Call it an attitude. This is part of our work, a way of dealing with the design process itself, and also a way to think beside and beyond the single commissions. Otherwise all architectural development would stagnate. What interests me is the challenge to fit all the different aspects and disciplines of the project together, like a complex jigsaw puzzle.
3. How do you think architecture will change in the next 50 years?
N.DV: The most important development is the growing urbanization of the world population. Most people will live in cities in the future, we need to meet this development by creating more capacity. Clever infrastructure, waste management, energy and food production will become a bigger part of architectural projects. In the same time we will see an increase in effectiveness: more re-use of materials and buildings. The future will look strangely familiar.
4. What changes would you like to see in the Architectural profession?
N.DV: We have seen a rapid change of our working tools in the past 20 years; architecture is thoroughly connected to all changes in information technology. But the development of new building techniques and materials has stayed behind. Probably architects in 50 years from now will still be designing buildings but using different parameters than now.
5. Do you think that Architecture tends to be trendy today?
N.DV: Architecture itself is now temporarily out of fashion. I don’t mind. I am still designing buildings.
6. What would students learn from reviewing the body of architectural projects you have completed? Do you have any advice for upcoming students?
N.DV: From our projects you can see that there is not an MVRDV style but an attitude, our work shares the same language as direct as possible, an agenda and attitude.
My advice to students would be: Take a look at what others have been doing and then do your own thing. You probably know better.
7. What are you most proud of in your career or any aspect of life?
N.DV: My best creations are my daughters. In architecture generally speaking I am proud of the way we are working today, our ever evolving process. The point of development we have reached and the kind of projects we are doing and the way we conceive them.
8. Who do you think is the most overrated architect, and who do you think deserves more credit/recognition?
N.DV: Anyone who beats us in a competition is overrated…why not choose us instead?
More recognition should be given to Herman Herzberger. He has influenced hundreds of Dutch architects with his intelligent teaching.
9. What aspect of Architecture do you find most important? What is fundamental to your practice and your design process?
N.DV: Happy clients are essential. Fundamentally we should be happy too and the project should make a difference and our design process should have evolved after each project.
10. What inspired you to become involved in Architecture? What inspires you now?
N.DV: I liked design, technique, politics, fashion and languages. I could not choose. Instead I chose to study architecture. In architecture I can use all my interests. There are no boundaries to what inspires me to design something. And in the end there has to be a building. That is a very clear task for someone who has difficulties in making choices. There is always a deadline.
11. What other interests do you have?
N.DV: Cities of course, literature, music, to give some examples: Favorite place in the world to me is the port of Rotterdam and Berlin. The favorite Book: Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk. Music: at the moment La Roux, the Killers, Kyteman, Zita Zwoon, Tinariwen.
12. What is your favourite time of the day, and why?
N.DV: For thinking, early morning with a cup of coffee, for designing afternoon in the office, and dinnertime for being with family and friends
13. What would be your ultimate design project?
N.DV: Upgrading and redesigning downtown Rotterdam and doing a couple of buildings as well.
14. What are you doing at the moment?
N.DV: Actually, we are working on parts of this dream right now in Rotterdam. Furthermore our current work is an exciting variety, it ranges from a public library to a bank headquarter and from an entire Chinese city to a small installation.
15. Who would you most like to work with on a project?
N.DV: In the past we have done a study for Vitra, a facility for a production line that was in the end not necessary. It was a nice experience and it would be great to work with Rolf Fehlbaum again.
Archi-Ninja and MVRDV have teamed up to give away 5 books titled ‘reading MVRDV’. The book examines the context of MVRDV’s research and radical design strategies. To win a copy all you have to do is answer the following question:
Which MVRDV project or concept is your favourite and why?
Leave your answers in the comment section below, my favourite answers will win.
I’d like to thank Nathalie for participating in the interview, it was a pleasure. If you’re interested in getting in touch or finding out more about MVRDV, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in being interviewed and featured on Archi-Ninja, please contact me.