A back door was open to the Philharmonie in Berlin, one of Berlin’s many prized architectural feats. After being awed by the exterior of the tent-like structure, with it’s sloping roof and textured gold tile exterior, dutch architect Winka Dubbeldam decided to take a risk and sneak in through the carelessly open door. “The building looks like it landed from Mars. He [Hans Scharoun] called it his ugliest building. It’s so weird - you don’t know if it’s ugly or beautiful!” The building left her with an enormous impression that inspires the rest of her work.
Sitting down to talk with Ms. Dubbeldam, it became quickly evident how a philosophy of an exterior/interior balance influences her work. “Oh, my buildings always have weird skins,” she says, laughing, much like the exterior of the Philharmonie that inspired her. Take a walk down Vestry Street or Greenwhich Street (Near Canal St.) in TriBeCa and you will certainly notice some of her structures, with facades that look like jagged glass waterfalls or are comprised of a mixture of rare translucent stone and glass.
Like her buildings’ design, Ms. Dubbeldam moved into architecture fluidly. She moved around a lot in her home country of The Netherlands, her father continually building new houses. She and her brother had big plans to open up their own architectural firm - him the engineer, her the architect. They both followed their dreams, but never ended up working together.
Starting with a focus on urban life, Ms. Dubbeldam has recently looked inward, trying to improve how we live through where we live. Her residential designs incorporate fluidity between spaces. Rather than connect rooms with hallways, which Ms. Dubbeldam sees as a waste of space and not conducive to modern life, she designs the spaces with consideration to make them feel fluidly connected.
After giving a tour at the Guggenheim for a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, Ms. Dubbeldam noticed this concept is not entirely new. “It’s something that has grown over the 20th century where people started to think of housing and living in a much less hierarchical way. And also, the role of women become integrated with things rather than stuffed away in the kitchen. And maybe more democratic way of living came from a lot of investigation.”
Democracy and intellectual consideration form the basis of Ms. Dubbeldam’s firm, Archi-Tectonics, where she is founder and principal designer. Her office organization is horizontal, making everyone equal, and she works closely with all of her employees on a project.The firm rather than specializing, diversifies, they like to keep their portfolio as diverse as possible. This allows her to fully consider and approach each project as something entirely new.
Ms. Dubbeldam wants to take architecture away from the imbued systems that she sees as archaic. She wants to “make better, more fun, more innovative spaces - for people.” Like the Philharmonie, her work is never contrived, “I hate gimmicks. I want serious architecture.”