NIO Architects is a Rotterdam company with its roots in architecture. With a team of around eight architects led by Maurice Nio, we work on projects involving sports and leisure, retail, infrastructure, culture and private housing. When designing buildings, we are inspired by everyday things such as music, nature and art but only rarely by architecture because this leads to more of the same. We actively strive for innovation and aim to create an inspired and inspiring environment, which generates development that is both functional and above all emotional.
Our organisational structure is simple and direct. This allows us to work in a rapid, focused and flexible way during each phase of the process. We see ourselves as architects and also as advisors with a real sense of quality and a capacity for self-reflection.
We feel responsible for our designs and we act accordingly. Even after completion, you can always contact us for aftercare and additional advice, a service that we provide free of charge. We are an active partner in the process chain and view this as a sustainable and value-enhancing feature of our designs.
Different than the rest?
Our designs are innovative for reasons of necessity rather than form. Requests are becoming increasingly complex so that new materials, new techniques and new details must be devised. Some requests are virtually impossible. Yet we regard this as a challenge rather than a problem and one that we deal with pragmatically. During the initial stages, we look to our sub-contractors for support and inspiration. For this is sustainable architecture: innovative, spiritual, powerful and unexpected. An architecture that moves, confuses and challenges but never meets with indifference.
Many of our designs are in unexpected places: places that seemed spatially impossible, that were forgotten, neglected and nobody knew what to do with. This is where we present our vision of architecture. A number of factors converge at these places, which means that routine solutions are not up to the job. Here, we must integrate rather than adapt. And here, we can actively revive the city and imbue it with an extra layer. Our strength lies in the meticulous reading and understanding of both the context and the request.
Almost all our designs are the result of conflicting requests. Naturally, the ideal situation would be a clear programme of requirements and a clear request. However, this is inevitably complicated during the design process by a disparate range of interests. The province, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the municipality, the supervisor, “dreadful good taste”, the fire department, utilities companies and investors all have their own interests. But, as with impossible spaces, we also know how to transform impossible processes into something constructive and complicated processes into clear and powerful designs.
All our designs are born of pragmatism. But this does not mean that they have no extra dimension. A sense of purpose can be easily combined with the desire to infuse a project with both a spiritual dimension and cultural added value. Solving a wish is always good but also being able to add an extra dimension is even better. Offering a solution that merely fulfils that wish will lead to indifference, whereas this extra energy will boost the public and therefore also the user. Moreover, the public cherishes cultural added value. And that’s what we design.
How do we work?
We don’t like academic exercises; we are product-oriented and direct. We find answers in places where you wouldn’t expect them. Each job has its own, specific features. Hence, we seek solutions that may be unconventional but are certainly appropriate and goal-oriented. During an exploratory stage, we can visualise and provide insight into the essence of a job.
In practice, we work on a project with a small team of architects. It is led by a senior architect, who actively participates in the design process. We are involved at every level – from the concept to the details – and are used to producing a number of variations. The resulting digital models are constantly tested against scale models so that the design will remain clear.
What is sustainable?
There are tremendous opportunities in the redevelopment of urban areas. Our area of expertise is the sustainable redesigning of forgotten places. Revitalising and boosting these frequently soulless and nondescript spaces is one of our strategies for developing urban areas in a truly sustainable way. We believe that landfill sites, viaducts, car parks, tunnels, roofs and areas behind sound barriers (etc.) provide ideal locations for creating these new spaces or Snake Spaces. These Snake Spaces are exact integrations, which create space that actively contributes to the city and urban life. And this is what we mean by “sustainable architecture”.
Our sustainable designs and their realisation are achieved in a n