gooood Interview NO.31 – Jacob van Rijs

Address urban problems in many countries with radical designs.

Project Specs


gooood团队采访世界各地的有趣创意人,欢迎您的推荐和建议。第31期为您奉上的是 MVRDV 创始人 Jacob van Rijs 的访谈,更多关于他,请至:MVRDV on gooood

gooood team interviews creative from all over the world. Your recommendations and suggestions are welcomed! gooood Interview NO.31 introduces Jacob van Rijs, Founder of MVRDV. More: MVRDV on gooood

出品人:向玲 | Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑团队:陈诺嘉,武晨曦,李诗蓉,徐馨羽,李禹潺 | Editor: Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Li Shirong, Xu Xinyu, Li Yuchan



gooood x Jacob van Rijs



▼Jacob van Rijs



Development of MVRDV



“By being curious and open-minded – by encouraging this balance between copying from each other and diverging from each other – we are able to collectively expand our conceptual basis much faster than we could do alone.


1993年,你和Winy MaasNathalie de Vries共同在荷兰成立了MVRDV,请问你们三位在公司中分别担任怎样的角色?你在201811月之前一直是公司的运营总监,请介绍一下你是如何带领MVRDV成长并适应新时代的?

In 1993, you established MVRDV with Winy Maas and Nathalie de Vries. How do you describe your roles in operating the company and the division of work? From 2016 to November 2018, you had been working as the Managing Director. In that period of time, how did you lead MVRDV to keep growing and adapting to the new era?

一开始,我们只是想确保高质量地完成每个项目,彼时我们并没有计划事务所的未来。 但是,随着MVRDV在建筑行业的声誉不断升高,MVRDV经历了突飞猛进的增长:在短短的四年中,我们的员工人数从60人增加到225人。我很荣幸能够在起步期的两年半中管理事务所,但是我更喜欢设计和教学。 Winy、Nathalie和我一同认识到,我们需要更适合管理的人,将MVRDV推向新的高度。因此,我将事务所的运营工作移交给了在运营和管理方面具有丰富和扎实经验的同事Inger Kammeraat。在Inger的管理下,我们完成了比以往更多的激动人心的设计,即使在突发的疫情隔离下,即便所有人都在远程工作,她也能够使办公室保持平稳运转。今年9月,我们刚刚在柏林成立了MVRDV第四个卫星办公室。

In the beginning, we just wanted to ensure the high quality of every project, and we did not plan the future for the office. But as we gained a reputation in the architecture industry, MVRDV experienced a huge growth spurt: in just four years, we went from 60 to 225 employees. It was a pleasure to manage our office for the booming two-and-a-half years, but I like designing and teaching more. Winy, Nathalie, and I realized that we need the right people to lead MVRDV to the next level. Therefore, I handed over the operation work to Inger Kammeraat who has rich and solid experience in operations and management. Under Inger’s leadership, we have completed more exciting designs than before, and she has kept the office working smoothly, even with everyone working remotely, during the unexpected lockdown. Our fourth satellite office in Berlin has just opened back in September.

▼MVRDV办公室,office of MVRDV
(上)鹿特丹总部(点击这里查看更多),(above) Headquarter in Rotterdam (click HERE to view more)
(下)柏林办公室,(below) Berlin office


Winy, Nathalie, and I each have our own projects that we are in charge of, and our approaches differ but our philosophy is one: all three of us work on making better, future-proof housing, offices, public spaces, and cities. In a way, this means that we learn from each other. Our overlapping but slightly idiosyncratic approaches give each of us ideas about how we could add to our own work. That’s not even mentioning the knowledge and ideas contributed by the other architects who work within MVRDV. By being curious and open-minded – by encouraging this balance between copying from each other and diverging from each other – we are able to collectively expand our conceptual basis much faster than we could do alone.

