francine houben interview
original content
jan 31, 2008
francine houben interview

francine houben
portrait © designboom                  




we met francine houben in milan on february 6th, 2008.




what is the best moment of the day?
when I’m dreaming in my bed.




what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?
I like the music of yann tiersen very much.




francine houben interview

national performing arts centre, kaohsiung, taiwan
design: 2007-09, execution: 2009-12

francine houben interview

cross-section, national performing arts centre, kaohsiung, taiwan




francine houben interview

national performing arts centre, kaohsiung, taiwan




do you listen to the radio?
yes sometimes either in the car or in bed.




what books do you have on your bedside table?




do you read design / architecture magazines?
I used to do when I was younger but I don’t anymore.
there are too many images for me.




francine houben interview

municipal office building and train station, delft, netherlands
design: 2006-07, execution: 2010-14




where do you get news from?
television, radio, newspapers and my husband.




I assume you notice how men dress.
do you have any preferences?
chic and informal, particularly informal.




francine houben interview

left: la llotja theatre and congress centre, lleida, spain
design 2004-05, execution 2006-08
right: cross-section of the la llotja theatre and congress centre, lleida, spain




what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?
usually nothing by designers who are famous,
I like to select items by lesser known people.




do you have any pets?
yes, two cats and two chickens – for the eggs.




when you were a child,
did you always want to become an architect?
can’t really say that I thought about what I would be in
the future it was just a logical step, I didn’t have time to
think about it.




francine houben interview

rooftop of the la llotja theatre and congress centre, lleida, spain




where do you work on your designs and projects?
everywhere, all day, anywhere in the world
- it’s always on my mind.




do you discuss your work with other designers?
I know a lot of other architects, but when we meet we
usually talk about things that are not related to
architecture, rather children or holidays and etc.
however, when I’m together with architects in juries or
teaching at schools it’s more common for us to have
discussion on architecture. sometimes you can be
together on advisory boards, for example I used to be
on a advisory board for london and now I’m on on a
committee for the city of rotterdam together with
winny mass and others so we discuss the city’s
architectural development together a lot.




francine houben interview

business and innovation center ‘fiftytwodegrees’, nijmegen, netherlands
design: 2004-2005, execution: 2005-2008




francine houben interview

the name of the complex, fiftytwodegrees, refers to the site’s 52nd degree of latitude.




francine houben interview

the tower is seventeen storeys high. the lower eight floors are ten degrees out of plumb,
creating an inviting gesture towards the city. the bent form was created by the hybrid
construction of concrete and steel, whereby for each intermediate floor the elevation shifts
in relation to the concrete cores.




describe your style, like a good friend of yours
would describe it.
I think it’s warm, human, playful with beautiful light,
strong color and strong materials.




please describe an evolution in your work,
from your first projects to the present day.
in architecture you really have to learn so much.
so in my earlier work we didn’t know as much about
details or materialization as we do now. what can be
seen in our work is the use of the landscape and and
natural light.




francine houben interview

learning center federal polytechnic school of lausanne
designed: 2004




francine houben interview

around a tall central hall, the ‘wing’ rotates on a ring of ball bearings at the same speed as the
earth – fifteen degrees per hour,




which project has given you the most satisfaction?
you consider all of them as your babies to a certain
extent so it’s difficult to say. maybe the library or the
chapel but there isn’t a specific one because we have
such a wide range of projects, one is a nice theatre,
one a nice library, a nice housing project and so on,
you cannot really compare them to each other.




could you tell us about some of your recent projects?
last year mecanoo won the international competition to
design the new national performing arts center in
kaohsiung, taiwan. the site is an ex military camp that will
become a new public park. the area is tropical and there
many banyan trees trees that create a lot of ventilation.
we wanted our building to be very open so that the flow
of air could pass through easily, so at ground level some
areas open – in fact the whole design of the building is very
much informed by the form of the banyan trees.

there is also ‘fiftytwodegrees’ a building that we completed
for philips, this building is inside a gated community.
we wanted design something that invited everybody to
come inside even though it was within the gated
community, so we extended the park over the road
right up to the industrial site and also gave the building
the kink, a sort of welcoming gesture that gives the
building character. the outside looks almost pixelated
and completely black, contrasting the white labs inside.

another project would be the la llotja theatre and congress
centre in lleida, spain. the site is close to the segre river,
this location gave me the feeling of being beside the sea,
so we wanted create a beach like feeling with this building.
the main components are a theatre and a conference centre
but the foyers are also important as they give a view to the
river and nearby castle. in the area there are a lot of fruit
trees so the color palette of fruit is a theme that reoccurs
in small details throughout the building.




francine houben interview

chapel saint mary of the angels, rotterdam, the netherlands
design: 1998-1999, execution: 2000-2001




francine houben interview

the circulation plan of the chapel is based on the theme of the continuation of life.




who would you like to design something for?
a lot of times ‘things just happen’. with each project I just
try to push myself to make it better than the last and of
course to find a good client. if I have to say a name
- the queen of holland but really I don’t know who.




is there any designers / architects from the past,
you appreciate a lot?
charles and ray eames.




francine houben interview

library delft university of technology, the netherlands
design: 1993-1995, execution: 1996-1998




francine houben interview

library delft university of technology, the netherlands




francine houben interview

library delft university of technology, the netherlands




and those still working today…
it’s hard to say exactly who but I appreciate that there
are a lot of good designers working today. more than
architects I like stage design, so our work has been
influenced by that a lot.




what advice would you give to the young?
make sure that you are not always sitting behind
a computer – especially young architects. use your
senses and look very closely at what’s happening in
the world, what’s happening on the site, the climate etc.
have social awareness and do your best.




francine houben interview

house with studio, rotterdam, the netherlands
design: 1989-1990, execution: 1990-1991




what are you afraid of regarding the future?
I’m a very optimistic person so I’d like to imagine a future
where all the different nationalities and cultures will mix
much more. hopefully the younger generations will do
that and be wise enough to handle it. the only thing that
I would be afraid of is if architects and urbanists don’t
do the right things.




francine houben interview

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