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Architect Winy Maas on his design for Valley

As the co-founder of architects’ firm MVRDV, Maas has been a familiar figure for some time, but Valley is his first creation in Zuidas. He has previously made his mark in such places as Spain and Korea. Closer to home, he was also responsible for the design of the Markthal in Rotterdam. Maas has enjoyed both fame and notoriety. ‘Haha, a “rock star architect”? Well, that’s not how I see it. I see myself as someone who has ideas and is 100% behind them. If that sometimes makes me stand out from the crowd, it’s because I’m totally committed to my vision. I want to bring something to the world and not just by following others or going with the flow.’

Winy Maas
Daria Scagliola

Field of tension

Valley, for which Maas completed the design in 2013, is an outspoken example of his vision. ‘As an architect, I’m interested in searching for a field of tension. In the design for Valley, we did that by providing a place in the design both for the future and the past.’ Back in 2013, Zuidas was not yet a vibrant city neighbourhood. ‘We wanted our design to create something different from the huge shiny office buildings. That gave us the idea of a building in which the straight lines of the reflective glass panels represent the old Zuidas and connect the building with that Zuidas. Conversely, the erratic shapes that appear to have been “hacked out of it” and the abundance of greenery provide a glimpse of the future of Zuidas.’ Originally trained as a landscape architect, Maas was fully aware of the benefits that plants can bring to a building. ‘And, of course, it was amazing when world-acclaimed garden architect Piet Oudolf joined our team.’

The planting will be added soon
Marcel Steinbach
The glass is in place
Marcel Steinbach

By computer

Maas was also eager to add a certain amount of intimacy to Valley. This was a challenge in view of the building’s size, measuring 75,000 sq. m. But, if the artist’s impressions are anything to go by, he has succeeded. The terraces and staircases lined with trees, plants and flowers particularly contribute to this intimacy. Surprisingly enough, this ‘human’ building was largely designed by computer. ‘To be fair, the first design was done by hand and that always served as a guide. But if you want to add so many different shapes, you need to set the digital modules to work on them. Otherwise, it’s far too time-consuming and expensive. Structures that have been modelled by the computer can mostly be prefabricated and assembled on site. Computer models also enable you to identify shapes that are most likely to withstand the wind and other elements, while also remaining in budget. Without a computer and this type of scripting, Valley would never have happened and would not have been viable. So, it’s true to say that these erratic shapes are the optimum result of models and simulations.’

Valley is set to be completed this year
Marcel Steinbach
Artist's impression

Intervene

In recent years, Maas has paid regular visits to see the construction of Valley for himself. ‘It’s always wonderful to see an idea come to life. But we did have to intervene during the construction phase. For example, when the first white test window frames were fitted. It was quite a shock. Although we devised it that way, the building suddenly started to look and feel like Benidorm. Fortunately, we were still able to make adaptations. And, no, that’s not always possible. In that respect, both the developer EDGE and the Valley construction consortium were always willing to be flexible.’ There is also the issue of the long interval between design and realisation. During that time, new techniques and materials come onto the market. ‘Of course, we’re now more advanced than in 2013, but that’s all par for the course in our business.’

The future swimming pool
Marcel Steinbach
Finishing work is progressing steadily
Marcel Steinbach

Letting go

It’s now time for Maas to start letting go of his design, as he himself admits. ‘I love that about creating. Valley may be our brainchild, but it’s now become part of other people’s stories. Think of the builder who’s spent years working on it and the residents who are about to start making their own memories here.’ The fact that Valley will also include public functions is something that Maas not only welcomes, but also considers important for the development of Zuidas. ‘If you want Zuidas to be an attractive neighbourhood for everyone, it needs to be inviting. With its public areas, a museum and the skybar, I think that Valley helps to achieve that. By the way, the same also applies slightly further away to Tripolis Park, which we also designed. In that, there is also a shift from offices to a range of different functions. A place that’s a combination of working, living and simply spending time. If people want Zuidas to develop into a city neighbourhood, this needs to continue. I actually think it’s happening, because I have noticed that the City Council is investing a lot of time at effort to achieve it. But for me, I just think that the architecture could be slightly more exciting. Surely more colour, more diversity and more “dialogue” must be possible.’

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