1Please give us a brief bio of yourself, your company, job profile, etc.
I studied Architecture and Cinema in Lisbon (Portugal) and Antwerp (Belgium) and I lived in Shenzhen, where I founded the International Department for Architecture of CSCEC - China State Construction and Engineering Corporation, biggest state owned construction company, and added up functions as architect and team leader.
As an architect and filmmaker (a parallel passion), I've been selected to be a guest lecturer in Lisbon, Oporto, Espinho (Portugal), Bergamo (Italy), Berlin (Germany), New York (USA) and Shenzhen (China).
2Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.
Our business's core focus on architecture, interior architecture and most recently, interior design and furniture (still at the entering stage of this adventure).
We are very happy and proud to have so many clients that believe in us and so many interesting projects coming our way. When we founded the company one and a half year ago, we never thought we would have more than one project at the same time. Now we handle 10-15 projects at the same time.
3Congratulations! As the winner of the 2019 Muse Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
Thank you! We are very honored and pleased to know that people see our Friendship Boat the way we do. A floating office building!
4Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2019 Muse Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
We find this project unique, one of a kind. We were not even sure it would be accepted as interior architecture since it hasn’t been realised inside a building.
We had to try to show it to the world. Not only to show case our work and prove what we are capable of but also inspire and let people know how beautifully we can design spaces for people to live and work everyday. We wanted to share it with the world.
5What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Well, this project is about a recovered ferry boat that was damaged and partially sunk, so even before there was a project, we were facing challenges already.
Then, to seal the leaks and fissures of the hull, we kept on having water coming in on the lower deck!
After that, we had to cut through thick plates of steel to open a connection between decks. The naval plans were not exact and we had to make sure we didn’t cut the wrong beam! Not to mention that we also needed a permission from the Port of Antwerp and had firemen with us on watch while the welders did their job. It was a challenge.
After all that, and maybe the biggest challenge, the flooring.
The client (and us too) wanted a liquid flooring for the whole boat. The problem was, the ferry boat floor plate had 6% of inclination to drain the water and the liquid floor can only be poured on a 1% inclination surface.
Not to mention that epoxy was too hard for the movements of the water, originating cracks; and the polyurethan was too elastic, originating water bubbles due to the humidity of the hull.
Thus, we came up with a formula to have the right liquid density and created a bedding on top of gravel to pour.
6How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
One gets automatically more attention from the media and the potential clients that had already in mind to work with you, clear their doubts or insecurities. People that only heard of you want to know more and enquire. and people that were already clients share the same pride with the architect, talking about it to their closest friends or acquaintances they know to be looking for an architect. It’s an organic form of advertisement.
7What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
1- The fact that the things we visualise and think of for so many months, can actually come to life. It’s an industry of two moments. Two realities. The planning and the realisation.
2 - The personal contact we get with the clients. To see a smile on their face, to have dinner together, listen to them and turn their ideas into a built reality.
3 - Waking up everyday and try to make beautiful things.
8What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?
Although I’m Portuguese, we based the company in Belgium, given most of our clients being from there. Belgian clients have a visible care and taste for design. Budget is important but, if an extra financial effort is needed in order to have that special design, they will do it!
That allows us to have also an extra margin for creativity.
9Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
It’s true that technology will have a more and more important role as years roll by. But we cannot forget things still have to be built and we still need the knowledge about materials and how they act together. What we see on the screen is just a media, a simulation, a study. It’s important not to forget that if you want to see something built because the screen won’t give you that.
Therefore, all this technological wave is positive, as long as the upcoming architects don’t lose track of what architecture is. Spatial quality, humanity, sociology… it’s more than shapes and graphics.
10If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Muse Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Don’t change your path or kill your dream just because the world around is not ready for it yet. Change the world around you, a bit everyday, and one day, your dream will no longer be one.
11What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
Time is the most valuable resource. Take time to learn. University is just a tool, not where you will become an architect. Use that amazing tool and all that invested time to practice. Without practicing architecture, you cannot even aspire to be one. To make cool images on a computer or to have a good theoretical base doesn’t make you capable of coming any close to successfully conducting a project to conclusion, no matter how small it might be.
Read, travel (not too much before of your carbon footprint!), sketch, model and try again.
12Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
I hope that someday the use of architects does not depend on the economy. Whether it is a crisis or an economical boom…
13Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My father, who worked around the world but never lost the sense of home!
A story teller and a true propeller of my sense of discovery.
As well as a few amazing University Professors too (who made me strive for quality, for detail, method and excellence)!
14What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
I believe that it is more important to know what you don’t want rather than what you want. It’s good to doubt, to question and to have a critical thinking.
To have a vision is vital and to have a clear direction you want to head to. You don’t need to know the destination yet, but you should see your path. Know where you are headed.
Be passionate. Choose something you want to do everyday and something that makes you proud. Be there. Be present. Take your time.
15Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Bart Verschueren, who started as one of the two clients from the Friendship Boat, became a partner after this project.
He is now the managing partner.