Max Boerman took a calculated leap of faith: While fresh out of university he packed his bags and decided to jump across the pond and follow his dreams in the city that never sleeps - New York City. Having graduated with his master's in Architectural Engineering from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Max took a job at architecture and design firm Archi-Tectonics in Manhattan, New York. Exposure in an international setting and the scalability of projects gave him the opportunity to conceptualize and draw winning architectural designs across the globe.
Here, we talk about the process of learning, unlearning, working with clients, pushing the boundaries and ultimately breaking a few things along the way.
Fabrik: Hello Max, we’re happy to have you as a Hero! Would you like to share a little bit more about you in your own words?
Max Boerman: "I’m an architectural designer, graduated with a degree in Architectural Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. I have a passion for smart, innovative, sustainable and research driven design.
I have worked at Fokkema & Partners Architects in Delft, and at De Beeldenfabriek digital visualization and 3d modelling, in Rotterdam. Currently I’m at Archi-Tectonics architecture and design firm in Manhattan, New York - a very smart, forward-looking company, on the lookout for the most innovative ideas.
I have professional experience as a lead designer in large international architectural design projects, interior design, home renovations, product design, digital and parametric modelling, prefabrication techniques, prototyping, graphic design and creating digital visualizations. I have worked on multiple award submissions - I was recently named winner of the PLAN award in the category “Sport & Leisure” with the 2022 Asian Games project - as well as international exhibitions, and publications in books and magazines."
Fabrik: Your portfolio features an impressive body of work. Do you have any favorites or milestone projects?
Max Boerman: "It was an amazing experience to work on the project for the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. This is a competition our office won in 2018 and included a mile-long park, two stadiums, a shopping mall, a fitness center, visitor center, and underground parking.
I was one of the main designers on the project, so I was part of the team that worked on conceptualizing the buildings and I collaborated with some of the most talented engineers to dissect the structural systems of both stadiums. We also created a fully parametric diagrid facade for one of the stadiums together with our consultants. The project is being built right now, and it's surreal to see it come to life through photos and drone footage"
Fabrik: Have you ever had any difficulties pushing your creative and artistic approach to clients?
Max Boerman: "Most clients I’ve worked with are great. But I have had a taste of it in some ways. Architects and designers can sometimes act based on aesthetics they love or a concept they are completely convinced of. But clients can have a more practical approach to the design, because they’ll be the ones using it and they may also be afraid of the added complexity, time and cost.
Working with a smart team, and collaborating with consultants at an early stage in the process can help reduce a lot of issues and prevent you from trying to make a design actually buildable in the end."
"Clients can have a more practical approach to the design, because they’ll be the ones using it and they may also be afraid of the added complexity, time and cost."
Fabrik: Architect - Designer - Visualizer: Which one of these “hats” do you identify with most these days?
Max Boerman: "That's a very good question! All three, because what I do includes all of them and that's what I love. But if I had to choose, I would go with “designer”, just because it's more holistic. I think the term "architect" insinuates building large structures, whereas "visualizer” may imply someone bringing the ideas of a designer to life.
I resonate with all of those aspects of the job. Designer is maybe more vague or nuanced, but the truth is that I love to create things and objects, ranging from product and interior design to houses, public buildings and parks. I don’t have that much experience yet, but so far I’m just very grateful that things I have (co)designed are actually getting build."
Fabrik: How would you describe the evolution in your work from when you began until today?
Max Boerman: "I think my professional career still has a long way to go, but looking back to my days as a student to today, there has definitely been some change. Working in a firm allows room for broad collaboration in the designing process, compared to working alone as a student. But it’s also the nature of the process that has changed. Right now it’s very research driven and at Archi-Tectonics, we’re always trying to innovate and to avoid getting influenced by great references out there; something that did occur to me as a student - and to a lot of students for that matter.
Also I am not afraid to design something ugly. This is an evergreen principal. A lot of times, while working on very rough first ideas, designers want to achieve immediate appeal. But this doesn’t have to be the case and can sometimes stand in the way of unexpected new ideas, which still end up being beautiful."
"Designers want to achieve immediate appeal. But this doesn’t have to be the case and can sometimes stand in the way of unexpected new ideas, which still end up being beautiful.”
Fabrik: What is the most unexpected skill you bring to your job?
