Born @ WdKA
Spatial Design

Healthy Duality

TomDavid Architecten
Tue 9 May
We believe in teaming up with partners that have different skills and different approach towards design practice.
Function Spatial designers, owners TomDavid Architecten
Year 1992 & 2003
Major Spatial Design

TomDavid Architecten: Tom van Odijk (2003) & David Baars (1992), Spatial Design


Are you inspired by the same thing? Two peas in a pod or completely different?

No, we have very different interests. But having a certain duality within the company is healthy. We agree to disagree often but that makes space for a critical attitude even towards our own work. If we agree on a design this means we probably have reached a certain level of quality.

What is your favorite WdKA memory?

David: I was a devoted visitor of the workshops actually and spent many evenings there building stuff. Some was for the study and some for personal projects (recumbent bikes etc.) Won an European competition (3th year) and build it in the wood and metal workshop, until it was ready to move to Belgium by truck.


How did your collaboration start?

David: We met when I was a teacher and Tom was still a student. After Tom graduated, we lost track for a couple of years, when out of the blue he contacted me to see if I could be a ‘sparring partner’ for a project he was asked for. Tom needed reflection on a design, and I was happy to speak with a talented colleague about architecture and projects.

How did your collaboration become a success? Was it a long way full of hardships or did it ‘just happen’?

It took a lot of evenings and weekends until we were ready to give up our daytime jobs and start with the company. Although we now spend all our time at TomDavid, it still takes a lot of hardship and time to continue the company. There’s a large group of talented architects and designers in Rotterdam, (apart from super companies like MvRDV or OMA) with an amazing portfolio and you have to compete with all of them.

Are you pioneers?

Pioneers is a ‘big word’. We think in some fields we are ‘experimenting’. The two projects that spring to mind are the PULS and the POPS projects. The PULS because it’s the first building in the world that has this reversed umbrella as a façade. The POPS research project because we are ‘early believers’ of the potential of the phenomenon of privately owned public space for future cities. And we also see the challenges; how to deal with its users, rules, program and development opportunities. In an increasingly densified city, a well-connected inner-city which grants unconditional access to essential places in the city, is of inestimable value.

PULS at the Cruiseterminal in Rotterdam

The Pop Up Luggage Depot (PULS) is the first building in the world that has this reversed umbrella as a façade.

Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

Collaboration and self-initiation is the future, especially for small companies like ours. We believe in teaming up with partners that have different skills and different approach towards design practice. And not in waiting until your asked by a client, but seducing future client by proposing an opportunity for improvement.


BBC 4 competition

Design for a self-driving memory pod, used as a mobile recording studio to record personal stories from all over the UK.

You never leave your house without…?

A keen eye. Our work is represented in our direct surroundings. Never forget to scan the place you live (or work) and ask yourself whether it can be improved. Improvement is possible on any level: esthetically, socially, programmatically, environmentally etc.

Any words of advice to future students?

You can never start too soon with building up your own network. Surround yourself with interesting people and colleagues - it is the best investment you can do, since a great deal of your projects (especially in the early years) will come from your direct surrounding.

First prize AC-CA competition

Winning design for sustainable market square in Casablanca.

Name your favourite recent project.

The Woensel West Housing competition. Even though we came second, our project reflected so much poetic, programmatic and experimental quality. Our project was obviously one step ahead for what the Eindhoven community aspired but it is comforting to know that Rem Koolhaas won a lot of second prizes for the same reason, in the early stages of his career.

‘Ons Huis’

Woensel west housing competition:
‘Ons Huis’, architectural tribute to the row houses surrounding the site.

WdKA revisited

Architectural interpretation of WdKA's new education concept i.c.w. Kraaijvanger architecten. Willem de Kooning Academy is located at Blaak 10 and Wijnhaven 61, two adherent buildings connected with an air bridge. In the last couple of years, the academy had had a complete makeover in line with its renewed curriculum.

Photo: Stijn Poelstra

Complete makeover and a radical spatial concept.

TomDavid Architecten:

"Within the city of Rotterdam the Willem de Kooning Academie [WdKA] occupies a special position. Besides knowledge institute, the WdKA functions as a catalyst for partnerships: a cultural space where students, alumni and international professionals meet each other. The current building has a closed nature and is not representing the numerous successful connections between the art institute and the city. With the challenge of converting intangible structures into a new spatial design, TomDavid & Kraaijvanger laid down an ambitious plan that won the selective tender."