▼MVRDV工作场景,working scene in MVRDV
(上)鹿特丹总部,(above) Headquarter in Rotterdam
(下)柏林办公室,(below) Berlin office

除了提供让客户和业主满意和惊喜的设计外,我们的主要目标之一是帮助年轻建筑师从工作和生活中获得成长。在指导他们的同时,他们也为我们带来了很多灵感。MVRDV每月组织一次内部“Pecha Kucha”活动,鼓励员工分享他们的知识和经验,并练习他们的演讲技巧。今年,我们通过在线的形式继续组织Pecha Kucha。过去,我们还举办过各种活动,例如组织员工参加当地马拉松比赛、乒乓球比赛、烧烤和办公室园游会等活动。MVRDV的员工来自40多个国家/地区,其中有许多都不是荷兰人。通过这些活动,员工之间会更好地了解彼此,我希望他们能够在异国他乡找到归属感和志同道合的朋友。在疫情结束之后,我们将恢复这些集体活动。

In addition to designing buildings that make clients and users happy and excited, one of our key goals is helping young architects grow, not only from work but also in life. As we are guiding young architects, they also feed us with a lot of inspiration. We organize an internal “Pecha Kucha” every month to encourage staff to share their knowledge and experience, as well as practicing their presentation skills. This year, we moved the Pecha Kucha online. In the past, we also held various activities, such as groups participating in local marathons, ping pong tournaments, barbecues and office excursions. Our employees come from more than 40 countries; many of them are not Dutch. The staff gets to know each other better from these activities, and I hope that they can find a sense of belonging in a foreign country and like-minded friends. We will continue these traditions after the pandemic.

▼视频,MVRDV工作体验,video, working experience in MVRDV



“No matter what prototype we create, we follow the same principles: radical, bold, straightforward.”


It has been 27 years since MVRDV’s founding. Comparing to its early years, how has MVRDV’s philosophy of design changed?

MVRDV的成立源自1991年的Europan竞赛,我们的Berlin Voids方案获胜。在这个竞赛中,我们的设计出发点并不是为了最终能够建成它,而且要寻找一个激进的方案。这是MVRDV成立27年来一直坚持的核心精神,并且从未改变过,未来,我们将继续用激进的设计来解决许多国家面临的城市问题。

MVRDV started with the Europan competition in 1991, and our Berlin Voids won the award. When we competed in Europan, whether or not the project would be built was not our main priority – being radical was. The core spirit of MVRDV has not changed in 27 years, and we continue to address urban problems in many countries with radical designs.

▼Europan竞赛模型,model for the Europan Competition


But as the world around us changes, our agenda is changing accordingly. In the past two decades, the world has experienced rapid development; therefore, making urban residents live more comfortable and happier has become an urgent problem. The idea of the “vertical village” was born from this challenge. Recently, people become more and more aware of the value of nature, and landscape architecture has become our next topic. No matter what prototype we create, we follow the same principles: radical, bold, straightforward.

▼Jacob在MVRDV部分设计项目拼图,Selected projects designed by Jacob in MVRDV



Design of different types of Projects



“See things from a very large scale, while being flexible enough to react to the unique challenges of a single location.”


You have designed various types of projects all over the world. Engaging with all such projects in different regions, how do you usually initiate your design? How do you adapt your design to different urban environments and functional requirements while at the same time reflecting MVRDV’s design aesthetics?


We do indeed try to provide solutions to contemporary architectural and urban issues in all regions of the world, and that requires seeing things from a very large scale – the problems that seem to replicate themselves in many places globally – but also being flexible enough to react to the unique challenges of a single location. To do so, we rely on a high level of diversity within our own company. For example, when we received NIO’s commission, the staff in our Shanghai office went to Chongqing regularly to follow up on the progress. We have many talented Asian architects who help us to better understand and respond to Eastern culture, and present Asian projects in MVRDV’s language. NIO’s design features Chongqing’s mountain city— a three-dimensional city that also echoes MVRDV’s language of “stacked” elements and the concept of “vertical villages”. This leads to one of the project’s focal points: an interior three-dimensional “3D City Mix” in the form of its multi-functional staircase. Although Chinese cities are different from European cities, with different histories and cultures, the world’s cities are evolving in an increasingly similar way as there is more and more communication between them. Although MVRDV is founded in Europe, our experience and ideas are equally useful in a contemporary Chinese context.

NIO House Chongqing, “3D City Mix” in the form of a multi-functional staircase (click HERE to view more)



You have done many post-industrial renovation projects. In Roskilde Festival Højskole and The Frøsilo. What is the main basis for treating old and new spaces differently in different projects? How do you make relatively monotonous industrial structures become interesting and vibrant?What do you think about the potential in industrial renovation? Could you share us with MVRDV’s attempt and concept in such kind of projects?


