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A collection of prints of past cartoons from Arquine, A10, Uncube, as well as a few others published in the last 10 years, en route to Santiago de Chile, where I’ll spend next week. I’ll keep reporting. (In the pic, ‘¿Qué tienen las casas de hoy en día que las hace tan iguales, tan aburridas?’, my take on Hamilton’s famous collage published in Arquine #83: The Limits of Design, Spring 2018)

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I thought I had already uploaded all the cartoons I had done for Indira van’t Kloosteer’s section ‘Interchange: Architects in Action’. ‘Interchange’ ran from March 2014 through April 2016 in the pages of A10: New European Architecture (issues #56-68), and all its entries featured a full-page cartoon in every issue (I might make a post soon with all of them as they appeared in the magazine), except for the first one, which, unfortunately, was too close to the deadline when I was approached. I thought it was a shame, at the time, because I had already come up with an idea for Jurgen Mayer H. when Indira contacted me that I thought was quite funny. However, I could scratch that particular itch a couple years later, when I could finally produce it for the compilation Indira put together in 2016.

However, it seems I had missed this one, featuring Brussels-Based Rotor Group. At the time of this interview, Rotor had recently completed their Deconstruction: An exhibition on salvaging and reusing building components Expo, where they exhibited the results of their work of selective deconstruction on a few buildings. Here, some excerpts of the conversation:

Last year, Rotor decided to take their commitment to reuse one step further. Since then, they have deconstructed about fifteen buildings, stripping them down to the base structure and reworking the matter amassed in the process into reusable materials that meet commercial demands. It has become a huge success. ‘The turnover of this business already equals our regular work,’ says founder Maarten Gielen as we spend the day at Rotor.

Visitors to the Vilvoorde office first see the showpieces: the doors, floors, chairs by Jules Wabbes, and ’90s postmodern kitsch. Their gaze is then drawn to the smart spinoffs, including upcycled old coat hooks sold per running metre and banisters offered in custom-length modules. Then there’s the yard, filled with dozens of toilet bowls, cupboards, chairs, benches, and textiles. Employees process a new load of products. Maarten Gielen smokes a cigarette at the picnic table in the meantime.

How do you find a suitable building?

Most of our clients are major players in the Brussels property market, and own hundreds of thousands of square meters of office space. When new tenants lease the building, which happens every ten to fifteen years, the interiors undergo top-to-bottom refurbishment. We take stock of the old interiors, such as the ceilings and walls, which we then offer to our 200-strong network of dealers, contractors, and architects. Then we start deconstruction, and transform the building into a showroom for clients to assess the quality. Most items are sold on-site. The top-quality features are taken to our depot, restored, and sold via our website.

Do you see this as architects’ work?

Of course. What we do here is similar to what an architect does on a construction site: coordinating activities, drafting demolition specifications, checking quality, and finalizing. Subcontractors take care of easy jobs, such as tiling, while our own staff takes on the more complex tasks. We must preserve the knowledge gained during demolition, so that the buyer knows its history.

Why do you focus on wholesalers, not private individuals?

While retail trade is more lucrative, given the much larger margins on materials, our goal is to professionalize wholesalers.

So you don’t work with the design potential of reuse, as other architects do with reclaimed objects?

No. We offer a standardized package at a competitive price. Working with second-hand material should be no harder than working with new, but you do need someone to create that bridge. We can take care of the logistics and the technicalities, so that for an architect it becomes more or less as easy as ordering newly produced materials.

Is it possible to reuse everything?

The ideological definition of reusable is ‘everything that can be dismantled’. However, these changes once translated into business logic, which dictates that a reusable material can be dismantled and resold at a lower price than the market value. All our material must contend either with cheap materials from China, or with products of new quality. Naturally, second-hand material competes better when it is of high quality, because then it can make a positive economic difference.

So it’s not cheaper for companies?

