Architect of the year 2020

What an honour for Zecc to be the public’s choice!

Zecc has been named Architect of the Year 2020. The judging panel at the Netherlands architects’ platform Architectenweb showed their appreciation for the eclectic range of our projects as well as the quality and relevance of our work for the wider profession. But it was the public that decided who would be the ultimate winner. We are proud to be able to hold this title for a year!

At the start of the summer in 2020, an independent judging panel made up of architect Ninke Happel (Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven Architecten), developer Edwin Oostmeijer (Edwin Oostmeijer Projectontwikkeling), architect Dikkie Scipio (KAAN Architecten) and commercial director/architect Annemiek Bleumink (Paul de Ruiter Architects) selected five nominees. After that, it was up to all of the architects and spatial designers in the Netherlands to vote for their favourite, thereby choosing the winner. View the video portrait of Zecc for the Architect of the Year 2020 nomination here

The judging panel’s report explains why the panel chose Zecc: “A tree is as strong as the depth of its roots. The same applies to our architecture. At Zecc, we apply three basic principles to our work: what we build must be functional, developed based on sustainable principles and also stimulate your senses. Reconciling these three principles may often seem an insurmountable task. But that is actually Zecc’s hidden strength. We call it Grounded Architecture. Architecture with a solid base. With deep roots. Because that enables the best ideas to grow.”

The above text, taken from the Zecc website, illustrates the firm’s deep passion for architecture and the profession of architect. There are several ways of interpreting this reference to deep roots. It suggests a wide-ranging interest in how the field is developing. This is seen clearly in the firm’s regular beeldborrel social events, where a range of different expert guests are invited to talk about their work. It also suggests a deep-felt respect for history and its buildings. Aware of their sense of character, Zecc is able to transform these buildings and, where necessary, also extend them.

With its transformation of Utrecht’s Werkspoorfabriek (2019), the interior of the library in Neude square in the same city (2020), the transformation of the Polygonale Loods (Polygonal Workshop) in Tilburg (2017) and that of Mout in Hilversum (2017), Zecc has shown real craftsmanship in its approach to existing buildings over recent years. The firm always succeeds in striking the right balance between preserving the character of the existing building and adding elements that enable new functions. As a result, history remains recognisable, but also moves forward into the future. The firm has now successfully managed to achieve the same kind of spatial quality seen in its earlier smaller-scale transformations (the Water Tower in Sint Jansklooster, the Sustainable Monument in Driebergen) in larger projects. The judging panel has been impressed by Zecc’s ability also to understand exactly what intervention is needed in structuralist buildings, such as the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, where it is currently designing the temporary accommodation for the Dutch House of Representatives.

At the same time, the firm is building up an impressive residential construction portfolio, provisional highlights of which include the radical sensitivity of the smooth residential tower with its winding balconies along the Merwedekanaal in Utrecht and the Eemskwartier housing development in Groningen (to 2017). The judging panel looks forward with interest to the completion of further projects, such as the apartment buildings in Rijnvliet in Utrecht (under construction) and the Cartesiusdriehoek apartment building in Utrecht (also currently under construction).

Zecc was announced as the winner during the virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, 28 October 2020. The trophy was presented that same afternoon in the Zecc studio, in a great moment of celebration. Last year’s winner of the Architect of the Year award was Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven Architecten. Previous winners of the title include Floris Alkemade, Koen van Velsen, Concrete, RAAAF and UNStudio.