The young Rotterdam-based firm Kempe Thill has found architecture's antidote to globalization: "specific neutrality." "Most architecture is banal, gray, mass production, while at the same time the world is shouting for the unique, the special, the iconic," says Oliver Thill in the firm's office in the Van Nelle factory, itself an icon of 1920s industrial Modernism. "Architecture has let itself be seduced into producing pretty pictures for the media. 'Specific neutrality' sounds like a paradox, but we want to show that there is an architecture that can be a synthesis that expresses the hidden vitality of our time."
Oliver Thill and André Kempe come from Dresden, where they met during their studies in the early 1990s. They worked in Japan and France and then settled in the Netherlands, where they started their own firm in 2000. Although the architectural climate in the Netherlands has since grown more conservative, their work has drawn attention, and in 2005 they were awarded the prestigious Dutch Maaskant Prize for young architects. Their core business is housing in Holland, but they also have projects in Belgium, Germany, and Austria.