Industrial buildings are characterized by large interior spaces, complex structures and even equipment, from which we can extract many exciting elements. When designing Frøsilo, I often said that it would have been impossible to create such an attractive building from scratch without the silo structure. Our renovation plan minimizes the interruption to the original site, where people can feel the past glory while enjoying the contemporary design.

▼Frøsilo,保持筒仓外观,Frøsilo restoring the appearance of the silo structure

▼利用筒仓结构创造精彩的内部空间,exciting interior space utilizing the original silo structure


Whether hanging the box on the outside of the building or placing the box inside the building, the core of the renovations is the same. We want to retain the existing building’s character with a radical concept that respects the history while balancing the transition between the old and the new. The most significant difference between Roskilde Folk High School and Frøsilo is their different functions. Rosklide Folk High School is a more public project; we aimed to increase its openness and flexibility through the transformation. Meanwhile, Frøsilo is a private residential project that starts with a silo by the river, so we retained its most exciting feature: its inside emptiness, and we maximize the beautiful views by hanging the balconies outside the silo.

external view of the Roskilde Festival Folk High School (click HERE to view more)

▼改造提高空间的开放性,renovation increasing the openness of the space

▼色彩鲜艳的多功能教室,multi-functional classroom in vivid color



In the project of Future Towers in India, how can the spatial and functional design of the building meet the requirement of diversity? What are the advantages of diversified living? Comparing to large-scale residential projects, hat is your perspective on small-scale residential project design? What are MVRDV’s ideals and aspirations for residential architecture?

一个繁荣的现代化城市需要大量移民来参与生产、提供服务,不同的住房单元可以将不同的群体组合在一起,从而使整个项目和社区更加活跃。我们在印度西部的浦那市(Pune)设计完成了Future Towers住宅楼,这座城市的汽车制造和技术行业吸引了许多年轻人来到这里工作。我们希望这座住宅能够包容不同阶级和年龄层的人。为了呈现多样化的布局,MVRDV的设计团队深入研究了印度的住房结构,并开发出了一套系统,以确保每座建筑物都能够涵盖不同类型的公寓单元。我们也很感谢我们的客户愿意尝试新事物,如果没有他们的支持,我们将无法实现如此高完成度的设计。

A thriving modern city needs a large number of migrants to produce and provide services, and different housing units can mix different groups, making the whole project and the entire community more vibrant. Many young people have been attracted to work in the auto-manufacturing and technology industries in Pune, where we built Future Towers. We hope that users from the full spectrum of India’s middle class all mingle there regardless of age or class. To present a diversified layout, our team delved into Indian housing and developed a system to ensure that each building has different types of apartments. We also appreciate that our client was willing to try new things, and we wouldn’t be able to achieve this degree of integration without their support.

external view of the Future Towers (click HERE to view more)

▼丰富的布局和景观,diversified layout and landscape

▼各具特色的“凹洞”空间,brightly colored openings showing unique features

小型住宅的设计通常具有更大的灵活性,它们也是MVRDV大体量项目实践的试验场。在荷兰的Casa Kwantes住宅项目中,除了满足客户对功能性、隐蔽性和私密性的要求外,MVRDV希望能够设计出一座完全自给自足的可持续住宅建筑。得到业主的认可后,我们为房屋配置了地源热泵、热交换系统和带有太阳能电池板的屋顶。太阳能电池板可补偿房屋玻璃墙面造成的热量损失。居住空间吸收最多的阳光,同时也能够得到上层地板悬挑带来的遮阴效果。

Small homes are often designed with more flexibility, and they are also a testing ground for our large projects. In Casa Kwantes, in addition to meeting the client’s requirements of function, seclusion and privacy, we continued to pursue an entirely self-sufficient sustainable building. With the owner’s consent, the house uses a ground source heat pump, a heat exchange system and a roof with solar panels. The solar panels compensate for energy lost from the house’s glazing. The living spaces absorb the most sunlight and they have sun shading due to floors cantilevering out slightly.

