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Posted 26 August 2021

New Chairman Architect Nanne de Ru on The Perfect Platform

  • Nanne de Ru. Photo Mark Seelen.
  • Penthouse West399, 5th floor, Rooftop garden. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen Photography.
  • Penthouse West399, 5th floor, Exterior. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen Photography.
  • Penthouse West399. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen.
  • Nanne de Ru. Photo Mark Seelen.
  • Penthouse West399, 5th floor, Rooftop garden. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen Photography.
  • Penthouse West399, 5th floor, Exterior. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen Photography.
  • Penthouse West399. Powerhouse Company Rotterdam 2019. Photo Mark Seelen.

Architect Nanne de Ru, a longtime Friend and supporter of Iconic Houses, is our new chairman of the board. He is a co-founder of Powerhouse Company, an award-winning architecture firm with offices in Rotterdam, Munich and Beijing, and of RED (Real Estate Development) Company. Among a wide range of projects, Powerhouse Company is known for inspired villa designs such as Villa 1, Villa L and Villa B that reinterpret the great houses of the 20th century. On 30 September, Nanne and his wife and fellow architect Nolly Vos welcome online conference attendees to a live tour of their own home, the stunning and innovative West399 Penthouse. Here, he explains why the house is the perfect platform for architectural invention.

  • Villa 1, Powerhouse Company, 2008. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa 1, Powerhouse Company, 2008. View from south. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. North facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. South facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. South facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa B, Powerhouse Company, 2017. Foldable marble panel. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa B, Powerhouse Company, 2017. Garden. Photo by Liaigre.
  • Villa 1, Powerhouse Company, 2008. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa 1, Powerhouse Company, 2008. View from south. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. North facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. South facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa L, Powerhouse Company, 2012. South facade. Photo Christian van der Kooy.
  • Villa B, Powerhouse Company, 2017. Foldable marble panel. Photo Bas Princen.
  • Villa B, Powerhouse Company, 2017. Garden. Photo by Liaigre.

As the new chairman of the board, what are your goals and ambitions for Iconic Houses?
Iconic Houses is an amazing organization that has already built an enormous international network. Covid has interrupted the series of conferences and site visits. We’ve made a good start at bringing more digital and online Iconic Houses experiences to our website. We want to expand on that, and our social media presence, in the coming year, so that more and more people can get acquainted with Iconic Houses.

Why is Iconic Houses important?
Housing is the basis of our relationship with architecture. We all live in a house – but not all of them are iconic. Iconic Houses can speak to our imagination because its member houses are always the result of an amazing architect working side by side with an ambitious client. For architects, villas and private houses are the most direct commissions for a client: you really enter into the private lives of the families you design a house for. In a way, villas and houses are small laboratories where architects design and try out new concepts for working with space, light, the sequence of rooms and the relationship to the landscape. This is what we can see in Iconic Houses such as the Rietveld Schröder House, the Farnsworth House and the Van Schijndel House. Architects love to see these projects because of the density of ideas in these houses. And I think that non-architects love to visit them to see the extremity of ideas and to understand how non-architects like themselves get to live in such houses.

What contribution does Iconic Houses make?
Iconic Houses unlocks the knowledge that the house owners have built up, sharing the know-how of painstakingly managing these unique places. At the same time, Iconic Houses draws a larger public to these houses and creates awareness of their cultural importance.

As an architect, what do you bring to Iconic Houses?
A love for the architecture and a deeper understanding of the importance of the clients and owners of Iconic Houses’ member houses. Without amazing clients and dedicated owners there would be very few iconic houses.

What do you think makes a house iconic?
Architecture can be many things, but in end it always deals with space. So to be iconic, a house has to deal with space in a unique way. Obviously the site, the use of material and the structure are also very important elements.

Powerhouse Company is behind a number of quite extraordinary one-off private houses. Can you explain this commitment to domestic architecture?
For me, private houses are the most direct form of architecture as an applied art. You work directly with a client, you directly translate the wishes of the client into space and form. It is the perfect platform to experiment and try new things.

Are you working on any house commissions right now?
Yes, we are working on four villas at the moment: one in Germany, one in Switzerland, one in Kuwait and one in the Netherlands.

How do you see the future of the private house?
Because of the very strong real estate market, residential architecture and private houses are more popular than ever. I think this will continue.

What would you most like us to notice during the live tour of your own home on 30 September?
The combination of old and new, the views and the use of materials are the main drivers for this project. The views are amazing! My wife Nolly, who is also an architect and designed our home together with me, and I are very much looking forward to this tour.

What can the house teach us about tackling today’s issues?
In my office, we learn a lot from the villas we design. They tell us how people want to live in the extreme and it guides our insights in designing large residential projects. For example, the role of the bathroom has changed a lot. Bathrooms have become mini-spas and this trend is as applicable in small apartments as it is in large villas. It’s the same with the open kitchen. From the 1920s onwards, private houses have been the testing ground for design principles applied to larger residential schemes.

Jane Szita

Curious about the Iconic Houses Online Event 2021?
Check out the program of lectures and a series of thematic videos about the Pioneers of the Dutch Modern House HERE.
Or register right away HERE.

Posted 26 August 2021