The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
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April 2010

division of Archi-Europe Group


Architecture & Media coverage

This paper is not about the application of media coverage to architecture as a profession. Nor is it even about marketing– improving relationships with potential clients or with all stakeholders in an architectural project. Architecture is seen here as an essential component of a society's overall image. It is a veritable management tool, notwithstanding the scale of the business. The successful construction of a building depends on the spirit of dialogue, open-mindedness and receptiveness that exists between the architect and a business executive. Mutual understanding transcends the quality of the constructed work in terms of durability, technique, modular aspect or comfort, and actually enhances the corporate image. A coherent architectural approach which conforms to all the visual expressions of the company will constitute a real communication tool. Some decision-makers have made use of this media potential by obtaining the services of media stars. The Vitra firm is a perfect example of this. This firm is very involved in design and the synergy between its commercial activities and cultural commitment does nothing but enhance its corporate image. In 1989 for instance, it had Frank O.Gehry design the Vitra Museum, his first European achievement. While the museum earned the firm considerable media coverage regarding its architectural policy, this also proved that industrial development and cultural development are not incompatible. It was a challenging architectural achievement for those architects who visited it. Firms such as Hadid, Ando, Siza and others, and more recently Herzog & de Meuron or SANAA were invited to evaluate the site’s geography, and subsequently following the erection of buildings. A good number of firms subsequently decided to express their dynamism through architecture. This, however, should not be taken to mean that the corporate communication fever revolutionised architecture. Nonetheless, the fact remains that concerns regarding corporate image provides fertile ground for designers.

The Archi-Europe team

Portrait of the month

Mecanoo, Delft

It is common knowledge that the Dutch – led by Rem Koolhaas - have influenced architecture in Europe these last twenty years. With hundreds of projects calling for a revision of leading-edge theories, the Mecanoo agency is part of this dominant trend.

Created in 1984, the agency is managed by one of its founding members, Francine Houben (1955), assisted by Aart Fransen and Francesco Veenstra. "For me, things changed rapidly”, recalls Francine Houben. “I had never imagined that I would head a team of hundreds and realise projects across the world!”. Her job reflects the same parameters of sustainability and quality, in addition to an innovative spirit and distinctive interest for urban areas that characterise The Netherlands. A graduate from the Delft University of Technology, this architect leads a creative and well-organised firm which has gained for itself a true identity across the years and is particularly attached to sustainable development. She has made it an absolute priority in all the aspects of her work. This concern for quality and the environment is a permanent feature in the most varied aspects: Public buildings, museums, universities, libraries, theatres, housing units or city plans. To be voluminous, projects – often large-scale ones – extend to very diversified sectors, in terms of type and geography. The global dimension has been achieved. In 2007, the agency won a commission for designing a mega theatre in the Wei-Wu-Ying park in Kaohsiung (Taiwan) and the future Longgang business centre in Shenzhen (China). Judging from some recent projects, Mecanoo’s architecture really appeals to the senses. Each technical movement has been replaced by human aspects. Each intervention has been developed in detail and transcends the project itself, to link the structure to the urban or social fabric. From then on, architecture is perceived as a solution to the problems of contemporary society. Francine Houben is very optimistic and imagines a future where the blend between nationalities and cultures is further intensified. Younger generations of architects have a stake in meeting its challenges!

1. Francine Houben

2. Montevideo Tower, Rotterdam – The Netherlands (2003-2005)

The tower is a landmark on the city’s skyline which offers different crossing and overlapping volumes. Inspired from the site closely linked to the Holland-Amerika Line, the building reflects New York and Chicago's skyscrapers in the 50s. Formally, the structure is characterised by a diversity of lines, forms and solutions which highlight the architectural rhythm and contribute to its uniqueness.

3. Fiftytwodegrees, Nimègue – The Netherlands (2005-2006)
This complex is the research centre of Philips Semiconductors (now NXP), and refers to latitude 52° which similarly to the ambitions of its designers, covers the whole world. Its curved shape was achieved by a hybrid construction (concrete and steel). The pixelated covering gives the facade its abstract appearance.

4. La Llotja, Lleida - Spain (2006-2010)
Designed to include a theatre hall and conference facilities (37,500 m²), this complex is a replica of Lleida’s landscape. The large monolithic stone building seems to have risen straight from the Spanish soil and comprises various interrelated volumes. In the roof of its horizontal shape, there is a large garden which provides useful additional space and traps fresh air during summer.

5. Patio Residences, Malága - Spain (2008-2010)
The development comprises 170 residences laid out around eight patios and seven housing types. Durability is an integral part of the project: solar panels, alternating heights of five or six stories to allow for natural ventilation and natural light to penetrate the interior spaces. Using local materials and textures springing from the construction traditions in the south of Spain, this project is expected to introduce a new type of social housing in Spain.

6. Kop van Oost, Groningen – The Netherlands (2008-2011)
This dynamic housing programme entails the construction of an apartment complex (from 40 m2 student rooms to deluxe 400 m2 apartments), a wide promenade and public area. The four corners of the black brick building are contrasted: Punctuated with openings from east to west and spacious balconies in the south and in the north.

7. National Centre for Performing Arts, Kaohsiung - Taiwan (2010-2013)
Implanted in the 65-hectare city park, this 141 000 m² theatre complex will be the largest on the island. The building was shaped by banyans, tree species present in the region and characterised by their large crown. Curved and topped by an enormous, bulging and ventilated roof where the concert and opera halls will be located, the structure was ingeniously designed, especially where the roofing slides downwards and turns into the open-air theatre. The vegetation of part of the roof contributes to thermal regulation within the building.