▼Casa Kwantes住宅,自给自足的可持续建筑(点击这里查看更多
Casa Kwantes, a self-sufficient sustainable building (click HERE to view more)


MVRDV now has many high-rise projects under going, including Sax in Rotterdam, Pixel in Abu Dhabi, and the Dongjiadu project in Shanghai. How far have these projects been carried out and what are their characteristics? How is MVRDV’s design philosophy reflected in high-rise projects?


I can share you some information about Pixel, but I can’t yet say too much about the others. Pixel broke ground last August, the project was delayed somewhat due to the pandemic. Now it is back on track, with construction continuing with some added safety measures.

▼像素,丰富的空间提供不同的生活方式,Pixel, diverse spaces providing various lifestyles


Pixel, the Sax, and Dongjiadu are all more or less pixelated designs, which results in a very flexible layout. The residential program of all three towers mixes expensive and affordable apartments together. This is one way we encourage diversity in our projects. These high-rise buildings give users the feel of a village, as the towers include a variety of facilities and amenities, such as restaurants, shops, bars and cafes, viewpoints, a gym, and so on. People can enjoy different kinds of lifestyle in one building, while different functions will also attract different groups. At the same time, these large volumes aim to integrate into the surrounding environment well. For example, the balconies at Pixel are shaded by ceramic screens which, similar to the façades at M.Cube, have a pearlescent finish. To deal with Abu Dhabi’s high temperatures, these screens are also used on a number of matching pavilions in the central plaza to provide extra shade.

▼The Sax,如同一座垂直城市(点击这里查看更多
The Sax lika a vertical city (click HERE to view more)



MVRDV and Urban Design



“Vibrant cities require a diverse mix of users. Multiple uses are not only mixed together, but interact with each other and enrich each other.”


在《FARMAX: Excursions on Density》中,你提到廉价住房,低租金办公室等低密度项目使荷兰的城市变得庸碌。MVRDV是如何用设计对抗这种庸碌的?相较荷兰,中国城市的发展有着怎样的特点?其中,MVRDV可以发挥怎样的作用?
In FARMAX: Excursions on Density, you mention that low-density projects such as cheap housing and low-rent offices make Dutch cities mediocre. How does MVRDV counter this philistinism with design? Compared with the Netherlands, what are the characteristics of urban development in China? What role can MVRDV play?



We think that vertical cities only work when you also mix functions vertically. Vibrant cities require a diverse mix of users, and different types of activity in spaces at all times throughout the day. The most effective way to achieve this is by mixing different functions within the same building. So we try to mix uses in innovative, unexpected, and exciting ways. That gives you hybrid buildings, where multiple uses are not only mixed together, but interact with each other and enrich each other.

Compared with the Netherlands, China has experienced very rapid urban development. In this rapid process, cities may not have time to think about the problems they will encounter. But in the Netherlands, we have a rich of experience in urban development. In Rotterdam, where we founded MVRDV, the city experienced massive urban reconstruction after World War II. We can learn from these experiences in Chinese cities. In addition, most of China’s cities, especially the high-density cities, are distributed around the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, where water resources are abundant. The Netherlands is also a country rich in water resources. We can bring the knowledge of the Dutch in water resources planning to China.

WERK12, multi-functional building vitalizing the city (click HERE to view more)


You gave a lecture which title was “High-density releases the public space on the ground level and creates a unique lifestyle in the metropolis” in December, 2019. What is MVRDV’s recent thinking on creating public space in a high-density city?


I shared two projects at that event. One is the M.Cube the shopping mall in Beijing, and the other is Crystal Houses in Amsterdam. A large-scale urban renewal is happening in cities in China and Europe. In many cases, we don’t want to demolish the old buildings. That is damaging to heritage, and it’s also not sustainable to always demolish and replace a building. However, we also don’t like to continue working or living in low-quality old buildings. So I think Crystal Houses can inspire China’s urban renovation. Crystal Houses retains the original characteristic structure, but the brick façade was replaced by a replica that was partly made of glass brick instead of normal brick. The glass replica dissolves into the traditional terracotta bricks on the upper level and creates a dramatic twist. In this way we reinterpreted this historic building and brought a new appreciation of its original design.

external view of the Crystal House (click HERE to view more)

▼玻璃砖与陶土砖的融合,integration of glass bricks and ceramic bricks



Could you tell us your experience in the design of large-scale mixed-use project? How can better public space and community be achieved in this kind of projects?


