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What churches, monasteries, barns and outbuildings all have in common

The design process is synonymous with baring your soul

You have to choose. Do you demolish a monotonous apartment block or that vibrant collection of well conceived, well executed barns and outbuildings (which, like us, you can’t help but admire from the position of your train window seat)? As architects, we resolutely choose to keep those barns and outbuildings. There’s a raw quality in their banality. A quality that’s lacking in monotonous apartment blocks.

Granted, we exaggerate. Because we want to make a point. That there’s so much more life in those barns and outbuildings than a soulless apartment block, which has been designed solely with increased volume in mind. The architects of barns and outbuildings, even amateur ones, have likely spent a considerable amount of time contemplating how to make optimal use of the building in question. We can ponder this at our leisure from the train window. What was the precise thinking behind the outbuilding? How do people experience it? How did they come up with the design? The same applies to apartment buildings, but only those that are well conceived and well executed. Everything has to be just right. Which is often the sticking point.

Alongside those barns and outbuildings, we’ve an enduring fascination for churches and monasteries. Why? Because everything is just right. Nobody would consider demolishing a church. Even if, at first glance, its shape or layout appears to serve no function. Its value is clear to everyone. The building is there for all eternity. Circular construction and repurposing are by definition the most sustainable forms of construction.

Dialogue with building and environment

When it comes to sustainable buildings, everything is carefully weighed and considered during the design phase to ensure that the bigger picture is just right. You get to feel and actually experience the building, even before the first shovel has even hit the ground or the first stone has been laid. The architect has entered into a dialogue with the building, its environment and its future users. A building designed for people, by people, that blends seamlessly into the surroundings. In our opinion, aesthetics cannot be equated with beauty, because aesthetics aren’t subjective. At bow architecten, aesthetics is about the bigger picture that’s just right - even if you consider it unattractive.

Sound obvious? Or, in contrast, rather woolly? Be sure to let us know. But, for us this is the very essence of design. The key to success. The challenge on which a building’s sustainable future stands or falls. If you, as an architect, are able to get a true sense of the environment, fathom its spirit, make the users central to your design and enter into a dialogue with all stakeholders, then you’ll strike architectural gold. You’ll experience the euphoria of the runner’s high, the composer who’s hit upon the perfect melody. Or the artist who uses a single maxim, a single idea, to lend profound meaning to their work. A work in which no brushstroke, colour, or image is random. Piet Mondrian - Keith Haring - Johann Sebastian Bach. Everything is just right.

Accessible ink drawings and responsive 3D replicas of the building

At bow architecten, our approach is to strive for architectural designs that are just right. And people are the judge of this. For us, the users are central to the design of every building, meeting space or premises. So, how do we set to work? In three stages. We begin by producing handmade ink drawings that create a tangible and insightful narrative. This is essential for phase two, which involves active dialogue with the project’s stakeholders. Only once each and every stakeholder confirms that we’ve ‘nailed it’ in terms of environment and building, do we commence with the digital designs. Not two-dimensional paper or screen-based plans, but rather three dimensional replicas of the building concerned. These responsive 3D replicas enable stakeholders to explore the building and simultaneously facilitate any necessary modifications. In other words, our buildings are designed for people, by people and on the back of intensive dialogue. People are central to the design. This includes the users, local residents, urban planners… you name it. Because buildings only truly exist if people actually use them. And creating sustainable buildings that are ‘just right’, and will continue to exist and be used in perpetuity, is the ultimate goal of circular builders and repurposers like ourselves.

Are you looking to repurpose old companies of varcant properties?

Let us know and we will let you start dreaming.

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