Jurriaan van Stigt ARCAM lecture — “Solving these things in a simple and right way is fun. It is our work.”

Yesterday the next ARCAM lecture was held in the Brakke Grond by Jurriaan van Stigt of the firm LEVS.

Jurriaan van Stigt

Here again are my brief notes (quotes are paraphrases at best):

He shows a clip from the Godfather (‘He made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.’) to illustrate the split personality of architect. Partially analytical partially emotional. Also partially doing what is right and partially pandering.

Son of Joop van Stigt, would play at his father’s firm from a young age on

Was greatly disappointed by the architecture school in Delft. All his architecture heroes only were talking about right or wrong. There wasn’t room for dissenting thought. One librarian would still buy all the wrong books (eg. Richard Meier).

His teachers were technology averse because they said that would ruin the creativity.

Marianne, his now wife, graduated on a concept for Amsterdam Damrak to integrate progress within the old city.

He graduated with a plan for the Wibaut-/Weesperstraat similar to a plan that is only now being executed. He called it the most beautiful street in Amsterdam (It is now commonly called the ugliest. -AÇ).

Finally they added Adriaan to add even more 1+1=3 synergy to the office.

They started a firm and they wanted to have done entire projects from front to back including interior, direction and management to have a feel for how it all works.

Overview of the Work

He says they also do technical direction and management. The number of people is fluid, they focus on the projects (Compare what I wrote about modern agencies and Spry Fox recently. -AÇ).

Talks about critical regionalism by Kenneth Frampton, arhitecture should unify with cultural layering and without prejudice and dogma.

‘Al onze gebouwen beginnen met een verhaal dat gelinked is aan een plek en waarom het zinnig is om het daar te doen.’

‘Je moet altijd je rokje optillen als je als architect werkt wilt binnenhalen.’ (illustrated by Zomergasten Helmut Newton clip)

‘Architecten die bij een opdrachtgever een leuk plaatje doen en de dunheid van ons vak laten zien.’

Coins the term voodoo architects: voorlopig ontwerp, definitief ontwerp (preliminary design, definitive design)

Be curious, see it through, be engaged with an assignment, be best not in but for the world.

Don’t work with separate stakeholders but mix them all together and create a chemistry.


‘We have HAD a very rich tradition in managing our public space.’

It takes a tremendous amount of resourcefulness and asking and talking. You have to make sure the mix is right on all levels to be able to densify.

By waiting for everybody and not deciding you also decide. Proactivity is often necessary.

In the end we have a lot of fun to create a beautiful building.


How difficult it is to get rid of a contractor. The lowest one usually stays in the race with the price he quoted. You can’t legally see the quotes the others have made.

They managed to get rid of their contractor and tender it under the table. When they finally were allowed to open the envelopes with the other quotes, it turned out these were stuffed with newspapers.

Concept & Analysis


It takes a lot of energy to convince people that certain things are doable. It is fun to show them it is doable if you are confident it is.

You can’t have yourself be guided by the specialists who say they know it all.

Shows prototypes they made before constructing the building.

It demands a lot from the building parties. The right builders.

Of course it’s nice to build a cool tower, but we don’t want a cool tower for a cool tower’s sake.

We already have enough architects who create their own problems.

Solving these things in a simple and right way is fun. It is our work.

A great talk though it took some time to get started. Referencing the Godfather clip: Jurriaan van Stigt is pretty gangster. Many of the client issues he named are directly transferrable to for instance the web profession. Many of their practices are indeed the best practices the best web agencies employ. Anything else yields lesser results.

The concept of not working with separate actors and stakeholders but getting them all together to create a chemistry is a must.

The designers who make a quick mockup and don’t follow through, we probably all have seen. The idea of designing and having a different party execute it almost never works either. Being engaged in your work and following through is a must.

Not trusting the specialists with their expertise when they say certain things are doable and others are not is also very wise. Having done every step in a project at least once and still being able to do it when called for is very useful.

Projects being quoted exorbitant amounts (especially when dealing with government) even accounting for organizational inefficiency five times over, that have no foundation in reality, we also have seen. As a designer having a notion how much something costs and being able to scope that is also very useful.

So both an architecturally very interesting talk and also very applicable to any kind of creative client work.

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