Luuc Sonke: ‘Buildings are still designed with predetermined functions’

Architect Luuc Sonke received a Talent Development Grant from the Creative Industries Fund NL in 2021. He conducts research into flexible use of our living space, in line with our increasingly fluid way of life.

Talent Platform – Luuc Sonke

blurring boundaries

‘I am searching for an answer to what I consider the spatial issue of the 21st century,’ says architect Luuc Sonke. And that is: how can we design spaces that challenge users to use them in a more flexible way, analogous to contemporary life? Life has become more and more ‘fluid’ as a result of ongoing digitalization. Boundaries between the public and private, between work and leisure, are blurring. Zoom brings the outside world into the home, the kitchen table becomes a desk. And at the same time, people sit with laptops in a café where they used to go to meet their friends and intimate conversations are held without embarrassment on buses and trains.

predefined functions

While the world is increasingly escaping from the fixed structures of work, church and relationships, the physical context however is lagging behind. Society is much more flexible than the architecture with which we surround ourselves. Sonke investigates this discrepancy and seeks to close the gap. ‘Buildings are still designed with predetermined functions. Okay, we have open kitchens nowadays, but architects still draw bedrooms and a living room in a floor plan. Do we still need those definitions?’

flexible living space

His research is an extension of his graduation project at the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam. It is called Liquid Life, after a book by sociologist Zygmunt Baumann concerning how life constantly changes. Sonke visited fifteen households to map out how users deal with their private space. He interviewed residents, drew floor plans, noted his observations, using this as a basis to create new models. These models play with a ‘free format’; you don’t know exactly where one space ends and another begins, their function is not yet determined. Instead of walls with doors, pony walls and height differences in the ceiling and floor, challenge users to embrace a more flexible approach.

research progress

Over the past year, Sonke has added more and more layers to his research. For example, he now makes 3D scans of indoor and outdoor locations to experiment with. Pieces of our living space that he separates from their context by removing them in the virtual world. A kind of diorama that he makes intuitively which gradually acquires a place in the research. ‘I use a 3D scanner to design a carpet with the textures and colors of a public place, yet another way of bringing the public domain into the private sphere.’ Notable finds during the process are documented on Sonke’s website. Here you won't find a portfolio as you might expect on an architect’s site, but a record of a voyage of discovery through liquid space.

Text: Willemijn de Jonge