Mecanoo derives its name from the British construction system Meccano dating from 1898. The firm was established after winning a competition for flexible housing for young people in Rotterdam. Mecanoo’s body of work is exceptionally varied: it covers houses, schools and complete residential neighbourhoods, theatres, libraries and skyscrapers, parks, squares, motorways, cities, polders, hotels and museums.

Francine Houben, Henk Döll, Roelf Steenhuis, Erick van Egeraat and Chris de Weijer set up Mecanoo in 1984. The firm makes a name for itself with its housing projects which, in contrast to what is usual in those days, are sleek in design and brightly coloured. The work of Mecanoo’s architects is grouped under Neo-Modernism. Particularly in the early days, their work quotes famous modernists such as Alvar Aalto, J.J.P. Oud and Le Corbusier.

In the 1990s, Steenhuis (1988), Van Egeraat (1995) and De Weijer (1999) leave the firm, and in 2003, Henk Döll also leaves. Under the directorship of Houben, Mecanoo goes on to develop its very own signature and the assignments become larger and more diverse. They comprise complex, multi-functional buildings and comprehensive urban development plans encompassing architecture, urban development, landscape architecture and interior architecture.

A number of projects from Mecanoo’s extensive body of work: Fifty TwoDegrees, Nijmegen (2001-2007), the Museum of National History, Arnhem (not built), a Montevideo residential tower in Rotterdam (1999-2005), the library of Delft University of Technology (1993-1997), Masterplan for Gdansk, Poland (2002-2003), the Waterfront Museum Abu Dhabi (2010-), the International Court of Law, The Hague (2008-)

Francine Houben has several publications and exhibitions to her name, she lectures all over the world and is a jury member in prestigious competitions. Between 2000 and 2008, Francine Houben was professor of Architectural Design and Aesthetics of Mobility at Delft University of Technology. In 2001, she was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects and published her manifesto on architecture entitled ‘Composition, Contrast, Complexity’. Francine Houben was the director of the First International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2003 with the theme ‘Mobility, A Room with a View’.


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