Evelyne Merkx
architect and partner Merkx + Girod architecten

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

I was 32 when I studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam. Prior to my studies I worked at ‘de Bijenkorf’ in Advertising and Sales, a progressive organization to work for. Here I met Benno Premsela and I worked together with Jan Toscani. After graduating as an interior designer ‘de Bijenkorf’ asked me to do all kinds of work like styling and alterations. That was in 1984: the start of my own office and a new challenge!

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

I have always had a fascination for architecture. My interest in urban planning has only been of recent years. During my travels which included Architectura et Amicitia I learned through experience to look at things in a different way. Opening up to new impulses is essential for me.

3. Best city

I find cities delightful. Antwerp, close to the Netherlands, is a hospitable and friendly place with good food and accommodation. Paris with its museums and undiscovered markets: continually surprises me! New York because of the wonderful art and the chaos. Berlin is inspiring. I love London but I drown there by sheer dize. I would like to return to Tokyo because it is so stimulating. I like many cities, they give me energy.

4. Most beautiful building

Kolumba Museum in Cologne by Peter Zumthor. Beautifully designed bricks and no evidence of where the facilities are 'hidden’. Years ago, I was perplexed by the Thermenbad in Vals. So many goodies, many careful details that seem utterly random. I made an incredible amount of pictures. He is an example for me: his way of working, approach and reflection are inspiring. But just as overwhelming is the Neues Museum in Berlin by David Chipperfield. Superb how he deals with the preservation of affected parts, and where he is restoring and renovating!

5. Most beautiful park or square

Piazza San Marco in Venice. This is a city where you actually need to stay one week each year. It is impressive because of its scale, color and light.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

I am curious about the new Amsterdam Central Station square. The mess of the last decennia, will make place for a beautiful entrance. The pond will be restored and the traffic will also be removed. A very interesting intervention that has major consequences for the appearance of Amsterdam: here is where the city begins for many visitors. And the station will connect Amsterdam-Noord with the center.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

GPS and everything related to Google Earth. Fantastic! The development of LED and the subsequent consequences.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

Nanotechnology. What I read about, I found fascinating, although I understand little about this subject.

9. About the future of cities

Cities are expanding continually and will eventually cover the whole world. Question is how will these huge cities be managed.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

My first reaction: contribution to urban planning? But when I think about it in a different way I realize that our projects specifically influence the urban planning from within. Using a walk in Amsterdam to illustrate this. Starting in the historic hall of Cuypers Central Station (work in progress), pass the restaurant ‘Eerste Klas’ (my first public work) and Julia's (the pasta formula), via ‘de Hema’ on the Nieuwendijk, passed ‘de Bijenkorf’, to the Library Special Pieces of the UVA and ‘het Groote Museum’ in Artis (where we're working on now). Continue to ‘de Hermitage’ and via 'The Masterpieces' in the temporary Rijksmuseum and the museum shop of the Van Gogh Museum, ending at the Concertgebouw (a refurbishment and renovation that we have worked on for 16 years and now has just been completed). The renovation / restoration / new construction of the State Council in The Hague is one of such contribution. And the booktrade in the Dominican church in Maastricht is a cultural meeting place in the city.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Vacant spaces in the city is a criminal offence. Offices that are vacant, meanwhile, could be used for cultural initiatives or temporary restaurants. Activities that could be developed here, could give tremendous energy to the community. Comme des Garçons is a good example. In several cities, they have established stores in specific, empty spaces in surprising locations.