An Enthusiastic Vision
Kruunenberg Architects is an independent architectural firm based in Amsterdam. We invited Chief Architect Gerard Kruunenberg, Architect of the Year, to talk us through the firm and how it constantly strives for excellence in every project.
Kruunenberg Architects, chartered by the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects, is one of approximately twenty architectural firms in Amsterdam united by a similar architectural philosophy, which join together to maintain an informal bond, cooperating on larger projects by sharing skilled staff, knowledge and experience.
Under the experienced direction of Gerard, a small team of highly trained and enthusiastic employees and trainees undertake diverse projects, mainly for housing corporations and developers as well as municipalities and individuals. Gerard provides more detail on the firm’s projects and the approach it takes to ensuring the outcome always meets the needs of the client.
‘Kruunenberg Architects is a versatile practice, and therefore although we specialize in housing and projects that combine commercial and residential spaces, our portfolio also includes utility and small-scale urban design projects. In addition to construction projects we also conduct feasibility and other studies. In recent years we have come to focus in particular on transformation, renovation and restoration projects offering a creative and inventive approach. We pride ourselves on our working method characterized by structure and precision balanced by flexibility. Creating quality buildings is a team effort, and as such every member in the team, from client to carpenter, should inspire, challenge and appreciate the input of other members. In order to do so you have to be aware of personal qualities and, sometimes hidden, forces that effect the project.
‘To achieve a perfect urban setting is an important goal, as we strive for beauty, sustainability and usability. Each project is centered around combining this focus with the client’s aims, and therefore at the start of every new undertaking the first thing we do is research into things that are relevant to the project, including the location, the existing building, the history, the status in relation to legislation etc. Following this we make an offer which includes an extensive job description. In order to do so I always have to contact the client on multiple occasions in order to get things clear so that the overall outcome is always in line with their vision.’
One of the projects Gerard is proudest of is Furore-Blok A, an apartment building with commercial spaces in Amsterdam, which he is keen to discuss in more detail.
‘Furore-Blok A is a large building within the 19th century city ring in Amsterdam, around the corner where I grow up. Although the scale and gallery access, the building perfectly fits in the urban setting. The use of rough melted glass gives the building a special touch of its own. The five-meter high base that decorates Blok A at the ground level emanates a solidity that is typical of an autonomous building. Yet in the execution of the design there is refinement expressed in the juxtaposition of clear and rough melted glass.
The upper section of this base serves as a balustrade for the French balconies of the first-floor residences. Both building units, which stand on the shared base, resemble independent lines but they are connected by walkways and a glass sound screen erected to deflect traffic noise. The brick surface of the two buildings is graced by the rhythm of vertical fenestration and square openings cut into the facade where it continues up to form a high roof ridge. The rhythm is enriched by accents in the form of ‘flower frames’; large windows which are shielded from the traffic noise by sliding glass panes set flush to the masonry. The fact that the facade openings form an oblique rather frontal composition enlivens the face of this complex.
‘From this project, I learned that the client should hire local architects as often as possible, as we are able to understand the surrounding area and the history of a building and its setting more than someone from another town.’
Looking to the future, Gerard’s aim is to grow the company in order to continue to produce projects which are creative, innovative and unique.
‘My aspiration for my company is to help it to grow and to pass on my skills over to the younger generation. Architecture is a profession that stands on the shoulders of elder generations but we also need young designers to develop it.
‘Current projects include the renovation of three early 20th-century monumental housing blocks in Amsterdam and as an architectural consultant to make Amsterdam school buildings healthy and sustainable. I hope to be able to incorporate this experience into designing new housing and schools in the future, which will be an exciting development both for myself and my firm.’