Arjan Klok
architect/urban planner

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

I come from a family of carpenters, farmers and construction workers. Born and raised in Waterland, nearby Amsterdam. I graduated as an architect and urban planner in 1995 at the Delft University of Technology. After my studies I worked for 5 years at Maxwan architects+urbanists in Rotterdam. Now I have my own business STUDIOKLOK that I set up 10 years ago.

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

I thought that at the Faculty of Architecture, one would learn how to build things but the most important things that I learned there was how to think conceptually about space. I also learned to ask questions, form opinions, organize my thoughts, my ideas and formulate my proposals. Whenever, I walked through a city and in buildings, I was always compelled to think of all sorts of inspiring ideas.

3. Best city

A city you have to understand, experience and live through completely so you can out it on top of your list. The best city is the the city you've decided to live in and to settle down. In my case Amsterdam. The city may not be spectacular or metropolitan, but its size, variety and social life makes it urban. It is a unique, wonderful and magical city with an impressive waterfront at the IJ. Living is Amsterdam is quite relaxed and comfortable. I also have a soft spot for London for its variety, Berlin for its (former) international atmosphere, Vienna for its culture and 'style' and Turin for its atmosphere.

4. Most beautiful building

My favorite building abroad at the moment is a classical one: the building of the former Postsparkasse in Vienna designed by developer-architect Otto Wagner in 1902. A surprising, yet still refreshing, sophisticated and very elegant building.

5. Most beautiful park or square

The best square, actually you can't really call it a square is the Dam Square in Amsterdam. A square that belongs to all and is for everyone. A square, for entertaining the residents of the city, where national ceremonies take place, for guests and visitors. A square with an endless story. For me the most beautiful park is Westergasfabriek park in Amsterdam West. I consider this also a public space for everyone. It is extremely varied and versatile in its uses, just around the corner, an oasis in the city.

6. Best public facility /
urban infill

The GWL area in Amsterdam West started as more or less a 'citizen initiative'. It is a good example of how you can create entirely new neighborhoods with added value for everyone. The 'open' and collective concept has worked as a pacesetter in the district. It shows that comfortable living (together), nature, culture and urban life can go hand in hand.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

The digital world is of course the greatest innovation of our times, also in architecture and urban development. It is important for doing our jobs as architects and also for the organization of the society. The digital world has more influence on how the city is used that one would initially suspect.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

This is the breakthrough of the small, cheap electric car. This makes the car a 'normal means of transport', similar to the bike, you can't be against it. Car ownership will remain high, perhaps even grow. The car will be as 'classic' as the refrigerator. It might be possible that the electric car may replace non profitable and rigid public transport.

9. About the future of cities

That is up to citizens and entrepreneurs. Institutional investors have become too vulnerable and won't take high risks in the future to lead big projects. Now the citizens and businesses have to get more involved and take more initiative to lead new urban projects. The city will be alive and vital. The interesting question is whether this 'new city' will be better.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

In my young days, I was working together with others on a number of optimistic ideas for transforming parts of the Netherlands. Those ideas showed the professionals that on the basis of actual redifinition of programs and cooperation coalitions we could redefine the Netherlands with more character, with more variety and with more grandeur. We won the Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize for Young Architects. I have helped Tilburg in different contexts and roles to come up with a more useful planning concept for the development of the Piushaven area. And I have also helped the Amsterdamse Zuidas project, at a crucial time, to consider that it was necessary to make it a mixed and complete urban area. Recently, I have shown, as part of the Architecture Biennale 'Free State of Amsterdam', the idea of 'Free City B'. I had the opportunity to demonstrate how big the potential of Amsterdam South-East is for a diverse and dynamic development based on small individual and collective commissioning.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

I do not relate with this expression. It implies an evil enemy one is allowed to resist by any means. I would rather want to redefine 'flashmob-urbanism '. This is to rapidly organize placing people in diverse places to collaborate and present good ideas and implement them wherever possible. This is not happening often enough.