We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of our Honorable mention winners for our “Vale De Moses Meditation Cabins ” competition - Hendrik Verlinden, Nathalie Havelange and Andreu Veléz Guillén from Belgium.
Hendrik Verlinden, Nathalie Havelange and Andreu Veléz Guillén from Belgium
UNIT was founded in Brussels, Belgium, in 2018 by Nathalie Havelange, Andreu Vélez Guillén and Hendrik Verlinden.
This collaboration brings together their experiences and cultural backgrounds. Both Nathalie and Hendrik studied in Brussels, though at different universities, and in different languages, while Andreu studied in Valencia. With experience gained in Brussels, Madrid, and Valencia, three colleagues decided to start UNIT. Though thinking and acting local is quite important to us, we have national and international ambitions. We do projects in French, English, Dutch, and Spanish. Right now we are the only three members of our studio.
Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company / individuals have been involved?
Currently we are designing a renovation for a brutalist warehouse into an atelier in the area around Brussels, and renovating a classic mansion in the historic centre of Bruges into a cultural hotspot with artists residences.
We participated in some international competitions, including the ‘Pape Naturepark Gateway competition’ in 2018 and ‘Arquine Mextrópoli 2020’ competition in Mexico City.
Moreover, we are interested in furniture design as well. The marble bench we made clearly shows the way we look at design and architecture. The bench is made from a recycled piece of marble from the demolition of the WTC centre in Brussels, while the steel profiles are left overs from other projects.
Right now we are working on a follow-up for a table and shelf using similar methods and strategies. Having a global vision on every project, regardless of its function or scale, is very important.
Thus, our completed projects so far have helped us strengthen our most central value of reusing and recycling materials. By focusing on small scale projects, such as an extension for a single family house, furniture design, and the small international architectural competitions, we have learned how to work in fine detail. Our ethos is to stay closely involved in the building process, and in contact with the clients, contractors, participants, DIY-builders or anyone involved to ensure our values take a central point in our design process.
What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of architect in your society?
We understand architecture as a way of offering solutions to particular needs of society and individuals. For us, architecture is a tool to improve public and private space, both functionally and aesthetically. Every project, regardless of its scale or function, is a witness of its time and of its social, economic and environmental context. Architectural research, therefore, is an ever-ongoing process, a constant dialogue between thoughts, ideas, and the requirements of each project. It is a fine balance between the function, the relation between spaces, and the materiality.
Given our thoughts and impressions about architecture, we see the architect’s role in society as the link between spatial needs, social demands, and construction. Always paying attention to aesthetics, context and the environment.
Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?
Architectural competitions allow us to take a step back and try to see architecture in a different perspective. We can reflect and experiment with projects in different ways, sharpening and fine-tuning our vision for sustainability. They give us a chance to explore and adapt to different situations and environments outside of the normal context of our day-to-day interactions. At the same time, we can share our values and the point of view that drives our studio to a broader base, while also learning from those around us.
What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?
From our point of view, architectural competitions are a way to experiment, try out new things, and gain experience. They can teach you to cope with different demands, and new contexts, or force you to learn new skills. The discussions with your team members or even personal reflections allow you to compare your ideas to reality and evolve your vision to a more professional level. Our advice would be to not hesitate and use competitions to maximize your experience and capabilities. In the end, there is nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
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