THE VERVE EFFECT
If there is one thing that is essential to the life of any building -that will bring to it a sense of movement, organic change, dynamism and energy or 'verve'- it is light. The way in which I incorporate light into my designs and the effect it has on them is extremely important. It's not just about internal light either; light effects, literally and metaphorically, the natural world beyond, revealing the cycles of the seasons, the sun and the moon.
By taking into account a building's location as I work on its design, I ensure certain features are incorporated- the shadows thrown by leaves from a nearby tree onto internal walls, for instance, or whether or not a glass-fronted space will be shaded from the sun by foliage during the summer. It is not only practical consideration, of course it's also an aesthetic one. As a born-and-bred Dutchman, I can't but be influenced by the way in which Rembrandt and other great artists used light in their paintings. I attempt in my own way to play with light within the buildings I design, conscious that, as light changes throughout the day, it will bring variety to any space. I like to play with various building materials too, showing how they have evolved with time, picking up what I term 'process characteristics' that reflect their past. That's why in my buildings you may see 'tooth' marks from saws used in the process of timber cladding, or tiny fingerprints within the concrete on walls or flooring. It's all about staying true to the integrity of material's history, about asking -and, hopefully, answering -the question : 'what has it taken to get this material here today?'
I am also committed to creating designs that seduce all the senses, from touch to sound. Details such as door fixtures, light switches and staircase balustrades are therefore extremely important for me, because they are a way of conveying that ethos. Very often, it's al about using rhythm, scale and proportion, whether indoors or outdoors. Outside, for example, I may often team fine gravel with a monolithic boulder, the large piece anchoring the tiny shards of stone and conveying a sense of scale.
Just as graphic designers talk about 'creative white space' on a page, I like to use positive space beyond a building. Depending on how a building has been designed in relation to the space it connects with, it will convey its own definite sense of form. A truly positive space is, as its name implies, one that makes those who are positioned within it feel good. It promotes social interaction, encouraging visitors to stay, mingle and chat, or just to enjoy the space on their own.