8. The Birmingham library – Great Britain (2010-2013)
This transparent and fragile glass building was inspired by the craft tradition of the city which it implicitly reflects. Mechanical lifts and staircases built in the very centre of the libraries connect the eight circular rooms, thereby bringing natural light and ventilation. The construction has been classified BREEAM since it is equipped with grey water systems and heat pumps. Despite the transparent nature of the building, energy is mainly generated through atriums, solar protection, natural ventilation and isolation.

9. The Delft station – The Netherlands (2012-2015)
This large-scale project includes an underground station, municipal facilities and offices, shops, restaurants and was designed to suit its context. The building is compact and its design is revealed by its facades. The glass structure reflects the skies and the numerous diagonals in the façade create a diamond-like appearance. An arch-like roof showcases the blue ceramics of Delft and connects the building to the station’s main hall. The building was designed to be highly energy efficient and flexible with thermal storing, solar control of facades and photovoltaic panels.

10. Longgang master plan, Shenzhen – China (in progress)
This development is intended for Shenzhen, one of the rapidly growing Chinese towns and involves the master plan of a new dynamic business centre. Housing units, commercial centre, hotels, offices, public facilities are designed into a unique close network where water, tropical vegetation and shady spots offer pleasure activities.

Project of the month

VitraHaus, Weil am Rhein
Architects : Herzog & de Meuron

Overlapping volumes based on the archetype of houses, for some weeks now, the giant Mikado created by Balois architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is hosting Vitra collections intended for housing.

Specialised in office furniture for professional clientele, the company Vitra, launched in 2004 a Home collection showcasing classical designs and products from Young contemporary designers. Barely two years later, the Herzog & de Meuron agency was charged with the responsibility to design adequate exhibition areas. In other words, a building intended to serve as reference to the Vitra site, close to the Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry (1989) and the Tadao Ando Conference building (1993). The concept of this new structure has combined two themes valued by Herzog & de Meuron: The stacking of spaces and the archetype house, namely, a rectangle overlaid with double-pitch roofing with familiar connotations.
The both simple and sophisticated twelve ‘houses’ are designed as abstract elements interlaced on five storeys. Assuming a deliberate chaos where floor slabs are cutting into the gable walls of the lower storey, and projections measure up to 15 metres, the result will be a type of urban assembly with a vertical stratification. The objective was to construct a building with a minimum tread contact and a good overall view of surroundings, production site and Home collection. The chosen anthracite colour used for the rough coating of the facade gives the building unity and anchoring into nature. Inside, complexity is not only portrayed by the intersection angles of the different houses, but also by the interlacing of panoramic views on the city observing from (an angle) between houses. Internal and external spaces blend like two worlds of forms, one of orthogonal polygons visible from the outside and the other an internal organic world with its unexpected spaces and volumes. According to Herzog & de Meuron, this ‘secret world’ has a suggestive character and a maze-like aspect. at night, the spaces open. The transparent facades like display windows, illuminate the surroundings.

Product of the month

Powerroof: durable insulation for your sloping roof

The roof is the most important element in your living space. It not only has to stand up against wind and rain, but it also has to ensure that the temperature in the house remains constant. In a lot of buildings, the most warmth is lost through the roof.

Powerroof offers the solution for that as a continuous airtight insulation shield on top of the roof construction. With Powerroof, Recticel Insulation has developed a unique insulation system for sloping roofs.

Powerroof consists of a hard insulation board with a flame-resistant core made of TAUfoam by Recticel, a polyisocyanurate foam with a unique cell structure. The insulation features a new tongue-and-groove click system on all edges for seamless installation on top of the load-bearing component of the roof construction and just under the roof covering (the Sarking system). Powerroof thus creates a complete insulation shield with no thermal bridges whatsoever - and is resistant to all kinds of weather conditions.

The insulation panel is sturdy and keeps its form. It is covered on both sides with a special aluminium foil. Thanks to its closed cell structure and its aluminium covering, Powerroof is water-resistant. And, with the Rectivent under-roof foil barrier that is included, your roof is guaranteed to be watertight.

Powerroof is impervious to moisture and is easy to install, even with unequal spacing between rafters. Another advantage of Powerroof is that in renovation projects, the existing interior construction can remain unchanged.

More information


(11/04 – 16/04/2010) - Frankfurt (DE)
(23/04 – 26/04/2010) Kortrijk (BE)
(19/04 – 9/05/2010) - Paris (FR)
(13/04 – 14/04/2010) – Amsterdam (NL)
Bauvisite 138
(20/11/2010) Vienna (AT)
Manchester Society of Architects Annual Design Awards 2010
(20/04 - 15/05/2010) - Manchester (UK)
(08/04 - 11/04/2010) - Moscow (RU)
>> read more


Daylight Spaces 2010
Deadline : 26/04/2010

The Schindler Award
Deadline : 30/04/2010

World Habitat Awards
Deadline : 01/06/2010
>> read more


1. Habiter écologique. Quelles architectures pour une ville durable?
Collectif Actes Sud
414 pages | € 45.00
Actes Sud
ISBN 978-2-7427-8321-2

>> read more

2. Architecture Now! Museums
Philip Jodidio

416 pages | € 29.99
English/ French/ German

ISBN 978-3-8365-1224-4
>> read more

3. Ocasiones
Josep Lluís Mateo
220 pages |

English ISBN : 978-84-96954-97-7
ISBN : 978-84-96954-96-0
>> read more

Copyright 2010 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard | Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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