Architects Hollwich Kushner are behind some of the tech sector’s most exciting developments embracing New York, Munich and Philadelphia. Co Founder Matthias Hollwich talks about his practice, their approach and some incredible projects!

photo c/o Jason Lindberg

Ten years ago we started Hollwich Kushner – to explore the future of Architecture and to build buildings! We were young, curious minded and relentless in our desire to explore the world around us. Over these last ten years each project we have touched has granted us the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and the effect our buildings have. Sometimes this has led to big revelations and other times more subtle lessons learned through trial and error.

We come from an entrepreneurial background. From when Marc and I first formed Hollwich Kushner to when we founded Architizer, the largest online database for Architecture, we have always looked to approach every project from the ground up to find where we can apply new thinking to create innovative results. Each project is like a new venture in and of itself, with it’s own drivers and goals and in turn it’s own performance indicators.

The University of Pennsylvania first approached us with an idea to create an innovation center, a place where students & tenants could explore entrepreneurship & innovation, on the land near their main campus. We were tasked with reimagining an old DuPont paint factory in the middle of an underused industrial area. The key to this project in our eyes was to create a place that would be an icon for the University and the nucleus of a new innovation campus – the area is now called Pennovation Works. We worked with their team to create a hub of activity that would overcome the isolated nature of the site and make this location a destination, by giving the building a purpose.

c/o Michael Moran

We know from our experiences that there are a few things that are the hallmarks of entrepreneurs and inventors, they can spend hours hunched over at desks and locked away in labs in social solitary. What we also know if that the most innovative ideas can come to us when we take a break, talk to our colleagues or when we have to present our ideas to our peers. At the Pennovation Center we wanted to use the building as a tool to facilitate these moments. We gave all the circulation space and a new purpose by adding co-working desks, so people would have impromptu conversations with passers-by. We, we added into the facade an entrepreneur bar, a pitch bleacher (where researchers could pitch ideas to peers), and meeting rooms, then expressed these spaces in a sculptural form that was recognizable from all the way across the nearby Schuylkill River. The result was that the building became active in shaping the way people worked within it. It was recently the host to the Femme Hacks hackathon and robotics startup Cosy announced their success in finding seed funding.

When we designed the WIlliamsburgh Generator for Heritage Equity and Rubenstein Partners we wanted to create a different type of office space that would engage with the social nature of startup and tech firms. We wanted to encourage the tenants to use the whole building like a campus. We took the familiar Williamsburg forms of warehouse spaces and stacked them on top of each other, then we cut off the end of the building to let in light. Then we took it a step further and punched a hole through the middle to activate an internal passage through the building, creating a campus-like space at the center. We think it’s important now when designing buildings to engage with the end user through the masterplanning of the building by developing an overall concept that is conscious of the needs of the users. Fundamental planning moves at the beginning of the design process can shape the way the building is used now and as it ages. Longevity is the key! We hope our buildings will be around for many years to come so we try to design for them to have character and agility over time.

c/o Gensler

c/o Michael Moran

Now to things up and coming: We’re super excited to be venturing overseas to my hometown, Munich! At the start of the year we won our first project for our fabulous clients here, Art-Invest & Accummulata, and in collaboration with our friends OSA and MSM we’ll be developing new types of office and hotel spaces. But what’s really intriguing about this project is the in-between spaces, we’re turning the action inside out. In between each building we’ve created laneways activated with different themes, with moments for entertainment, exercise and relaxation. Developers and employers are allowing us to find ways to explore how these buildings can now interact with their surroundings and create environments for their users that will improve their quality of user experience in and out of the office. The workplace doesn’t stop at the front door anymore!

Leave a Reply