In January of 2019, the LocHal in Tilburg was opened. The project transforms a former locomotive maintenance facility into a library and cultural center. Mecanoo did the interior design. Our design includes tables that use the “wheels” of former locomotives. A single table can become the extension of the bar or, when combined with another table, forms a stage. They can also be moved outside to form a platform for outdoor events. Full-height hanging textile partitions, designed by Inside Outside and the Textile Museum, soften the industrial hall. Mecanoo’s design for the children’s library was inspired by the nearby fairytale theme park Efteling. Bookcases take on the form of coloured pencils or rulers. Children can walk through giant fairytale books, read at tables shaped like mobile phones or listen to storytelling sessions while lying on an open book. Even the sitting poufs have playful letters in the form of fairytale animals. It is a small but well thought-out project. The National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts is really made for Kaohsiung, and The LocHal is really made for Tilburg. I think that both projects are very much alike in that they show how our work combines the formal and the informal.
We’re looking forward to numerous upcoming openings. In 2019, three libraries will reach completion: The New York Public Library, The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC and the Tainan Public Library in Taiwan. They will all open in 2020 and I will visit these three projects quite often.
We are also beginning new projects. We won the competition for the renovation of the DNB (De Nederlandsche Bank – the Dutch National Bank) in Amsterdam. I am very much looking forward to working on this and other projects.
We’ve always been part of a very dynamic profession. I think it’s very important to follow what’s happening in society to understand new technological developments. At the same time, we are all human beings that still like pleasant spaces, good atmosphere and good acoustics, nice materials and want to meet each other. I am also very serious about being aware of climate change, the use of energy, and our responsibility to leave behind a better world for the next generation. Nobody has the definitive solutions for these challenges, but we should very actively participate in solving them. In my opinion, that often has to do with developing larger-scale planning solutions. Of course, the small scale must be considered, but visionary ideas are needed about urbanism, mobility, the energy transition and water management. These are really big challenges.
2018 was an amazing year for Mecanoo. The highlight was the opening of the Wei-Wu-Ying National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts in Taiwan, which is the largest performing arts centre in the world. It has a double organ, state-of-the-art acoustics and a rich atmosphere. The building was inspired by the local Banyan trees. These trees have crowns that merge into a continuous canopy. Similarly, Wei-Wu- Ying’s four performance venues – the Concert Hall, Opera House, Playhouse and Recital Hall – are like individual “trunks” that fuse together to form a vast sheltered public space: Banyan Plaza. This covered space is open to the surrounding Wei-Wu-Ying Metropolitan Park and offers a place for residents to wander, practice Tai Chi or stage street performances. It was a spectacular opening ceremony and the complex was well received by the people of Taiwan. I was extremely happy.
Another highlight was the completion of the Longgang Cultural Centre in Shenzen. The long, narrow building is composed of separate bright red volumes that house a bookshop, art museum, youth center and a science centre. Our strategy is based on creating covered public spaces and framing views by tilting each volume. That way, the cultural complex becomes an urban connector between the adjacent business district and public park.