Van Der Architects is an architectural design company based in Tokyo, founded by Martin van der Linden, a Dutch architect educated in the Netherlands, Japan and the UK. Martin gained various experience from around Japan and even taught at Universities for ten years. He then established Van Der Architects in 2001.
Q: Why did you get into Architecture Design?
A: My interest in architecture started when I was about 4-5 years old. I was fascinated in the creation of my own world, building these spaces with a few branches while playing outside. But maybe even more than that I noticed that I could create spaces by drawing them and then imagine being in them. When my elder cousin told me that that was what architects do, I decided I want to be an architect. I never looked back.
Q: How did you start up your career?
A: As a student in the Netherlands we had to do working experience as part of the course. I decided I wanted to work in Japan. Luckily Hiroshi Hara accepted my application and I was able to work in his office for about one year. We had only about 25 people to work on the Kyoto station, which was the largest construction project in Japan at that time (1992). At night I joined his students of Tokyo University working on more abstract projects such as the 500x500x550 cube and the Extraterrestrial Architecture project. It was a great experience, Hara has a star architect status but his attitude is very down to earth, he would be most of the time in the office, drawing and discussing details with us. I learned more in that one year than I did in school.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
A: I don’t really know. Usually when I see the site or while talking with clients or while in discussion amongst our team that images just appear in my head. It’s normally very fast that the basic idea forms itself.
Q: Can you tell us about a significant accomplishment or project that you regard as notable?
A: I’m most proud of our Orandajima project in Tohoku, which I designed bona fide. This is a project for the small town of Yamadamachi which was destroyed by the tsunami of 2011. I was one of the founding members of the Orandjima Foundation. We build the Orandjima House, an after school facility and community centre for the children of that town. Seeing the happy children’s faces at the opening day was one of the most memorable experiences I have had as an architect. We also received the Silver A’ Architecture Award for it.
Q: Where would you like to see your company in 5 years from now?
A: We just completed a project for Air France in Bangkok. I hope we can do more projects abroad. It was a great experience working in Bangkok. We had such a great team there, really enjoyed that. I also hope we can work on larger mixed-use architectural projects both in Japan and abroad.
Q: What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
A: We have just been appointed by WeWork for their Tokyo projects.
Q: If you could design anything, what would it be?
A: I’m very interested in mixed use projects, combining living with working. Co-working, co-living, having some space to produce food within the building, workshops, small café, restaurant etc. I believe that this is the future of architecture: dense, urban, social, self-contained, self-sufficient.
Q: What type of restaurant would you choose to go to for dinner?
A: I prefer to eat at home, my wife is my favourite cook.
Q: Can you give us a statement about Design?
A: I’m interested in an authentic experience of space.
Q: If you could describe your designs related to food, what would it be and why?
A: I design a bowl on which any type of food can be served.
Q: What do you think of the design trends in the future?
A: Architecture and design are becoming more and more of a commodity, I hope we can change that attitude towards architecture and people can see that the value of an architect or designer is in our holistic process towards spatial problem solving. We have lost a lot of our influence to project managers and other middlemen who seem to focus only on the end result: getting the project done as quickly and as cheap as possible. I hope that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower can be a lesson that these short-term financial gains can have tremendous consequences.
Q: Who is your favourite Designer and why?
A: Kazou Shinohara, I think he comes close to a godlike figure in terms of his architecture
Q: In which country would you like to have your project in?
A: Anywhere in the world really.
Q: What element of a design is the most important thing to you?
A: The experience of space, which is a well-balance combination of many elements, I’m more interested how you feel about space rather than what you see.