In designing large-scale mixed-use projects, we pay great attention to its connection with the local context. RED7 takes inspiration from neighbouring constructivist architecture, it actually is an abstraction of the classical stepped building silhouettes found in the city. Compared to the surrounding buildings, it stands out from the surrounding environment for its bold color. The volume of the building is sculpted and diversified to create distinctive entrances, a sloping roofscape, and to take advantage of the remarkable views of the city from this location.

▼RED7,创造性地回应场地文脉,创造具有冲击力的城市空间,RED7, responding the site context in a creative way, creating an impressive space in the city



Sustainable Design


MVRDV为中国智能电动汽车企业“蔚来”在重庆设计了NIO House,可持续理念是如何在设计中体现的?在您心目中,环境友好且面向未来的建筑应当具备怎样的特征?它如何影响事务所具体的实践方向?
In the NIO House project designed for NIO Automobile, how to echo the sustainability in the design? In your opinion, what kind of quality does an environmental-friendly and future-proof building need? How could it influence MVRDV’s design practice in the future?

重庆蔚来中心位于一栋巨大的综合体中,坐拥长江和嘉陵江的江景。为了在商场云集的品牌中脱颖而出,我们在立面使用蓝色大理石以回应蔚来“Blue Sky Coming”的公司理念。在商场既定的框架中,我们采用了不同种类的环保材料和节能产品,保证整个空间的资源消耗降到最低。

NIO House Chongqing is in a large-scale complex with views across the Yangtze River and Jialing River. To stand out among a variety of brands in the mall, we used blue marble on the façade to echo NIO’s concept “Blue Sky Coming”. Within the frame set by the mall, we used a variety of environmentally friendly materials and energy-saving products for the interior design to ensure the entire space consumes minimal energy and resources.

▼重庆蔚来中心休息交流区,采用环保材料和节能产品,communication space in NIO House Chongqing, using environmental-friendly materials and energy-saving products


We are optimistic that future buildings can act as self-contained ecosystems and even offset the CO2 produced by other human activities. In fact, we showed this concept in the Dutch pavilion at Expo 2000. In other words, nature can be created artificially and stacked vertically. That was really a manifesto for how we think about sustainable design: presenting an ideal of a building that incorporates nature and generates its own internal resource cycles. Now, we are renovating the project 20 years later. We will get to revisit some of the ideas we put in that original structure, and revisit how, with the advent of new technologies, our sustainable ideas from 20 years ago are gradually being realized.

Expo Pavilion 2.0, continuing the idea of the pavilion in 2000, stacking landscapes together (click HERE to view more)



Material and Quality Control



“Materials can give a project unique a character.”


MVRDV would develop special materials for a particular project. In Bulgari Kuala Lumpur, you designed the material mixed of concrete and resin, and in KWG·M·Cube, you applied a special terra panel on the facade. What is your method of approaching the materials and colors for your projects? Could you please tell us something about your ongoing attempts in material?

我们坚信材料可以带给项目独特的个性。有时,我们甚至会和大学或公司合作开发独特的材料。在吉隆坡宝格丽项目中,我们希望延续品牌超越时间的美感,并且添加一分属于我们自己的当代特性。因此,我们使用混凝土和树脂创造了一个仿大理石纹理的立面,光线可以从纹理中透出。这个设计将充满活力的新材料,与宝格丽自Via Condotti店就开始出现的檐口形式结合在了一起。

We firmly believe materials can give a project unique a character, and we sometimes even work with universities and companies to develop unique materials. We wanted our project for Bulgari to continue the brand’s sense of timeless beauty, but adding our own distinctive contemporary touch. So we used concrete and resin to create a marble-veined façade where light permeates through the marble veins. It’s a combination of Bulgari’s signatory cornice from its Via Condotti store with a new, exuberant material.

external view of the Bulgari Flag-shop in Kuala Lumpur (click HERE to view more)

▼材料细部,灯光在立面上呈现大理石纹理,material details, light permeating through the marble veins


With the M.Cube, the project’s location means that it was not suitable to design a completely distinct building – the local government was against anything that would stand out too much. So to fit what the client wanted, the building needed to fit in with its muted surroundings but somehow stand out at the same time. The solution we came up with, of ceramic tiles with a pearl-like glaze, is actually not new at all! It’s an old technique but one that is used rarely today, and we had to work very hard to find a supplier who could still do it. The result perfectly responds to the context, and the requirements of both the client and the government. The building continuously displays new patterns and colors, so at times it might look subtly grey, or it might shine with all the colours of the rainbow.

external view of the M.Cube (click HERE to view more)

▼立面材料细部,呈现珍珠般的光泽,details of the facade material with a pearl-like glaze


How does MVRDV control the construction quality of its projects, especially of those in China? How to guarantee the subsequent operation of the projects? 


