Meeting with Saartje van der Made, the project architect of the new “Dutch Charity Lotteries office building”, winner of the Architectural Design of the Year 2021 Award of the BLT Built Design Awards. Saartje, a partner at Benthem Crouwel Architects, is sharing how involving the employees in the design of the interior has brought dynamism and made the building feels like a home.
Could you tell us a little about your professional journey? Where are you from?
My name is Saartje van der Made. After graduating cum laude in architecture at TU Delft, I immediately started working here at Benthem Crouwel Architects. I became a partner/co-owner 5 years ago and I run the agency together with three other partners.
What was the project design brief for the “Dutch Charity Lotteries office building”? What was most important for you when planning this project?
The Charity Lotteries has grown to 600 employees in about 25 years. They were located at the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, spread over several stately mansions. They were ready to work in 1 new building, which fits today’s requirements, but very attached to their beautiful natural environment.
To help them make the big step to the business district Zuidas, we designed a building that has the same quality as real nature has: large, artificial foliage covers the entire plot and connects the existing renovated building with the new small volumes built on top. It lets in and filters daylight so that an ever-changing shadow pattern adorns the building.
By also involving the employees in the design of the interior, the building has been given a dynamic atrium and the office building feels like a home.
How would you describe your role in this project?
As a project architect, it was my mission to design a custom building for this organization and to guide them in the process. By occasionally taking a step back in the design process and giving room for their personal ideas, the building has become a result of both our visions.
What were the biggest challenges you and your team faced?
The promise to guide and involve all board members and employees in the design process and yet to design the most sustainable renovated building in the Netherlands.
Can you please share with us what winning the “Architectural Design of the Year” prize means to you?
It means that we have succeeded in our mission to satisfy the users and radiate that to others: a great recognition of our expertise!
In general, what is your guiding design principle?
My mission is to design buildings that generate a feeling of happiness. That sounds simple, but taking into account aspects such as regulations, financial budget, client’s wishes, government agencies, climate, and sustainability, it is always an immense challenge. The task for us as architects is to be able to place ourselves in the user’s experience and try to give the place a function and meaning.
Last, what can we wish you for in the future?
Much more creative and surprising projects with inspiring clients who also push the boundaries of architecture.