Founding partner/principal architect, leading MVRDV since 1993
Architect and urban planner
Education: Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Memberships: International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Institute of Dutch Architects, Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
Jacob van Rijs (Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1964) is a co-founder and principal architect of MVRDV, an interdisciplinary studio that works at the intersection of architecture and urbanism. The award-winning Dutch practice was set up by Van Rijs alongside Winy Maas and Nathalie de Vries in 1993 and has established an international identity with a wide variety of building typologies and scales that are self-generated, innovative, experimental, and theoretical.
In his designs Van Rijs combines daring ideas and concepts with a humanistic and user-friendly approach. In the past 25 years he has lead a wide variety of projects, from cultural and civic buildings to transformations, and from residential buildings to social housing and interiors. Renowned past projects lead by Van Rijs include the Danish Rock Museum, community centre KU.BE and Frøsilo in Denmark, Matsudai Cultural Centre in Japan, Mirador social housing in Madrid, Spain and Casa Kwantes in Schiedam, the Netherlands.
Van Rijs has also worked extensively in Germany. Current projects are Werk 12 in Münich, Hamburg Innovation Port, and KoolKiel, the redevelopment of a post-industrial site in Kiel. In India he supervises several large-scale housing projects, from Future Towers to Oranje Castle. Worldwide, he has experimented with ceramic facades, which he used on Gyre in Tokyo and M-Cube in Beijing, among others. For the façade of Bulgari’s flagship store in Kuala Lumpur, he developed a special concrete and resin façade.
Van Rijs successfully led the growing MVRDV Office into a new era as the firm’s Managing Director, a role he stepped down from in November 2018 in order to spend more time on projects – currently he is working on high-rise projects such as the Modernist and the Sax, both in Rotterdam, and the Pixel in Abu Dhabi – and teaching at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, where he is Professor of Architectural Design.
“For us at MVRDV, architecture is about people. A good design is one that allows people to feel happy, to be comfortable, to achieve their goals, and to live together well. But good designs should also be brave – it’s easy to make people happy by giving them what they expect, but it’s much better to show them how unexpected ways of doing things can improve their lives in some way,” he says.
Together with co-founder Winy Maas, Van Rijs published Farmax; Excursions on Density (1997), and with Nathalie de Vries he has published the architectural monograph MVRDV Buildings (2013), about the post-occupancy and the making of the built work of MVRDV.
Besides his work for MVRDV, Van Rijs is Chairman of the Board of Archiprix International and Chairman of the Board of the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam. In the past he held positions as a Professor of Technical University Munich, and visiting professorships at the TU Delft, ETSAM University Madrid, Spain, Royal Academy of Arts Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He was also Board Member of the Dutch Trade and Investment Board.