Don Murphy
architect and partner
VMX Architects

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Born in Cork, Ireland. I graduated at the London South Bank University and Berlage Institute Amsterdam (Master in Architecture). VMX Architects established with Leon Teunissen in 1995, after winning Europan 3. And I'm supervisor of the Urban Planning Slotervaart, Amsterdam.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be an architect. I think from about the age of four I had a fascination with making buildings. Since then trying to represent aspects of our time in buildings as well as trying to create public space.

3. Best city

On safari (Africa) they often use the term 'the big five' referring to the five greatest animals. When I think of the best city I have to think of the best big five: London, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Paris. London was my first love, New York for the Manhattan grid, Tokyo for being so civilised at such an enormous scale, Los Angeles for its hedonism and Paris for its romance.

4. Most beautiful building

As I get older I become more interested in the more obscure. I love the work of Juliaan Lampens and his wonderful houses and buildings. Therefore my most beautiful building would be his Our Blessed Lady of Kerselare Pilgrimage Chapel in Belgium (1966). I have been very inspired by his work while designing my own home.

5. Most beautiful park or square

The Amstelscheg is not an official park, it is a large preserved green area along the Amstel between Amsterdam southeast and Amstelveen. I built my house just over a year ago and I am astounded how good the area works as a recreation area for Amsterdam - jogging, walking, rollerblading (ice skating in the winter) horse riding, rowing and sailing. It is a nature reserve with a small amount of farming and some residences. I see it as a model for a new form of city parks.

6. Best public facility /
urban infill

I think the beach is a wonderful public facility as a territory which can accommodate so many functions, temporarily as well as permanently. Copa Cabana at Rio de Janeiro must be the greatest public space.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

I would like to go one century earlier and refer to the Underground. Perhaps the London Underground is the most efficient form of public transport and was an incredible invention. Used by people ranging from future princesses to homeless immigrants. It is truly democratic.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

Could you imagine how our built world would change if we could develop a possibility to have flying cars or bikes. Cities would have to turn up side down with parking on every roof instead of under every building and motorways would become redundant.

9. About the future of cities

I have always been interested in the writing of Richard Sennett. I believe that cities have the function of making us civilized through being citizens and politically engaged. The cities are the future. Cities will enable large parts of the world population to develop in the future.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

The Fietsflat in Amsterdam was an idea how to make a simple infrastructural necessity into a public facility and a piece of architecture. Was Pevsner right when he said: “a bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture”?
*architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-83)

11. Guerrilla in the city?

A lot of the recent Guerrilla activities were just another form of clever marketing. Selling consumers more goods, think of Nike in Berlin et cetera. I appreciate graffiti art. It can be so political and critical and funny (Banksy).