1. How have trends or evolutions in the design process, technological advancements, and/or societal issues inspired new thought and solutions for this building type?
The importance of Craftmanship and the ‘art of making’ is getting more and more important in recent years. Our office is particularly interested in modern and contemporary production techniques to obtain elaborated quality in our architecture.
For the Gnome Parking Building we searched for a company to produce a high-tech steel perforated façade and we ended up in the automotive industry with Voest Alpine. They use the thermoforming technique, the same technique as to produce car body parts.
2. What was the most difficult issue(s) or the most unexpected challenge(s) that may have influenced new thought and design parameters in this specific project?
The city of Almere is proud of its green environment. We designed a figuration that depicts with this green local character, with windmills, garden gnomes and bird houses. After testing the figuration design with computer software (Catia – Computer Aided Three dimensional Interactive Application) we had to change the exact figuration a bit and the shape of the perforations (squares with rounded corners).
3. Did this project and working on this building type expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
Our role as architect is changing more and more from designer towards façade-contractor. With our extensive knowledge of production techniques – within budget! – we become experts and define the façade with exact specifications in the contract.
Other examples of product development by our office Mei are: the cast iron façade of the RTV studio building in the Lloydquarter Rotterdam and the artwork on the façade of residential tower De Verkenner in Utrecht. This artwork consists of 13.000 ceramic tiles, with 16 different verses, printed in ceramic tiles and encased in concrete façade elements. Mei asked artist Milou van Ham and poet Tsead Bruinja to design this artwork specific for this building and inspired by the context of Kanaleneiland Utrecht.
This changing role is a chance for developing new products, and taking responsibility for this.
4. In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and new processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
In our opinion there is too little attention for ‘the art of making’ at most academies nowadays. Therefore, we make a plea for teaching about materials and fabrication methods.
On the other hand we experience that students and graduates have many 3D drawing skills (Rhino, Revit and BIM-modeling).