Bart Akkerhuis has come a long way since leaving his role as an associate with the Paris office of Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) to found his own studio. In two short years, Studio Akkerhuis has completed a beach club, a hotel, and a theater in the Netherlands, as well as two Paris galleries. Projects under way include the transformation of a neglected Leiden, Netherlands, industrial complex, the Meelfabriek, into a vibrant mixed-use community. “I started in September 2014 without any project or client but with the idea that this was always what I wanted,” says Akkerhuis, 45, who is Dutch but has lived in Paris for more than a decade. Now a range of ongoing work has grown the one-man firm into an office of 17 young architects from 12 countries.
In the literal sense, the path to autonomy has been quite short—the studio is just several hundred yards from Piano’s, a quick walk along the Rue des Archives. The proximity has made for a friendly quid pro quo between offices. “Their model-makers help me out if I need advice,” says Akkerhuis. “We throw parties and they’ll drink the champagne.” In addition to opening up its happy hours, the office—which has embraced several Piano alums on its staff—collaborates with RPBW on some projects, including the new Paris Palais de Justice currently under construction.