Maaskant Prize for Young Architects awarded to Nanne de Ru of Powerhouse Company

Nanne de Ru
© Milan Vermeulen

The Dutch architect Nanne de Ru (b. 1976) has been awarded the Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize for Young Architects 2011. ‘The jury is very impressed with his rich and balanced design production, which is based on a broad sense of architectural understanding. He proves to be able to combine this broad professional view with an explicit, compelling and expressive design power in the different areas where he operates. De Ru has found a for his age incredible balance between both having a wide perspective and a precise focus. This makes him an example and inspiration for his contemporaries.’

Nanne de Ru is, together with Charles Bessard, founder and partner of Powerhouse Company, which operates in the fields of architecture, urbanism and research. In the first place he is a designer of a wide range of assignments – from furniture, interiors, villas, houses, offices and public buildings to urban projects – but he is also involved with research projects, he publishes frequently and lectures and teaches on a regular basis both at home and abroad.

At the base of his design and his design related work lays a strong belief in and a firm grasp of the architectural design profession/expertise. This skill is rooted in the rich tradition of architecture. The jury finds it admirable that, at his young age, he already appears to be able to bridge two, in the current professional debate, often incompatible views on architecture: one is the renewed focus on craftsmanship and the other a more theoretical and conceptual approach of architecture.

Villa 1 / by Powerhouse Company
© Bas Princen

The maturity of the design skill of De Ru is clearly reflected in Villa 1, one of his first realized buildings. Impressive beauty and spatial richness have made Villa 1 an instant classic upon completion. Also the other designs of De Ru – some of which are currently under construction – and his research activities reflect a mature balance between a broad spectrum and an in-depth focus. His research activities often focus on the conditions that architecture and urbanism are facing today. De Ru’s provocative stance is that an understanding in, a consciousness of, and a sober relationship to current social conditions, prove vital requirements to the positioning and development of the designing professional.

Villa 1 / by Powerhouse Company
© Bas Princen

In 2002 Nanne de Ru received his Master of Excellence in Architecture at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. Before that he worked at One Architecture and after, from 2002 to 2004, as a researcher and designer for AMO/OMA, the office of Rem Koolhaas. In 2005 he founded, together with Charles Bessard (France, b. 1970), Powerhouse Company, a design agency with offices in Rotterdam and Copenhagen. By now, Powerhouse Company has evolved into a bi-polar office of Working Apart Together. The office won the 2008 AM/NAI-prize and Dutch Design Award for Villa 1 and, in 2009, the ‘Europe 40 Under 40 – Award for Best Emerging Young Architects and Designers’.

The ‘young’ Maaskant Prize, consisting of a monetary award of 5,000 Euros and a communicative expression, is intended to encourage architects, landscape designers or urban planners under 35, and is awarded biennially since 1985 on the recommendation of an independent, specially assembled jury. This time the jury consisted of: Anna Vos (architect-director of Anna Vos Concepts for Urban Change), Don Murphy (architect and founding partner of VMX Architects) and Chris van Langen (Director of the Rotterdam Academy for Architecture). Previous winners include Julien de Smedt, Bureau Zus, Adriaan Geuze (West 8), Liesbeth van der Pol (currently chief government architect) and architectural office Mecanoo.

Nanne de Ru is the 14th winner of the ‘young’ Maaskant Prize and will be presented the award on Friday the 28th of October 2011 by Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, in his capacity as the chairman of the Rotterdam-Maaskant Foundation.

Villa 1 / by Powerhouse Company
© Bas Princen

There is also a ‘big’ Maaskant Prize, intended to reward the oeuvre of individuals or groups whose work has evidently and systematically contributed to the debate about architecture, landscape design or urban planning by means of publications, teaching or commissioning. The ‘big’ Prize is awarded biennially, most recently, in 2010, to Auke van der Woud, professor of Architectural and Urban History. Both prizes were instituted by and named after the Rotterdam architect Hugh Maaskant, who made a significant contribution to the reconstruction of Rotterdam after the Second World War. His designs include the Euromast, the Groot Handelsgebouw and the Rotterdam Hilton Hotel.

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