Michiel Hofman: A personal approach is essential

The TechoCon conference is done and dusted now. We are bringing you an interview with one of two main speakers - Michiel Hofman.

Michiel Hofman, architect, established the company HofmanDujardin Architects with Barbara Dujardin in 1999. Today their team comprises around 40 architects, project engineers and interns with different backgrounds.

Thanks to its experience, enthusiasm and excellent performance HofmanDujardin is able to marry the goals and dreams of its clients with its own outlook on quality to create inspiring and impressive spaces. Their design philosophy “Shaping Intuition®” is the main concept applied in all its projects: a unique and personal approach to architecture which focuses on the well-being of humans in their surroundings.

Where did you draw your motivation from for establishing HofmanDujardin? And generally, what is the main motivation behind your work?

In 1999, I started HofmanDujardin together with my wife Barbara Dujardin. Our main motivation is architecture’s beautiful mix of science and sociology. We think architecture is not about buildings, it is about people. From this belief, we developed our design philosophy Shaping Intuition®, which is all about the well-being of human beings in their environment. All our projects are built around four natural and four cultural values that naturally guide our designs.

The HofmanDujardin team comprises a large group of people with different backgrounds and almost certainly with different opinions and outlooks. How do you manage any creative disagreements that arise? Do your teams arrive at a compromise, or is there one person who will always take the final decision?

With over than 10 nationalities, we have a beautiful mix of people, experiences and opninions within our teams. We all work in one big open space, that enhances our horizontal organization. No matter who comes up with an idea, a partner, a senior architect or an intern, we just go for the best and stimulate everyone to be creative. Our philosophy Shaping Intuition® helps with guiding this creativity and making decisions.

Architecture is not like art. Projects and ideas are developed and elaborated in complex contexts with input from clients and various specialists. Within this complex field, we fulfil our role as architects by keeping in mind the people who will work and live in the environments we create.

What is your current role within the company?

HofmanDujardin works as a team. However my role changes now the office is growing, the core of the work stays the same. My role is to understand the essence of each commission and to give the team the right direction in finding simple solutions to complex challenges.

What for you is the most important factor in designing and delivering a project? Do your designs bear any characteristic features that identify them as the work of HofmanDujardin?

The well-being of people in their environment is what we strive for. To achieve this, we look for the right balance in the four natural and four cultural values we defined. Our cultural values are clarity, quality, personality and inspiration. The natural values are spaciousness, groundedness, expression and connection. By harmonizing these, we believe we can create inclusive environments in which everyone can feel at home.

Is there a dream project that you would like to work on?

Our design philosophy Shaping Intuition® can be applied on all scales in spatial design. This is also reflected in our portfolio, which shows a wide variety. For example, we do high end renovations of small apartments as well as very large offices. We are able to find the human scale, even in big and complex projects. Our dream project to apply our philosophy would be an airport.

The theme of this year’s conference is Well-Being & Sustainability. Has HofmanDujardin delivered any project where well-being and sustainability have been key factors?

Since well-being is in our genes, you can find this in each project. For example, we just finished the interior design of the new Booking.com Headquarters where we operate as Lead Interior Architect. As one of the biggest offices in Europe, this building will house employees of over 100 nationalities. To a certain level, well-being is very personal, especially with so many different backgrounds. Therefore, we designed a very diverse environment so that everyone can find a place to feel at home.

Another project which is almost delivered, is the ING bank Headquarters. Here, we proposed a series of connecting platforms in the atriums. They connect the different wings and floors, and so connect people and ideas. As programmable space, they add an alternative environment to the office floors. For example, by hosting art exhibitions or other types of events, they add to the well-being of employees.

Another great example is our product design Bloomframe®. This is an innovative window which folds out as a balcony. It offers the user a flexible living environment. By opening the window frame, it is possible to step out of the facade and enjoy the outdoor space. Especially in dense, urban environments, Bloomframe® adds to sustainable and livable cities.

Can you share with us any amusing anecdote concerning your work over the past 20 years?

Our team sometimes feels like a family. Last year, we moved into our own designed Office Villa which resembles the qualities of a house. Featuring a big kitchen, lounge, flower garden and a terrace along a small canal, we can organize lunches and barbecues. Since this summer, we even have a lobster farm!

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?

Our profession tends to become more and come complex in terms of commissions and processes. Yet, what I enjoy about architecture is transforming complexity into simple striking ideas. We love to think about the essence of architecture. Architecture as a tool to empower, to comfort and to connect people. We like to realize places where it is simply nice to be.

* portrait photo Marc-de-Groot

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