Pulled along



I remember it like it was yesterday, when I went to Mostar (Bosnia) with Adriaan. There, together with his wife Fleur and others, he took a United World College under his wing. It is an international school for young, motivated people, with a focus on preparing to go to university, but maybe even more to make a difference in the future. Bringing together young, talented students from all over the world means bringing together the leaders of the future. These are also potentially the future leaders of countries that are less sympathetic to each other. The fundamental goal is peace and a cleaner and better world. A bit woolly you might think, but the schools are highly regarded, and universities welcome their students with open arms. The alumni often end up in influential positions and form close networks. If you want to make a change, you should start with the next generation!

We were in Mostar for a few days, an ancient city primarily known for its historic bridge that was destroyed in the ‘90s. The war in Europe’s back yard, during which genocide was committed and respect for heritage was hard to find, is fresh even in our minds, let alone for the people of Bosnia itself. At the time, the river that divides the city marked the battle line, with the old Islamic part on one side and the Christian part on the other.

We went there because Adriaan had asked me to design the interior of one of the student buildings. But also to see whether there were any more buildings suitable for students. We viewed the most beautiful ruins, and for each of them we immediately discussed all kinds of fantasies about how we would not only transform the buildings functionally into student accommodation, but also make them ambassadors for the city. This may sound crazy, but ever since moving into our building in Eindhoven I have realised that a building itself can represent publicity value for the company or organisation in it. I am more than happy to dream about ruins, and for me, anything is possible! There is nothing better than wandering around with someone, dreaming together!

Beneath the famously rebuilt bridge, on the banks of the river, there are ancient ruins, pretty much right on the boundary between two worlds. It is perhaps the most beautiful place in the whole city, especially when you think that students from both sides could live there together. The symbolism of the place, the city and the ideas behind the education offered there would come together in a miraculous way. This place is a dream and everything about the project breathes hope, as only the younger generation can give.

But the first building was a new-build and before my time. It stands in the city centre and does not speak to the emotions in terms of architecture. So it was a challenge to turn it into a better environment for the students. We had decided in advance that I would make a design so that the furniture could then be made on site. We wanted to do this to stimulate the local economy and also to share knowledge. We did not realise at the time that we were diving into an adventure. All the items furniture has now been delivered and most of them were made by a company in Mostar.

Mirza, the son of the chairperson of the UWC in Mostar, managed to arrange to have the floors painted, curtains made, lighting installed, the furniture was made and fitted and the things we had made had also actually arrived. The Mostar designs have been devised to be produced locally and primarily to offer the students the best possible surroundings. The latter could even be a dream come true in the second Mostar project, if we are successful in acquiring the ruins under the bridge.

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