Max Boerman: "Not sure about the skill, but I learned about myself that I actually like working with clients, and creating something that they love. I am the lead on a design project of a residence in Queens in New York where the clients are amazing to work with and it’s very fulfilling collaborating closely together and helping them realize their dream. I must say, I’m very lucky, because they’re the sweetest people you can imagine."
Fabrik: Is there any piece of work, be it a film, a song, a painting, that has left you with a lasting impression or any mentors you have encountered throughout the span of your career? Or any work you admire, but it’s not yours?
Max Boerman: "There’s so much. I love futuristic movies, such as Blade Runner 2049, that constructs this fantastic Utopian world in incredible detail. The visuals are simply amazing. As an architect, a designer and a visualizer, it checks all the boxes. I find it fascinating to experience the visions of different artists, discover how they think the world will look like in the future as well as how social events influence the built environment.
I think architecture and society are closely related. Global incidents shape structures. Look at how global warming forces architects to design different types of buildings, but also COVID-19; will cities, offices, restaurants and spaces in general change because of this pandemic?
As far as mentors are concerned, Winka Dubbeldam, the principal in our firm has shared with me an incredible amount of knowledge, for which I’m very grateful. It doesn’t occur everyday to get an offer to work at such an incredible firm, rubbing shoulders with such a talented and accomplished architect and designer, while still being fresh out of school. Winka looks at the car industry for inspiration, because it has evolved in such a smart way, with so many products coming together in different layers, and all designed using technology and even robots. She’s innovation-driven and she has a remarkable knowledge of the history and evolution of our craft. Truly inspiring."
"Look at how global warming forces architects to design different types of buildings, but also COVID-19; will cities, offices, restaurants and spaces in general change because of this pandemic?"
Fabrik: Can you tell us about what you’re working on right now and would like to share with the rest of us? Any related fields in the arts that you would like to explore or you are currently delving into?
Max Boerman: "There are several projects in the pipeline at the moment. One is the residence in Queens I mentioned before, that is giving me a lot of practical knowledge of working closely with clients, with contractors, visiting the construction site, applying for permits... Another one in the works as we speak, revolves around the design and production of a meditation pod a client in Japan. Meditation is very big in the country and the other countries, especially now with COVID-19. People want a private space in their house for some “me-time”.
Unfortunately, the project is under embargo right now, as there is a patent pending. But it was a completely different scale than the one I am used to working with; it was at the level of product design. There is a lot of attention to detail from a user's experience perspective: how do you want to sit, how much space does a person require while meditating, should it be completely closed off, or does that become claustrophobic? How does one enter? And how can it be beautiful work, all while being affordable to allow production on a large scale?"
Fabrik: Any advice you’d like to impart to those entering the field?
Max Boerman: "Let me share something stemming mainly from my own experience going abroad and designing in a professional environment so far: Don’t necessarily do what’s conventional or expected from you. When graduating, I could have applied for jobs at firms in cities in The Netherlands, but I chose to go abroad and wanted nothing more than to work in New York City. This wasn’t easy because so many talented people are looking for jobs over here. Obtaining a visa was an added burden, but I went ahead and did it anyway, it paid off and has been amazing so far. It's not only about being surrounded by the culture and the people, but also the fact that design firms here have this attitude that anything is possible.
So much is happening here, so many exciting developments. One day you're designing apartments, and the next you're working on a stadium. Not sure if this would have happened while staying in the Netherlands, but it feels like working New York offers an abundance of opportunity and permission to break a few rules and place yourself firmly in the picture. This is the sort of attitude that made us win the Asian Games project. Don’t copy what’s already out there or do what’s expected, but come up with something new. Be bold and daring."
"New York offers an abundance of opportunity and permission to break a few rules and place yourself firmly in the picture.”
Fabrik: What do you like most about Fabrik? What's your favourite feature?
Max Boerman: "What made me chose Fabrik for my digital portfolio was the clean and minimalistic style, the selection of templates as well as the ease of use. I’m pretty good with digital software, but web building is not one of my skills. The fact that Fabrik offers these very simple and clear templates to showcase your work in a professional way is great; also, the technical assistance was helpful and fast."
Max is using Poplin an incredibly versatile and straightforward theme with lots of layout options to help you to find a unique style for your website.