On the contrary, it’s never more expensive. We have different types of clients. The easiest ones are those who look for unique vintage design, whatever the cost. The second type is more pragmatic: they look for standard objects like urinals or floorboards. It would cost them €250 to buy it new, but €40 when they buy from us. If you need bucket sinks or urinals on six floors, and you can buy them from us and save €200 per item, this makes quite the difference.


Have you increased your knowledge of materials and regulations over the years?

Our projects have always had an experimental side, and we’ve learned that the materials hold much of a building’s intelligent design. Once aware of the economic logic behind the products and their origins, one sees that the architect is at the helm of a huge construction machine, yet possesses little substantial knowledge about it.



Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Creative Deconstruction – An Interview with Rotor.  A10 Magazine #64. Jan/Feb 2016




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So, the story behind this one: As the title sort of hints at, this wasn’t actually published in A10 #56 -The interview was, but not the illustration. The only reason was timing: Indira van’t Klooster, then editor of the (late) magazine, contacted me asking if I was interested in starting this series (for all the ‘Interchange’ cartoons, click here). In the end, it turned out that I was, but it happened at a time when I had too much on my plate, and by the time we agreed and shook hands, the magazine was due to go to print. Thus, the first interview didn’t feature its required drawing. As it usually happens, once the seed has been planted, it just naturally grows, so even though I didn’t have the time to produce it, I already had an idea that I quite liked… but which would have to go to one of those ‘missed opportunities’ drawers. Fast forward a couple years, and Indira contacts me again, saying she’s putting together a book compiling the interviews (more info here), and needs the drawing on Jürgen to complete the set. So, here you have, for the first time, Jürgen Mayer H. and his Metropol Parasol in full Alice in Wonderland fashion.

An itch scratched.


‘I look upon the majority of a new generation with great interest, and I really value the emphasis put on the social aspects of architecture besides new developments in digitalization and new media. But it rarely brings new design agendas and innovations. There seems to be a convention in aesthetics of being a bit too self-satisfied in too early a stage. Now and then I would like to be a bit more surprised by what I see – a bit more risk, I guess… Make it an argument through architecture and show more design ambition, bring out into the built world what is researched and experimented in so many architecture schools and labs all over.’

Jürgen Mayer H. (in Indira Van’t Klooster: ‘Georgian wonderland’. A10 #56, March- April 2014).

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Summer vacation is unfortunately over, so let’s catch up with published work that hasn’t made it to the blog yet. Today’s post belongs in the series of illustrations I did for the ‘Interchange’ interviews published in A10 magazine over the last 2 years. As you may know, A10 went out of business last Spring. So, whether this is something permanent or -hopefully- it is not (read announcement here), these posts will remain, for the time being, as the only available peek at the A10 archives. Except, of course, for our Forty and Famous bookwhich compiles 10 of them. There are still some copies left, I believe. Contact @IndiraS if interested.

Today’s post features ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles], a practice led by Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman that ‘researches and intervenes in the contemporary urban landscape with productions ranging from urban plans and architecture to installations and fashion.’


When I first interviewed ZUS in 2006, the office had only existed for three years. At the time, principals Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman wondered, ‘Often we ask ourselves which challenges are solvable with good design, and which can really only be solved through politics. After the tsunami in Asia or the hurricane in New Orleans, the question arises to what degree human influence has on our surroundings. What means are still tangible for a designer at larger scales?’ In 2014, ZUS won a major design competition in New York that deals with this exact question. Now they are in America, having just founded ZUS NY.

Since Katrina (2004) and hurricane Sandy (2012), the American awareness of the need for a more inclusive way to solve its climate problems gained ground. After Sandy hit New York it was with amazing speed that Rebuild by Design was founded. The competition’s formula to bring stakeholders to the heart of effective resilience planning has been very successful ever since. Designs were issued (and won) by big firms like OMA and BIG. But among the six finalists was also the team of MIT CAU, de Urbanisten and ZUS Architects, with Deltares, 75B and Volker Infra Design. They received 150 million dollar (of a total 930 million dollar) to realize their proposal for the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The aim is to work with local governments and communities to ensure that the design is incorporated into the lives of everyone involved.

