Few architects are as relevant as Piet Boon. In part because of the world’s growing appreciation (obsession really) for Scandinavian simplicity but also because Boon has an uncanny knack for coming impossibly close to what would be described by many, as perfection.
The Dutch born architect, who got his start in construction didn’t always possess the drive to build and make beautiful things. As a youngster, his ambition was to be a tops sportsman, playing water polo in the highest league. A goal he almost accomplished by the way. Like many Dutch boys, he was passionate about the outdoors. As we’ll see later, it’s this classic Dutch upbringing that no doubt pulses through his veins; acting as an integral part of his creative genius. It wasn’t until after graduating school that he developed a real drive to build. The Dutch region has a wonderfully rich history of architecture and has for centuries been known for its master craftsmen. Surrounded by such tradition, one would be hard-pressed to avoid influence.
Apart from growing up around clean lines and functional design, Boon’s tipping point to becoming a designer of things was actually his frustration with the work of others. “My initial irritations all had to do with a lack of functionality, which often leads to loss of comfort. And -more often than not, to unnecessary costs and loss of time.” His belief that he could do it better, ultimately led him to pursue architecture as a profession. In Boon’s mind, a good architect has to be a great listener and an even greater communicator. It all starts with insight into and an understanding of a briefing, the wishes and needs of a client and their personality. “We don’t design for ourselves. We want to create a solution, which excites our clients and is beyond anything they ever dreamt of. We want to make our clients happy.’
Since stepping into the role as master creator, Boon has given us great things. Though we’d find it difficult to point out obvious flaws in his beginning works, there’s no doubt his aesthetic has morphed and matured over his decades-long career. Over the three decades of their existence, Boon and his team have stayed quite true to themselves.
This “perfect” aesthetic Boon is known for has continued to grow more refined and detail oriented, which fits the international, high-end segment they operate in. But Boon stressed he is not a singularly operating unit. There is no lack of teamwork here. He continually emphasis the importance of the functionality of his team as a whole entity:
TL: What sort of things draw you in and make you decide to take something on?
PB: The very first question, which has to be answered is: does this project fit with who we are, with our brand identity, with what we are good at.
If it does, we love and embrace it as no project is the same and represents a wonderful new challenge!
Apart from the challenge a project represents, we really enjoy our clients. Most of them are hard working and interesting entrepreneurs or renowned brands. It is a great privilege to be allowed into their world and to have their trust. That is definitely also one of the most rewarding aspects of our work.
TL: What makes a good designer or architect?
PB: You have to be a great listener and even greater in communication. It all starts with a perfect insight and understanding of a briefing, the wishes and needs of a client and their personality. Be it a private or corporate client.
We don’t design for ourselves but want to create a solution, which excites our clients and is beyond anything they ever dreamt of. Or, to rephrase that: we want to make our clients happy.
TL: Can you tell us a little bit about your process? How do you begin a project and what sort of ‘goals’ do you have in mind?
PB: We have only one goal: to exceed our client’s expectations! Over nearly three decades we have developed our own way of working, or process, which is perhaps the secret behind our style.
TL: If you could list three of the most important elements of good design, or three elements critical to your designs in particular, what would they be?
1. A perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality
3. A warm and personalized experience (or, when we design a corporate project: the perfect translation of our clients brand identity in our design)
I would like to give our definition of the word durability, which is open to many different interpretations. For us it refers to designs that are timeless, age beautifully and last a long time. Design is not to look at but to use and enjoy. In the real world people have children and pets.
TL: What designers or architects do you look to for inspiration?
PB: Fashion designer Paul Smith published a book called: ‘You can find inspiration everywhere, you only have to look for it.’
That is exactly how I feel. I draw my inspiration from what I see when we travel, in landscapes, art, street life, fashion, music and yes, also in the work of quite a few designers and architects. I am always fascinated to see the thought process in the work of others and the solutions they chose. The works of Peter Zumthor and Japanese architects like Shigeru Ban particularly attracts me. I deeply admire the powerful simplicity of their aesthetics and use of materials.
TL: Does a particular country influence you more so than any other?
PB: People often feel that our work has an affinity with Japanese design and architecture. The way we use natural materials, our passion for bespoke details, but definitely also our subdued color palette.
TL: Do you have a most memorable experience with architecture; something you saw that changed or inspired you?
PB: One of the most inspirational architects (I would rather refer to his work as art) is my great friend Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscapist. His unique skills, the subdued and refined simplicity and poetry in his work are amazing: strong and elegant at the same time. But also the confidence with which he works. Based on an immense knowledge, great taste and sense of aesthetics.
I am very proud that we were able to work together on several projects over the past decade. Lately on HUYS for which he designed a roof top garden. Piet never ceases to inspire me. He has also become a great personal friend.
TL: What interested you about your newest project Oosten?
PB: The Oosten is one of the most diverse residential projects I have ever seen. The 7 different residence types are all spacious and light, even the smallest unit. And perhaps more important: I love the fact that it caters for every possible wish and budget. Some even have gardens. The amenities and the level of services offered, is simply mind blowing. The Oosten is one of the most enviable places to live. Williamsburg represents the somewhat romantic image I had in my mind of how America looked like in the past. It very much reminds me of the charm of the Meatpacking District.
TL: When visiting the site, the construction team said Oosten was by far the most complex and tedious job they’d ever been on…is that a quality all of your projects possess? What makes your approach so different from other architects’?
PB: Yes, I remember him saying so. But I think what he really meant was that he was really proud to do such a quality job.
Our work is known for its bespoke detailing. That requires quite some skills.
All our projects possess that quality; it is part of our signature.
TL: What would be your dream project?
PB: Every project is a surprise in itself. Over the years we were able to do many projects we could never have dreamed of.
We consider ourselves very fortunate.
A total concept for a hospitality serviced luxury residential project or six stars hotel in New York would be awesome.
Published December 9, 2014