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Prof. i. Vertr. Ludo Grooteman

What reasons have led you to the decision to study architecture?
I started with a BA in philosophy, after which I got my degree at the Rietveld Academy in architectural design, a course with a strong focus on interior design, spatial design and only a partial focus on architecture. At the Rietveld Academy I experimented quite a bit before finding direction, also spending time at the departments of graphic design, autonomous arts. An external course at the Berlage Institute and a generous scholarship made me decide to study architecture in London and become an architect.

You have studied in London at the Architectural Association. What significance did it have for you to live and study abroad?
The 3 years of living and studying abroad have a defining period for person and me as professional. Living in London is great. A huge city, extremely busy, by times scruffy, other times super slick. Cool music scene and arts exhibitions, run down housing areas, incidentally colleague students being beaten up in South London, and in the midst of that a highly ambitious and frantic architectural school community. I loved it.

Do you consider it important to take the experience of a semester abroad during your studies? Taking the step to go to another university?
For me it was very important and I do think for an architect it broadens your mind to live and work in another place.

Do you think that there is a significant difference between the AA and the Rietveld Academie in respect to the MSA?
Yes, there is. The AA was at the time strongly focussed on the discourse of architecture. Students chose a design studio at the beginning of the year and spent the entire year in that studio (and sometimes their entire bachelors or masters). The studios were strongly theme oriented and in any jury one not only had to defend his or her project but also defend the theme. A themes was connected to an attitude, about the role of the architect, the future of architecture and so on. Parametrics would fight battles with situationist, landscape architects would battle Japanese poetry. This intensity one only finds in a few schools worldwide.

After your studies, you have co-founded Dok Architecten and Blue Architects. How did these experiences influence you and your work?
Blue Architects was the company with which we won many competitions and realized our first buildings. Dok Architecten was the company in which our projects became larger and we engaged in public buildings.

At the moment you are working at Moke Architecten in Amsterdam together with your partner Gianni Cito. How is it, that you took the courageous step towards independence and became self-employed?
Besides 2 years at UN Studio I have always had my own office. Founding Blue Architects was sort of easy, it was the thing to do as a young Dutch architect with a high standard education. At that time there were still quite some competitions through which one could define ones profile and win commissions. Blue Architects merged with another office to form Dok Architecten.  

What are the characteristics of your teaching?
Maybe you should ask my students.
My aim is to let them excel. I strongly believe in creativity as a source for new ways of configuring our built environment and a source of innovation. I do think students and academia have a role in for example typological innovation, as it is one of the few contexts that allow elaborate studies and experiments as opposed to everyday practice.
In the projects I focus on concepts and the translation of them into feasible projects. In that sense I do like to create a context of clients and other representatives of the 'real world' (who can learn as much of the study results as the students themselves). Finally I like high intensity, intense interaction and fun. Making architectural projects is great fun, working together makes us better and strong involvement of each student enhances the overall quality of the projects.

Which development do you think will take place in the teaching of architecture?
Difficult question.
The development of design into buildings is becoming increasingly 'technical'. For example we have Revit-specialists in our office that model all larger projects in one shared 3d-model, that includes all relevant component info. These models we share with all engineers and with the builder, who uses it to calculate, order components, et cetera.
In this process we have to be highly interactive; we communicate on a daily basis with advisors and builders. This increasing level of interaction is a strong development in our profession. The second development is the increasing division between design and realisation. As a small office it will be nearly impossible to do large buildings independently.
Another relevant development is the urbanisation of our environment, where the countryside loses relevance and the cities grow both in size and in economic importance. This will impact the general commission, which will become increasingly large and complex. Large inner city projects in that sense have a problematic side effect, at the point that because of the complexity the project management has an effect on the design.
So, issues that will have an impact are enhanced complexity and technology, reuse and renovation and emphasis on collaboration and interaction. At the same time it still is important to educate architects that develop great spaces, innovative programmatic solutions and nice and sustainable details. Creativity is an increasingly valuable skill in the earlier described context.

To develop an attitude on the position of architecture - This is a current issue in Germany. Students have to develop and generate a fundamental attitude. How do you think you can help the students to do so?
I am not afraid of a diminishing role of the architect. On the contrary, architects are still very relevant in their creative role in the middle of the (large) design team.
I can help students by offering them projects that are realistic in our current and future society, to train them in finding creative solutions and by stimulating them to think out of the box and to innovate. In that sense academia has an important role in the professional environment.

Your office Moke Architecten is known amongst the students due to several different projects you were already able to realise. Which attitude have you taken in these projects in architecture?
In our office I mainly do large multi-use buildings and urban projects. It often entails housing projects (I especially have a week spot for social housing). I strongly focus on three things: a good contextual set-up, as a good building has an effect that goes beyond the building itself and can strongly affect its surrounding. Secondly, I focus on an extremely clear organisational set-up of the building design, in order to make sure building budget can be spent on things that matter, like the façade or the collective spaces. Thirdly I focus on the collective spaces in the building; spaces where the inhabitants meet, where they can organise events or where they can share collective interests.

Do you maybe have a project, that you thought was the most exciting or interesting?
The Castellatoren is in that sense an interesting project. We currently work on some much larger schemes that deal with a sense of collectiveness on an urban scale and that is very exiting.

What are the reasons that brought you into teaching?
I started teaching at the AA directly after graduation, because I thought it was the coolest thing to do. Every week I took a flight to London in the morning and I left on the last flight in the evening; a very cosmopolitan lifestyle (without a cosmopolitan budget). In London I had this group of extremely fanatic students that worked on a serious research agenda. Very exiting. After a while this routine expanded with teaching positions elsewhere and all sorts of workshops, visiting professorships, juries et cetera. Up to the point that our office demanded more presence due to the building commissions.

Building a bridge to Münster: What were the reasons, that you took the visiting professorship here at the MSA?
The reason to take up the visiting professorship at the MSA is in a way the opposite of what brought me into teaching in the first place. I am so much entangled in every day practice that there is little time for reflection and research. The size of our office and the highly qualified staff allows me to reduce my time in the office in favour of the MSA. At the MSA I do like the open, energetic and fresh attitude of students and staff, a great ecology for doing research and projects that matter.

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