Crazy spaces make great places


Top L to Bottom R – Rotterdam Central Library – Market Hall Rotterdam – BK City – The Chocolate Factory – Rotterdam Harbour – Detail drawings from the Hague found in Het Nieuwe Instituut – Book Mountain – Cycles in Delft – BK City

Sometimes the best way to be challenged, inspired and learn is to view the work of others and there really is no substitute for seeing this in person.

A couple of months ago we were invited to join a tour of Dutch library spaces called ‘Crazy spaces make great places’.  It was an intriguing title for a tour and this added to the fact that we have always been big fans of Dutch design; in particular Droog and MRVDV meant we signed up and found ourselves in Rotterdam earlier this week.

We visited a number of places we had only ever seen on the net or read about before including Market Hall in Rotterdam and Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, both by MRVDV as well as BK City in Delft. BK City is the The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at TU Delft . The design team was led by the dean of the Faculty of Architecture and included a number of teams from MRVDV, Fokkema & Partners, Octatube, Vitra amongst a wealth of other big names. In addition we also visited Het Nieuwe Instituut for architecture, design and e-culture in Rotterdam and the Chocolate Factory in Gouda by Ministry of Imagination.

The majority of the projects lived up to our expectations and it was fascinating to see the reaction of other members of the tour party who were all library professionals. Three key things struck us,.

  1. There is a clear appreciation for and value placed on the design of spaces in Holland.
  2. The spaces we visited were more courageous and in some ways relaxed than UK spaces where often health and safety concerns are prioritised to the detriment of the design
  3. The quality and investment made in furniture. Most of the projects were awash with Vitra products and BK City also had a number of exclusive MOOOI items. In fact every project we visited had a least one rarely seen Jurgen Bey Ear Chair.

There was clearly good budgets available on these projects but we also had a sneaky visit to Rotterdam Central Library, (this was not on the official agenda, but we thought we might have a peek.) And we were super impressed with the space and fit out they had created using budget materials on a relatively small budget and despite being a tad old now the design of this public library completely out classes most UK municipal libraries.

It was truly inspirational to walk through these spaces and hear their designers speak about them in detail, and although we are still not convinced by the idea that a space needs a metaphor (as asserted by Chocolate Factory designers) and would rather that folk stuck with the term ‘concept’, we would agree that, for the moment anyway, Dutch design embraces concept and innovation far more often than it’s equivalent in the UK and we would like to help to change that.


PS – Many thanks go to old friend and client  Les Watson and the Ministry of Imagination for organising and hosting such a great event.

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