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Francine Houben, Mecanoo


Composition, contrast and complexity are the three keys to the architectural vision of Mecanoo founder and director Francine Houben, as stated in the title of the studio’s exhibition at the Architecture Biennial in San Paolo, Brazil.
The name Mecanoo comes from the Meccano toy building set, invented in England in the late nineteenth century. The studio was established in 1984 in Rotterdam and has risen to fame for its innovative residential and public buildings, particularly museums and theatres.
The team of about 120 professionals of different nationalities and backgrounds is currently led by Francine Houben, Aart Fransen, Peter Haasbroek, Francesco Veenstra, Ellen van der Wal, Paul Ketelaars and Dick van Gameren. Know-how in fields such as sustainability, mobility, education and engineering allow the studio to approach projects on small and large scales with a high degree of complexity. Particular features of their design method include analysis of the environmental context and mastery of the specific features of various materials.
Francine Houben describes her philosophy: “Architecture must appeal to all the senses and is never a (purely) intellectual, conceptual or a visual consideration alone. Architecture is about combining all of the individual elements into a single concept. In the end, what counts is the arrangement of form and emotion. Architecture should touch all the senses.” The studio’s work stands out for its strong formal impact, combined with a rational, pragmatic internal programme. It has strong links with the city of Rotterdam, where Houben helped create the city’s contemporary image with her Montevideo Tower, built in 2005. In 2003 she directed and curated the first Rotterdam Architecture Biennial, focusing on the theme of mobility.
Selected projects, Francine Houben, Mecanoo:
- Civic library in Birmingham (England), 2013
- Fontys School of Sport Studies, Eindhoven (the Netherlands), 2012
- Kaap Skil Maritime and Beachcombers’ Museum, Oudeschild, Texel (the Netherlands), 2011
- La Llotja Theatre and Conference Centre, Lleida (Spain), 2010
- Montevideo tower, Rotterdam (the Netherlands), 2005
- Nieuw Terbregge homes, Rotterdam (the Netherlands), 2002
- Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, Rotterdam (the Netherlands), 2001
- Culture building canadaplein & theatre de vest, Alkmaar (the Netherlands), 2000
- National Heritage Museum, Arnhem (the Netherlands), 2000
- University of Technology Library, Delft (the Netherlands), 1998
- Isala college, Silvolde (the Netherlands), 1995


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