Prudent De Wispelaere
April 21, 2017
Vittorio Simoni
April 21, 2017

Julien De Smedt

Julien De Smedt
JDS Architects, Brussels – Copenhagen – Shanghai

Very familiar with the city in general, the Franco-Belgian architect integrates the vegetation in the urban landscape by constructing environment friendly and efficient buildings. Places to live in, with culture and social space.

Right from the beginning, Julien De Smedt (1975) has shown his interest for the city. Passionate about skateboard, he strides across Brussels during his youth, to be closer to the urban atmosphere. He first studied in Brussels (Saint Luc Architecture Institute, La Cambre Architecture Institute, High School Sint-Lukas) then in Paris (Paris-Belleville Architecture school) and finally in London (Barlett School of Architecture) after a one year training period at OMA’s office in Rotterdam and an exchange at SciArc in Los Angeles. Freshly graduated in 2000, he returns to Rem Koolhass’s office and meets the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. At the beginning of 2001, the two young architects decide to work together in order to develop an architectural practice that turns intense research and analysis of practical as well as theoretical issues. Their office called PLOT was noticed for its innovating projects: the famous V&M Houses buildings, situated in the south Copenhagen Orestad district, offering a great variety of types of housing. Far from being classical, the construction volumes propose a maximum of light and clear views for all the apartments.

In 2006, Julien DeSmedt and Bjarke Ingels decide to separate their activities. Julien De Smedt creates JDS Architects, his own office in Copenhagen and rapidly finds a “springboard” to fame by winning the international competition for the Holmenkollen Skijump in Oslo. Inaugurated in 2011 during the World Championships, this technical exploit becomes a real attraction in Norway. In 2008, JDS opens up an office in Brussels whilst continuing his activities in Denmark.

Always favouring an efficient architecture, the architect designs the project ICEBERG in Aarhus (Denmark), winner – among other things – of a Cannes MIPIM Prize in 2013. This 208apartment complex established on the seafront brings a new dynamism to these worn-out industrial harbour areas. Thanks to the site’s extraordinary location, the idea was to maximize views and sunlight conditions for every single apartment and at the same time respect the in-land urban context. Instead of following the masterplan, which was dominated by closed building blocks, the Iceberg is laid out as four L-shaped wings. The volumes are cut up in peaks and valleys creating visual passages, so that even the back wing’s residents can also enjoy the view. The concept enables to adapt a great variety of housing types in the complex, the outer geometry changing upwards through the buildings.

The JDS office’s objective is to offer a real answer to the challenges of the urban world. In Seoul (in Korea three quarters of the population lives in town), the GWELL building defines a minimum expression for a maximum result with 700 apartments with 25sqm each.

Always underlining his close connection with nature, JDS works with KLAR architects on a site in Copenhagen, where there is neither life nor public activities partly because of the shade from the imposing buildings nearby. After studying the course of the shadows throughout the day and the year, the architects have rearranged two existing public squares on part of the Kalvebod port by extending them across the water and using pontoons to reach the areas with sunshine. To the south, the pier allows a flexible public space on the water with facilities to host events and festivals.

Also in Denmark (In Faaborg), the new public space Harbour Bath and Blue Base attracts visitors and invites inhabitants to swim and participate to different nautical activities. The concept is based on the creation of bathing areas in the sea. The wooden piers form ramps, stairs, and small pools for children.
In Belgium, with the timber-clad main volume, detached from the neighboring structures, the new police station of one of Antwerp’s suburbs creates a separation with the historical urban landscape. The building features a serie of long narrow windows and flexible inside spaces so that, over time, it could potentially become a residential building.

Three French projects stand out. In Paris, JDS was mandated two create two social housing buildings, being part of the masterplan of OMA/FAA/de XDGA on the boulevard Calberson Mac Donald, in Paris’s 19th arrondissement. Due to strict requirements, the mass of the building forms a T shape reflecting the maximum envelope available. The entire building is wrapped in a multilayer perforated metal cladding to play with sunlight.

In the undulating landscape of a small French commune near the Swiss border is embedded a secluded family dwelling, which blends into the hillside minimizing its visual impact. It appears as a mere bump on the steep mountainside, remaining almost completely unseen from the neighboring homes. Two largely glazed façades open up on the countryside. In Lille, a 6000sqm global interest project joins three distinctive programmes: a kindergarten, a youth hostel and offices for young entrepreneurs. Each programme is located in each point of a triangle, offering a maximum of privacy while allowing them a closeness and continuity of space, organized around a garden, like a cloister of calm in the centre of the city.

Within his ongoing projects, JDS has won a competition to complete a convention center next to the Charleroi Palais des Beaux-Arts (Belgium), which he is also renovating. This project is part of a larger initiative that intends to provide a better infrastructure for the city, with an integrated proposal for its urban location. The façade on the square’s side opens a dialogue with the site’s existing architecture.

The JDS office has also won the competition for the design of two buildings (hotel and office building) in the financial district of Hangzhou in China. The two sloping volumes offer different exterior expressions, yet guided by similar attitudes regarding sunlight, green roofs and an active ground plane, which creates a strong relation between the pair. The terraced volumes seem pixelated and rise to their highest point around an inner courtyard, whilst the building’s sleek profile provides views on the surrounding park. Another project in Hangzhou, a 15story tower, which should become the gateway for the Gongshu District and an icon for the urban transformation of the old industrial neighborhood. This tower features offices, restaurants, a post office, a terraced roof garden and a sunken passage that leads through a shopping center.

These examples of ambitious projects show a rational and pragmatic approach in close relation to the local culture. Each project is unique “humanly designed, politically engaged, financially viable and structurally realistic” in order to define an architectural expression of high quality.

1 Julien De Smedt Foto
© Frédéric Guerdin

2 Holmenkollen Skijump, Oslo, Noorwegen – 2011
Foto © Marco Boella

3 The Iceberg, Aarhus, Denemarken – 2013
In collaboration with CEBRA, SeArch and Louis Paillard
Foto © Mikkel Frost

4 Kalvebod Waves, Kopenhagen, Denemarken – 2013
Foto © Julien Lanoo

5 & 6 Harbour Bath and Blue Base, Faaborg, Denemarken – 2014
With KLAR, CREO ARKITEKTER A/S and Sloth-Møller engineers
Foto © Julien Lanoo

7 Politie bureau, Antwerpen, België – 2015
Foto © Julien Lanoo

8 Residentieel gebouw, Parijs, Frankrijk – 2014
Foto © Julien Lanoo

9 Privé woning, Bois d’Amont (Jura), Frakrijk – 2016
Foto © Julien Lanoo

10 Euralille Youth Centre, Lille, Frankrijk – 2016
Foto © Julien Lanoo

11 & 12 Conventie Centrum Charleroi, België
Foto © Julien Lanoo

13 & 14Hangzhou Gateway Tower, Hangzhou, China – 2015 JDS, CUC
Foto © JDS architects