Founders of interior architecture practice Jeroen Dellensen and Jasper Jansen talk public-space design.
Words by Cathy Hayward
What makes designing public-building design different from corporate spaces?
As an interior architecture practice i29 looks at the core of a client’s DNA. A corporate space should express a specific brand identity and serve its users or company staff. For public buildings, this is slightly different since anyone can use the space and is not only a build for the company itself. This makes working on public buildings very challenging.
How much free rein do you get on public-building design, and is that different from designing for other sectors?
For designers it’s always a challenge to take freedom in the design of a project. Just listening to a client’s briefing and realising their needs is, in our opinion, not the way to go.
When you are able to think free and simple – even when the complexity of a project creates limitations – this usually benefits the end result. We believe in simplicity and contradiction. The result of being selective is that you have to push each choice to the limit. But more importantly it leaves you with a charismatic environment. The latest evolution in our work is that we are currently working towards a more surprising and illusional effect in our projects. Undiscovered or unexpected details can give more depth to a design.
What’s the public-building project you’re most proud of?
We have recently finished a restaurant for De Bijenkorf in Utrecht, a high-quality department store that is part of Selfridges. This was a very challenging project with a lot of complexity. The layout reveals several spatial experiences throughout the 850 sq m open area, with a variety of seating. From private and cosy, towards more open and bright dining areas, this offers customers a choice in the way they would like to sit, eat, drink or work. The challenge was to create an environment that was made for heavy use, while still keeping quality in sharp details and natural materials. This resulted in an interior that mirrors the brand identity of the store itself, aiming for quality, luxury, creativity and youth, and which can be used by any visitor wandering through the store.
Felix Meritis, the cultural society in Amsterdam, incorporates a movie centre and museum
What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on several interesting public projects: cultural society Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, a movie centre, a museum, a shop and many others. But we still would love to work on a hotel project.
What’s been your biggest challenge in public-building design, and how have you overcome it?
We always aim for a kind of natural beauty. Quality that doesn’t depend on expensive materials or exclusive handicraft but rather on smart and simple use of resources. We like large contrasts being brought together in a work so that they will fuel each other and stretch boundaries, but without falling apart.
What’s changed in public-sector building design in the past 30 years?
The digital development has changed a lot, especially in the retail industry, but this will take an even more prominent place in architectural environments, not just in the retail industry.