A Broader Vision: MVRDV’s Nathalie de Vries on Running a Business, Reinventing Practice, and Leading by Example

Nathalie de Vries headshot
Image Courtesy of Nathalie de Vries via Madame Architect

Nathalie de Vries is a co-founder and principal architect and urban designer of MVRDV, an interdisciplinary studio that works at the intersection of architecture and urbanism. She is renowned for a diverse body of work in a variety of scales and typologies that are grounded in connecting individuals, communities, and environments. Over the past 25 years, she has designed and realized projects such as Villa VPRO, Silodam Housing, Book Mountain and Baltyk office tower, as well as three national monuments. As Chief National Railroad Architect, Nathalie has built up experience in transport infrastructure which she has translated into a series of projects. Together with co-founder Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie has published MVRDV Buildings (2013), about the post-occupancy and the making of the built work of MVRDV. She regularly lectures at renowned universities and engages in international juries.

Gamolina: What advice do you have for those just starting their careers? It’ll be up to us to maintain the value of architecture after all. 

There are many ways of being an architect. Ask yourself, “What are my strong qualities?” If you can find an office that makes it possible for you to explore the aspects of architecture that you like best, that would be great. Also make sure you land in an office that thinks about you as well; it’s not just a one-way street! That’s how you last and keep on enjoying the job, however hard it might be. Keep fun in your work. Being in architecture is a tough job, but it’s also a very nice job and I think it’s good to have a balance of both challenges and joy. 

I’ve been talking to other women in architecture a lot, exchanging experiences. A lot of them in the Netherlands have children— that is, if you want to have children, you don’t have to have children—and what we all said was that parenthood made us stronger and more organized. So, don’t see that [having children] is the end of your career. In fact, most of the women I talked to said, “It definitely opens new perspectives on your work and taught me to be more efficient with time.” Whether with or without children, good work-life balance is important for all.

Read the full interview with Julia Gamolina where Nathalie talks about the political and cultural landscape in the Netherlands that catalyzed the start of MVRDV, and the tools that make great architecture, advising those just starting their careers to find an office that allows you to explore your favorite parts of architecture.

Strategic Perspective: 5468796 Architecture’s Johanna Hurme on the Economics of Architecture and Advocating for Value

Johanna Hurme Madame Architect headshot
Image Courtesy of Johanna Hurme via Madame Architect

Johanna Hurme is a co-founder and managing partner of Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture. In addition to practice, she is an activist and an advocate, having initiated and co-created a number of design related events and programs. She has taught design at the University of Manitoba, Toronto, Montreal and in 2019 Johanna was named visiting Professor-Morgenstern Chair at the College of Architecture, IIT, Chicago. She lectures extensively around the world and is co-author of ‘Innovative Solutions for Creating Sustainable Cities’ (2018), and ‘platform:MIDDLE, Housing for the 99%’, published in 2021.

Gamolina: What advice do you have for those starting their careers in architecture? Would your advice be anything additional or different for women? 

Hurme: Educate yourself to understand how architecture is driven by dollars. Learn that lingo because learning that will allow you to push and pull your design better. Don’t be cynical with it – this is very important – just go with it, and challenge that norm to carve out a space for good design within that really tight formula. Even if it means taking an extra course in business management or economics in school, or getting acquainted with a developer who can walk you through some of these things, is beneficial. If you don’t understand these realities, it’ll be very difficult to make architectural decisions that truly help drive the project. 

The second part is to understand that architecture is so much more broad than just design, and formal design. We have to advocate, to get involved in politics, to understand the financial aspects, to mentor, to guide the next generation, to get involved with the community, to give back. There are so many different opportunities in architecture within all of these things, and there really are a lot of choices.

Read the full interview where Johanna talks about her multi-cultural exposure to architecture and the factors that drive architectural design not often talked about in school, advising those just starting their career to understand the economics of architecture and to know that there are many options in the field.

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