Like in the Netherlands, you deal with communities and stakeholders, with a focus on ecology, community, culture, and landscape design – an inclusive way of working that influences spatial planning and peoples’ lives. Thus, your projects are usually also political. Is working in the US different from here?

If interdisciplinary and proactive work is an ambition in Europe and the Netherlands, it is a necessity in America. To get a project done, you have to work proactively through all the political layers, and you automatically come up against economic and environmental factors. These must somehow be integrated in the plans. You will have to create support from top to bottom. In that sense, working in America is fundamentally integrated and always political. It sometimes takes a little longer, but it’s very valuable.


Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Inclusive archipolitics – An Interview with ZUS Architects.  A10 Magazine #64. Jul/Aug 2015


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So, after some waiting, finally my book with Indira Van’t Klooster is out! As  you’ll remember, if you’ve been around for a while, back in 2014 Indira van ‘t Klooster, editor-in-chief of A10 magazine contacted me asking if I would be interested in making some cartoons for a series of interviews with different architects. This evolved into a series, published monthly in the magazine, which has now been (partially) compiled in the book Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects.

The book features interviews with a series of relatively young practices comprising ALA (Finland), KOKO (Estonia), Barozzi / Veiga (Spain), SO – IL (USA), WWAA (Poland), ZUS, (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) and JDS (The Netherlands) Chartier Dalix (France), Jürgen Mayer H (Germany), and Assemble (England). Previews of all those can be found in the links above, or by clicking the A10 tag in this very blog.  Some of these images might be familiar for the usual visitors here, but there are still a few unseen ones, such as Jurgen Mayer’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cartoon, or the cover featuring the whole line-up.

The official launch in this year’s Biennale will take place at the Polish Pavilion, Giardini, Venice on May 27 between 11.00 and 11.30 am. A second event will take place in June 8, 20.00 pm, at Pakhuis De Zwijger, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Amilcar editions is putting out a limited print of the book, so if you’re interested in ordering a copy before they run out, or want any other information, please contact Indira van ‘t Klooster, via email or through her twitter account (@IndiraS)





Presented in this book are 10 young European architecture practices. They all found, in the midst of the financial crisis, a new attitude, a hands-on practice, with great commitment and an eagerness to get things done, thinking large-scale against all odds. How did they succeed? By winning competitions (ALA, KOKO, Barozzi / Veiga), by finding new clients outside Europe (SO – IL, WWAA), by raising new issues (ZUS, JDS), by innovating typologies (Chartier Dalix, Jürgen Mayer H.) and by new types of organization (Assemble) – usually by mixing all of the above, after having been educated abroad for some time.

This selection also shows the different circumstances in which they blossom, through clients in America, Asia and Georgia, post-communist courage in Central Europe and Estonia, bottom-up strategies in The Netherlands and England, an international Erasmus generation flowering in Spain, new traditionalists in France, the benefits of young-architect-friendly Finland, and cross-over markets in Belgium.

-Forty and Famous: 10 interviews with successful young European architects. Indira van’t Klooster. Illustrations by Klaus. Additional texts by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado. Amilcar Publishers, 2016.

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Since their start in 2000 KOKO Architects (Andrus Koresaar and RaivoKotov) have evolved on the tides of developments in Estonia, employing an intriguing combination of graphics and modest servitude, and literally building an identity for a new nation with new sense of self-esteem. It made them win the Young Estonian Architect Award 2015, but it didn’t make them conceited. ‘We believe in layers of time, and not so much in permanence.’

