Jorge Otero-Pailos, director of Columbia GSAPP’s Historic Preservation Program, speaks with Francine Houben of Mecanoo. They focus on her firm’s ongoing renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC, originally designed by Mies van der Rohe.
“I felt two men on my shoulders. On the left side is Mies and on the right side is Martin Luther King, Jr. … I said Martin Luther King is more important to make the building more open, more welcoming. In a kind of very subtle way, I balanced Mies and Martin Luther King and if it was conflicting, Martin Luther King won.”
–Francine Houben on the design process of the MLK Memorial Library
Houben delivered the annual Paul S. Byard Memorial Lecture on April 17, 2017. This was the sixth annual lecture to celebrate the lasting legacy of Byard, who was the director of Historic Preservation at GSAPP from 2000 to 2008.
Source by Columbia GSAPP
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Francine Houben (@FrancineHouben on Twitter) is one of the founders and the current Creative Director of acclaimed Dutch firm Mecanoo.
The firm was founded in 1984 after Francine and a group of fellow students at the Delft University of Technology won a competition for a social housing complex. Since then the firm has developed a unique language with a special focus on the expression of materials, a strong relation with context, technical expertise, and the precise resolution of details, as can be seen in the TU Delft Library, the La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre, the Montevideo Building, and the recently opened Birmingham Library, currently the largest library in Europe.
The firm's logo, a falling diver "represents a free spirit and unlimited creativity" according to @Mecanoo__.
In this interview Francine explains the challenges of designing a library, a program currently undergoing quick and constant evolution, and shares her experience running the practice.
Currently, the firm is directed by Francine and technical director Aart Fransen, joined by partners Francesco Veenstra (watch Mies.UK interview), Ellen van der Wal, Paul Ketelaars and Dick van Gameren. Mecanoo has projects under construction all around the world, including the Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts in Kaohsiung (Taiwan, see watch construction video), the Dudley Municipal Center in Boston (USA) and the Shenzhen Cultural Center (China).
Recorded: December 1, 2011
In this excerpt from her 2011 Current Work lecture, Francine Houben, creative director and founding architect of the Dutch firm Mecanoo, presents an office complex and an apartment complex, both in the Netherlands. With offices in Delft and Birmingham, UK, Mecanoo’s ambition is to design buildings with “a strong respect for context: physically, historically, and environmentally.”
Projects of note include the Technical University Delft Library; Montevideo residential tower in Rotterdam’s harbor district; Phillips Business Innovation Centre FiftyTwoDegrees in Nijmegen, The Netherlands; La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre in Lleida, Spain; Bijlmerpark, Amsterdam; the soon to be opened Library of Birmingham, integrated with the REP Theatre in the UK; and the 2015-anticipated Delft City Hall and Train Station. Her projects in the Far East include Wei Wu Ying Centre for the Arts, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and Whistling Rock Golf Club, in Chuncheon, South Korea.
The Architectural League’s Current Work series presents the work of significant international figures, who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment.
People, Place, Purpose
Discussion with Jorge Otero-Pailos, Director Historic Preservation Program, and Anthony W. Marx, Chief Operating Officer, New York Public Library
With People, Place, Purpose, Francine Houben will present Mecanoo’s designs based on these three fundamental elements. Each project is carefully considered in terms of its cultural setting, place and time, amounting to a unique design statement embedded within its context and orchestrated specifically for the people who use it.
Organized by Columbia GSAPP Historic Preservation Program.