Interview with MVRDV

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 MVRDV’s 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.

Nathalie de Vries MVRDV

Archi-ninja Interviews Nathalie de Vries from MVRDV

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.

MVRDV Anyang PeakAnyang Peak

MVRDV Ypenburg Masterplan

Ypenburg Masterplan

MVRDV Gwangyo Power CentreGwangyo Power Centre

MVRDV Logrono Montecorvo Eco CityLogrono Montecorvo Eco City

Motorcity AlcanizMotorcity Alcaniz

Philips Lighting ContainerPhilips Lighting Container


MVRDV Brabant LibraryBrabant Library

MVRDV Book Giveaway!

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

If you are interested in being interviewed and featured on Archi-Ninja, please contact me.


17 comments for “Interview with MVRDV”

  • Eric

    Hanover expo pavilion, because of the expressed stacking of different functions/exhibits, the clarity and impact of this simple idea translated to built form, and because it can easily be turned into a ninja’a play/training ground (imagine navigating and scaling up the different levels)

    the building does need a renewal.
    (link from expo2000 wiki)

  • Sam

    Wozoco’s Apartment in Amsterdam. It makes me want to design stuff.

  • jelmer

    The Why factory tribune at the faculty of architecture in Delft. Why? Because it creates an interesting, flexible space within the conservatory of the existing building, and it has a strong identity.

  • Jordan

    Ill have to say that my favorite MVRDV project is their Rowhouse in Borneo. The house has an excellent strategy that maximizes natural light and still gives privacy. It is an wonderful play of solid and void and positive and negative spaces. Making these spaces allows for a compact and efficient home, with unique attitude. I used this house as a precedent for a rowhouse design I did in my second year of architecture school. With the combined analysis of MVRDV’s rowhouse and Tado Andos, I think I had a pretty successful project.

  • Adam

    RVU is one of MVRDV’s design’s best integrated into the landscape, and exemplifies a progressive approach to future architecture. The use of earth as part of their material efficiently maximizes site elements energy use, while still maintaining in this case, a modern aesthetic.

  • rkitect

    I’ll be honest in saying that until this interview, I had never heard of MVRDV. I am both fascinated and intrigued by the philosophy and projects that I’m seeing here. From the 10 minutes that I’ve had to become familiar with MVRDV’s work I’d have to say that the RVU and Motorcity projects are, at first glance, my favorites do to their strong connection to their hearth (the earth). The seem to spring from the ground, merging and melding with it’s surroundings. This is especially impressive in the Motorcity concept as it appears to be a more Urban setting. I had a project similar, smaller in scale that popper from the ground. The landscape of the roof became a vegetative screen for the mid rise building adjacent: (pardon the quality, it’s the only one i could find showing the transition from roof to screen).

    Thanks for bring this studio to our attention! Great work and keep it up!

  • Tom

    WOZOCO, just awesome.

  • James

    My favourite MVRDV project is the Pyjama Garden Medical Centre in the Netherlands. It reminds me of the thinking behind solariums that people used to holiday to when the weather was too cold. The simple and cheap addition of such a beautiful space to a hospital seeks not only to provide a place for physical healing, but psycholgical healing as well…”green salve for an otherwise white wound”. MVRDV’s use of nature is an inspiration.

  • patrick lee

    Favorite: Didden Village
    Why (1): since it is relatively small scale and it’s typology can be found in most urban environments it can inspire a broad range of architects and clients to really think – what is a roof?
    Why (2): re-programs and utilizes an often underused/unacknowledged space.
    Why (3): ease of maintenance – to clean up, it looks like you just take the hose and spray everything off (even the table after a you get those sticky waffles everywhere)
    Why (4): I can imagine my kid racing around on his trike and I don’t have to worry where he is off to, unless he builds a ramp and goes Evil Knievel on me.
    Why (5) it’s beautiful, pragmatic and reduced to it’s essence.

  • Cora

    My favourite is Silodam

    This is an interesting study of density and how to accommodate a large variety of people groups and uses in a highly organized/rational manner.

  • katie

    i’d say my favorite project by mvrdv is their villa vpro, simply because it was the first one of theirs that i really “discovered” and introduced me to the firm.

    to me they really can almost do no wrong.

  • Troy White

    My choice would be the RVU project. I have to point to the integration of the project to the site as the primary driver of my selection. Also, the sense of entry created on the depicted entrance is unique and organic.

  • Fernando

    I pretty much can’t get enough of MVRDV. My favorite project will be their next.

  • Andjela Karabasevic

    If it is necessary to chose one specific project, then I would say Housing Silo in Amsterdam. It is so far, along with the houses in Borneo-Sporenburg, the only project of MVDRDV I have visited and experienced first handed. I am indefinitely overwhelmed with the ambient they have created, in an easy and some-what obvious way. They have successfully connected both form and function within a whole of a unique building that stands apart from its surroundings and it is at the same time significantly improving it. They managed to connect different functions within one structure and with slight variations in proportions and orientation a number of different and individual living units were also incorporated, but at the same time brought together as parts of small neighbourhoods. They did not neglect history, but they emphasised it by refering the Silodam building to the historical grain silos at Strekdam, also rebuilted as houses.

    I honestly admire their architecture and I am trying to learn from them as much as I can. Not many architects have realized projects that speak for themselves and show directly the great care and love of their author. Their architecture is so easily and naturally being exposed to life in all its forms…

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  • Fernando Gobbo Ferreira

    The design for the unrealized Serpentine Gallery Pavillion, for transforming a full space into a void.

  • Rodrigo Tello

    The Berlin Voids, because it is the beginning for future projects of stratification and denstiy, like the SILODAM in NL or MIRADOR in SP. It was a vertical neighborhood, exploiting diversity. Al