In this post originally published on Metropolis, former ArchDaily Managing Editor Vanessa Quirk explores a client's expectations, and how Nicholas Grimshaw treated them--in both built and book form.
It is not often a client states that their aim is “to build the indeterminate building.” But so Max De Pree, the son of Herman Miller founder D.J. De Pree, expressed his hope for his company’s new manufacturing facility in 1975. Following the ideas of designers such as Charles and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard, De Pree compiled a long list of philosophical guidelines for the project, which he summed up under the laconic heading, “A Statement of Expectations.”
The young architect Nicholas Grimshaw, who had been hand-picked by De Pree for the project, was immensely inspired by the Statement, particularly its emphasis on the longevity and flexibility of the facility, its integration into context (the city of Bath, England), and the necessity for the building to empower its workers. In Grimshaw’s response to the brief, he noted: “Many of the views expressed about the well-being of the users, flexibility, and non-monumentality agree very closely with the approach we have built up since the founding of our practice ten years ago. We feel particularly that any new building should not impose itself on the occupiers, but that it should be a tool in their hands.”