#donotsettle is an online video project created by Wahyu Pratomo and Kris Provoost about architecture and the way it is perceived by its users. Having published a number of videos on ArchDaily over the past two years, Pramoto and Provoost are now launching an exclusive column, “#donotsettle extra,” which will accompany some of their #donotsettle videos with in-depth textual analysis of the buildings they visit.
For architecture, an industry that is famous for long workdays, the office can potentially be a stressful environment. Van Rijs explains how the office could have a significant impact upon people’s psychology, as they spend a large part of their life there. The MVRDV House has broken the rigid office typology, and made it more entertaining.
Rotterdam is probably the city that best fits MVRDV. It has young, hipster branding, with the benefits of being surrounded by other creative industries. Despite the location of the MVRDV House near the center of Rotterdam (only 5 minutes’ walk from Markthal), the office receives almost zero traffic disturbance. From outside, the building stands calmly disguised between trees and a residential neighborhood. Only the logo of the company on the building’s exterior indicates their presence—this is the reason the “house” feels like a house.
Without demolishing the existing building by Hugh Maaskant, the interior was designed according to the original grid. The building expresses the energy of both old and new through visual transparency and bold colors. One of the first things we encountered when stepping into the office was the giant glazed wall, adorned with architectural sketches, that separates the lobby and the Atelier, the central working area. The main atelier has a high-ceiling which makes it spacious and warm, almost like it is outdoors. Initially, we thought this was achieved with blazing interior lights, but instead it appeared that the sunlight cast by the skylight and transom window went deep down, illuminating the entire space.
The attempt to add comfort to the design is seen in the construction of the interior. Here, we do not see the traditional office layout that emphasizes only productivity, rather than communication. To enhance the process of learning from each other, every single room inside the building is oriented towards the “Family Room,” where the collective activities take place.
The team at MVRDV grows fast. It has increased in size from 120 to almost 180 people since they moved last year. There is an urgency to expand in this international creative environment that triggers the creative process. Aiming to facilitate many different creative activities, a wide variety of rooms are provided, each one characterized by a different color. Unusual functions like a game room and a writing room have given additional value to the daily life of employees. When we spoke with some of the architects and designers who work in the office, we asked them to point out their favorite spot. Although the answers were mixed, it was clear that the communal spaces are favored.
The tribune—a sloped seating area used for presentations or lectures—is one of the most popular. It reminds us of a similar structure, which is also the students’ favorite space, at The Why Factory facility in TU Delft which is led by another MVRDV founder Winy Maas. Apart from the color and size, both have identical roles as relaxation and public presentation spaces, while extra room is created in the space underneath. Stairs are also seen in other MVRDV projects: The Couch in Amsterdam, Urban Staircase in Rotterdam and Library in Tianjin. Is this becoming MVRDV’s most important element?
One of the most fascinating efforts in the design is the commitment to match all items inside the multi-colored rooms with one specific color. Not only the ceiling, wall and floor, but also furniture, plant, light, and even appliances are perfectly matched. The combined furniture, with some pieces from MVRDV’s Vertical Village series, which also fit the color, making the whole space more interconnected.
“Lunch is the coolest activity,” says Van Rijs. Every day, most people move from their workspace and eat their lunch on the long Hogwarts-like table in the central living room. This linear group layout stimulates more interaction, and avoids employees clustering into limited groups.
From speaking to the team, we also got to know that at MVRDV, office culture is special. Each month, the youngest member of each team presents briefly about a project or piece of research that he or she has been working on, at a Pecha Kucha event. Friday drinks, a Ping Pong Championship, barbecues and soccer games are other regular traditions that bring extra happiness to everyone who works here.
By visiting the project, we could feel the joy of how people use the space and how the space transforms into a vehicle for interaction. They make it fun indeed—something MVRDV is known for. Unlike a kindergarten with too much child-like fun, The House is more like a form of fresh creative playground.