I always tell the team that we should give clients and users more than what they expect, and we realize it by paying attention to every detail. For example, one of the most eye-catching features in NIO Chongqing is the blue marble used on the facade and “3D City Mix”. To select the most suitable blue marble responding to NIO’s vision, we visited many stone manufacturers across the country and finally selected the blue marble from dozens of options. Considering the marbling of natural marble, we supervised cutting marbles, tried a variety of arrangements and combinations, and finally got the desired pattern. Then we numbered every piece of marble. The project leader was at the site when the workers hung the marble, thus ensuring every piece was placed in the right order. We also spent a lot of time coordinating construction drawings, material selection, and on-site supervision. Everything was worth it in the end.

▼重庆蔚来中心材料拼贴模型和意向图,model showing the combination of different colored materials in NIO House Chongqing



Teaching and Research



“I have re-recognized architecture from my experiences teaching; it initiates open dialogue between cultures, disciplines, and generations.”


Apart from design, MVRDV also devote itself to teaching and research. You have been a visiting professor in Tongji University. Could you please tell us something about your experience of teaching in China? How could the work of teaching and researching contribute to MVRDV’s practice?



In spring 2017 I was honored to receive an invitation from Dean Prof. Dr. Li Zhenyu to do a studio at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University. We are the first of a studio series where an international practice would collaborate with local professors during an 8-week course with Chinese students. The assignment was a mixed-use housing project in Pudong, but, it was not housing in the sense of students suggesting a plan and a section in a mixed-use block in compliance with certain regulations and physics. Instead we invited the students to imagine new ways of living and to discover their prospects and limitations; to explore in what ways they could offer something new; to make their own interpretations of the demands and needs of current society and to apply it to the particular context of Shanghai Pudong

On the first day, we entered the class and the 18 students sat in orderly rows at their desks, probably waiting for a master class, in which the students listen and the teacher talks. How can we change those settings and roles? The abstraction of the task was intimidating for a few students at the beginning, but soon the group embraced the challenge and turned into an explosion of intelligent observations, explorations, and ideas. Critical thinking and curiosity are crucial skills.  We asked the students not to accept anything at face value. Always question. Looking retrospectively, I have re-recognized architecture from my experiences teaching; it initiates open dialogue between cultures, disciplines, and generations.



Future Expectation under the influence of the Pandemic



“Now we have seen what a difference our lifestyle makes to the environment – what changes will we make after seeing this?”


Has MVRDV’s agenda been affected by the pandemic of Covid-19? Please talk about your expectations for the development of MVRDV in the future. 



We are immensely proud of how our team handled the lockdown. Suddenly within two days everybody was working from home, and we used all kinds of digital tools to meet each other, formally and informally, to discuss the projects. It is amazing what kind of energy comes up in times of need. To respond to the Dutch government’s regulation of 1.5-metre personal spacing, we made a capacity plan for our office and saw that we were able to have around 50% of our normal capacity physically at the office. Staff are now working partly from home and partly in the office when required – everyone has adapted extremely well and extremely quickly as these working conditions change constantly.

What we can learn is efficiency. We don’t need to be in offices all the time. We don’t need that much traffic; we don’t need so much business travel and apparently we can shop much less. All of this will transform the way we use our “built space.” Another change is environmental improvement. Most modern cities have pretty bad air quality and that has improved dramatically during the lockdown. I think this crisis can be used to accelerate the green deal. We used fewer cars during the lockdown. Now we have seen what a difference our lifestyle makes to the environment – what changes will we make after seeing this?

从右到左:Jacob van Rijs,Nathalie de Vries,Winny Maas
Three Founders of MVRDV
from right to left: Jacob van Rijs,Nathalie de Vries,Winny Maas

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