Should more graphic designers design buildings?

Fresh from designing their own building in Amsterdam, Thonik’s Nikki Gonnissen and Thomas Widdershoven discuss what sets graphic designers apart from architects and what that could mean for a more collaborative future

“It’s a big step from graphic design to architecture, but it’s only a step,” says Thomas Widdershoven, co-founder of Dutch studio Thonik, which has just moved into a self-designed studio on Amsterdam’s Wibautstraat. “You can imagine that with all the experience we have in graphic design it wasn’t such a huge step to design a building, but we do it a bit different to architects.”

The building in question – which is wrapped entirely in black-and-white stripes – was 12 years in the making, and posed several design and legislative challenges along the way. According to Widdershoven, it’s rare that design studios in Amsterdam own their studio buildings, which meant it was hard for them to find a suitable space to buy. Instead, they managed to get their hands on an awkward plot of land owned by the city government, which had been rejected by the usual property developers that would build on it.

First of all, Widdershoven says the studio had to convince the authorities to let them build an extra metre outwards onto the pavement, to claim some extra space for the building. Luckily, because the road’s located on a former railway track, many of the other nearby buildings aren’t entirely lined up either, so they had a persuasive argument.

Then they started the design process, working closely with MMX Architects so they had an experienced partner to share ideas with, and make sure their design was possible.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes