The initials of the founding family names form the acronym MVRDV. The Dutchmen Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, and Nathalie de Vries, have been working together since 1993. The rapid rise of this Rotterdam office in the 1990s was certainly also favored by the generally recognized leadership role of Dutch architecture and its teacher and role model, architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas.
The work of MVRDV ranges from small houses to extensive urban development projects. Architects, designers, urban and open space planners at MVRDV face the complex construction challenges of the 21st century, with the Dutch humor and willingness to take risks always being present.
MVRDV has risen to fame with their WoZoCo house in Amsterdam-Osdorp. A tall, slender residential building built especially for the elderly. It consumes very little space in the densely built up Holland, but it has gardens and open spaces. The living rooms were simply hung on the facade – the picture of the “house as a balcony” was born. In Germany, Nathalie de Vries, Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs became an overnight sensation for their Dutch pavilion at the Expo 2000 in Hanover.
The idea of the pavilion was characterized by the superimposition of six ways of being of the landscape. From the ground floor, the “dune landscape” leading to “greenhouse landscape,” space in which nature and, above all, agricultural production, showed strong union with life, even in the new high tech world. In the “pot landscape” big pots hosting the roots of trees located on the top floor, while throwing screens and digital images of light and color messages. “Rain landscape was changing in the space devoted to water, which was turned into a screen and in support of audiovisual messages; large trunks of trees populated the” forest landscape “, while building on top of the” polder landscape “hosted large wind blades and a large green area.
Since then MVRDV is among the pioneers of sustainable architecture: “Radical methods in research, especially in the study of dense urban coexistence” This is how they once described their message. Accordingly, they did a lot of research and produced thick books. The best known is “Farmax: Excursions on Density”.
Along with OMA – the studio from which two-thirds of MVRDV’s founders were hatched (both Jacob van Rijs and Winy Maas were previously employed there) – MVRDV quickly came to embody the so-called Dutch pragmatism. MVRDV projects do not have a uniform style to them, no signature look.
The VPRO Television and Radio Center can be described using terms such as compactness and spatial differentiation and in terms of its relationship to the landscape surrounding it. A precise positioning of voids allows the access of natural light to be combined with views over the surroundings. The result is an open-plan office where the difference between inside and outside is vague.
The starting point for MVRDV’s design was a desire to accommodate a wide variety of homes, bringing together low-income families with elderly residents, office workers and artists. The building is raised up over the water. Externally, it resembles a stack of shipping containers, with a variety of different colours and material finishes creating stripes across the facade.
The traditional barn shape and reflective metal sheeting take their references from the local building vernacular. In this sense the Balancing Barn aims to live up to its educational goal in re-evaluating the countryside and making modern architecture accessible. The Barn is 30 meters long, with a 15 meters cantilever over a slope, plunging the house headlong into nature, a balancing act made possible by the rigid structure of the building.
The building features a 480 meter route, lined with bookshelves, that wraps around a stacked, pyramidal form as it is showcased through the library’s glass structure. The “mountain of books” illuminates from within and serves as both an advertisement and an invitation to reading. rom underneath the glass dome the library is visible from all sides, especially from the adjacent market square where the library appears as one big book mountain.
The design for the building comprises an 40-metre arched roof that contains 228 apartments, covering the public space based on food markets in Stockholm, Barcelona and Valencia. A colourful one-hectar mural by artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam covers the inside of the arch, printed onto perforated aluminium panels then attached to acoustic panels for noise control. Giant glazed walls at each end protect the market from the cold and wet weather.
Located in the heart of Seoul, a the Skygarden has been realised on a former inner city highway in an ever-changing urban area accommodating the biggest variety of Korean plant species and transforming it into a public 983-metre long park gathering 50 families of plants including trees, shrubs and flowers displayed in 645 tree pots, collecting around 228 species and sub-species. In total, the park includes 24,000 plants (trees, shrubs and flowers), many of which will grow to their final heights in the next decade.
The Tianjin Binhai Library, a 33,700 square meter cultural centre featuring a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade. The undulating bookshelf is the building’s main spatial device and is used both to frame the space and to create stairs, seating, the layered ceiling and even louvres on the façade. Tianjin Binhai Library was designed and built in a record-breaking time of only three years due to a tight schedule imposed by the local municipality. Next to many media rooms it offers space for 1,2 million books.
Of course, MVRDV have won many awards (multiple top ranks in the prestigious European Mies van der Rohe Prize); What they still lack is an the most prestigious award in the architecture community, the Pritzker Architecture Prize. That would surely be further proof of the talents from Rotterdam.
All images by MVRDV