Between the KOKO office and the house of one of its partners is a tiny door. It’s invisible to who doesn’t know it, situated in the kitchen behind the dustbin. You have to bend deep to go through the door, designed to make it function like an Alice in Wonderland transformation. You enter from the one world to the other. ‘It’s so small on purpose, so that every time I enter it, I undergo some sort of transformation from private to work, from work to private life. As I do this 3 or 4 times a day, you understand how important it is.’ The story is illustrative of the way KOKO works. They feel comfortable in transforming big historical complexes, they have this way of adding something subtle and personal, and there is always a sense of relativity and humbleness. As if to illustrate that they are just one of the many tiny passers-by in many layers of time.

Having regained independency (as the Estonians like to put it, rather than having become independent) in 1991, the country was ready for its first appearance at the World Expo, the Hanover Expo in 2000. The commission was won by KOKO architects, formed by a recently graduated artist and an architect not even out of the Academy. For what is better for a young nation than to be represented by young talent? Now the country is preparing the celebration on a 100 years existence of the Estonian nation (ignoring the Russian and German supremacy between 1918 and 1991), while Russian pressure is again clearly sensible at the Baltic borders. KOKO is looking for ways to expand their practice outside Estonia, for example in Norway and Finland, both countries that have heavily influenced Estonian architecture. And to close the circle: they have just completed the interior of another national pavilion: at the EXPO Milan.

What made you win the World Expo competition in 2000, do you think?

We proposed a maritime theme to connect to the naval history of Estonia and maximum visibility so as to stand out between all the other countries. The result was a flowing movement high above the visitors’ heads, an undulating forest of fir trees, symbolizing both sea, woods and movement. The spectacular result was an instant success: 2.7 million came to visit the pavilion. For us ‘movement’ has become a recurring feature in our work. Not literally, but metaphorically. In this country every 30 years everything changes drastically. We don’t think that buildings or designs will keep their original functions for much longer than that.



Excerpts from: Indira van’t Klooster: Temporal Layers – An Interview with KOKO Architects.  A10 Magazine #63. May/Jun 2015




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Pascale Dalix and Frédéric Chartier started their office 10 years ago. Coming from big offices like Herzog & De Meuron and Dominique Perrault it’s easy to recognize where they learned to play with surfaces and how to combine rationality and poetry. The shiny surfaces of the Young workers’ hostel, crèche and studios in Paris are quite different from the edgy facades of the Sciences and Biodiversity school in Boulogne-Billancourt (France), but the reasoning behind them is the same: ‘It’s the first question to ask and the last to answer, because we keep researching on better solutions during the process: ‘How can we enrich the program?’, say Frédéric Chartier and Pascale Dalix.

Since 2010 they have finished 10 projects with an office of 30 people. As such it is a fast growing office that likes to work in teams. Still, it’s a lot of buildings. One explanation is the way they like to collaborate with other architectural practices. Collaboration makes it possible to work on many buildings at the same time, as well as to experiment a bit with different styles and materials. Their oeuvre as such is not exactly homogeneous, but each building offers a fresh approach. What connects them is their fluidity of spaces: voids and floors interact of various functions and various scales.

How can you enrich the program?

We tend to treat our buildings as vertical micro-cities. French cities are so dense, we need to create valuable human living spaces in high quantities. This is only possible when we can also make a sort of recluse. A place that extends the city inside the building itself. To be able to do that within the strict budget limits we have learned to play with structures and spaces.

What’s the reason that you seldom use the ground floor for public amenities?

If all public functions are on the ground floor the rest of the program needs to come on top of that, which creates monocultures on the higher floors. And who has invented to put amenities on the ground floor? In the case of the 240 studios, we had a library, restaurant, a laundry and a fitness center for the young workers and a kindergarten to accommodate and we did not have enough place on the ground floor. By inserting extra program on the upper floors we bring life to all levels. Thus we have created public space that has more urban life than outside the building. (…)


Excerpts* from: Indira van’t Klooster: Fluidity of Spaces on All Scales– An Interview with Chartier-Dalix Architectes.  A10 Magazine #68. Mar/Apr 2016


(*) As usual, there’s more to be found in the magazine itself.

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