With over 25 years of knowledge and experience in both urban and architectural transformation projects, Mei architects and planners works on area developments with a strong distinctive character. A powerful area vision requires specific and smart solutions, which is why Mei creates value with a highly distinctive design that matches the assignment. The interests of the city, users and nature are key elements in this. By interweaving existing and new structures very precisely but robustly, we manage the spatial conditions that are necessary to create green, mixed and lively cities. The result is a future-proof and adaptive plan, with room for initiative and new insights.
Urban planning is never finished; the phasing in time and programme plays an obvious role in this. With our integrated approach, sustainability and mobility are also part of a plan. We also ensure it can be continuously tested for financial feasibility. Thanks to our knowledge of both urban planning and architecture, we have no problems working at different scale levels. Urban planning mass, building typology and human scale are always intertwined. The associated visual quality plans provide additional distinctive character in which architecture, public space and urban planning reinforce each other.
Mei starts a project based on a cultural-historical exploration and thus dives into the memory of the place. We master the historical and narrative context and build on the qualities already present in the existing buildings. One example is the Kabeldistrict in Delft, which was designed very carefully from the structure of the existing industrial heritage. By applying a specific building typology, the existing factory blends in with the new programme. History remains present at various levels and contributes to the recognisability and circularity of the area.
The existing use can also contribute to the development of a new plan. Mei realises how people remember a place and that local initiatives can make a major contribution to the connection with the place. For many projects, Mei therefore first talks to users, residents and placemakers. Take the OPG project in Utrecht, for example, or the Fenix warehouse in Katendrecht, where city planners have already given the area a certain identity. By talking to each other, they investigate how they can contribute to the permanent development of the area. In this way, forces are bundled in the further development of the place.
In the design process, Mei architects and planners does not limit itself to creating the right conditions, but we also manage the visual quality of the plan. The large scale, which is often present in former (industrial) transformation areas, is embraced from construction to façade design to create an almost sublime experience.
Mei’s work is characterised by a degree of contradiction in precision and control; a clear distinction is made between the elements that are designed and controlled with great care, versus an acceptance of the unpredictable and changeable that is inevitable in a development/construction process. It is this acceptance and a flexible attitude that provide an extra layer of significance and are crucial in a development or construction process of large-scale urban development projects in particular. The application of image-defining and narrative elements contributes to a strong identity and the distinctive character of the place.
The creation of communities of people involved in their living environment is essential for a successful city. Mei’s strength lies in combining different programmes. The knowledge and experience Mei has gained over the past 25 years, including at Lloydkwartier in Rotterdam, will be used for this. The combination of living, working and recreation, especially on the active ground floor, and communal outdoor spaces on the roof contribute significantly to the formation of a community. An area does not become a monofunctional residential area, but a lively residential, work and leisure area with a varied programme of activities spread throughout the day. This 24/7 programming also contributes to the social safety of the area.
Mei also comes up with specific solutions at the scale level of typology. To encourage encounters, the public space is optimally used for accommodation and belongs to a common domain. Offering space for personal interpretation within strong structures creates ownership. This way, the user is involved in and attracted to her immediate living environment. That is very important, because it is the users who make up the place.
Future-proofing and adaptability are fundamental in major urban development developments. It is essential that both new and existing buildings – with the accompanying characteristics in scale, size and architecture – are incorporated in a smart and human way and made suitable for different programmes. Mei’s designs are based on open structures; open construction that includes change in advance and creates the right conditions for your own interpretation. The versatility of the area provides flexibility and space to facilitate other uses in the future. The Kabeldistrict, which offers space for both start-ups and scale-ups, is a good example of how entrepreneurs can grow and develop without losing their place in the community. This allows entrepreneurs to develop as city planners who contribute to the identity of the area.
New value systems
Mei s at the forefront of integrating (urban) nature. It is important to strengthen the existing ecological structure and at the same time to create space for new nature. Especially in a compact, highly urban environment, nature inclusiveness and biodiversity are part of the living environment and every square metre counts. Several layers of nature can be found in the Kabeldistrict; both underground, at ground level and at height, by means of the new typology of the Delft roof.
Mei is also aware of the latest state of affairs in the field of laws and regulations regarding the environment, mobility, wind, insolation, heat stress and water accumulation. One example of all these aspects coming together well is the Burgemeesterkwartier in Gouda, where a completely car-free district is designed and thus space is created for a continuous landscape of greenery and water. New mobility strategies are aimed at joint use of the outdoor space. A pleasant living environment is created by clever use of sun, cold air and wind. And integrating greenery into the urban development plan increases biodiversity in the residential area. Mei takes responsibility for contributing to a healthy living environment. Future-proof, healthy urban development plans are elementary and essential in this respect.