The Brussels-based Studio P Architects are now an established name in both the national and international design world. With their holistic and atypical approach, they always achieve a balanced and innovative result. Follow us through their inspiring story and beautiful projects.
Studio P Architects is the brainchild of Julie Palma Engels, a very talented international architect. She obtained her Master's degree in Architecture at the University of Antwerp and won the Project2 Award (Gold Medal) in her graduation year. Julie does not shy away from any challenge and is bursting with creativity. It is thanks to those qualities that she founded Studio P Architects and made it into a great success.
It all started with a sabbatical year in 2010 in which Julie took a step back from the corporate world. She first worked at the American company SOM (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) where she designed stadiums, high-rise buildings and other large-scale projects. After she designed her sister's house, Residence O, she received more and more requests and never looked back. Studio P Architects was founded in New York in 2011 and is now based in Brussels. She puts her perseverance and love for the atypical into every project and passes it on to her team. We talked with Julie about Studio P Architects and two of her wonderful projects. We get an exclusive look at the recent project Residence VF and she guides us through her own home Residence P.
Did you always want to be an architect?
“I have always loved design, crafts and art. As a child I used to help my mom do a lot of painting and working around the house. My bedroom was rearranged every weekend and painted as often as my parents would let me.”
A holistic and atypical approach results in balanced and innovative projects.
The name Studio P comes from your middle name I presume?
“We used to live in a small penthouse in New York when I created the studio, so jokingly it was Studio Penthouse back then. But yes, P could also be for Palma or Powerful. I wanted to keep the studio anonymous from any name because I want the studio to become a brand not attached to me but attached to its essence. I love the word studio because it means that creative people are collaborating. My team is not allowed to reuse the same details over and over again. I always tell them that we have to reinvent ourselves, that architecture is like fashion: you will recognize the designer, but for each collection something else was created. I love that approach and we implement that for each project. Nothing is ever granted, we always start from scratch and that is what makes it exciting.” How would you describe your approach?
“Our designs are linked to the project and its client. We talk a lot with our clients to get to know them, understand their needs and then educate them towards an understanding of why we take which decisions. It would be interesting to give the same project to two different clients, I’m sure the final designs would be completely different.”
How did you become internationally successful as a Belgian architect and how does it feel?
“I do not know if I am internationally successful yet. There is still a lot to do before being truly successful. But to answer your question, we have been very lucky to have amazing clients that truly trust us and let us do our art. I am very grateful for the opportunities we get from our clients.” What do you find the most challenging about your job as an architect?
“The most challenging is getting the builder to understand your atypical details. Often we hear that ‘this detail’ or ‘this way of building’ is not typical. My answer to that is always: ‘Of course not, it is the Studio P way.’ As a design office we are not here to do what typically is being done. We must get out of our comfort zone. To me personally this is very important. I’m easily bored and I love the unknown. I love it when we have a challenge that succeeds and I love to pass that spirit on to the younger people working for me.”
“The most challenging is getting the builder to understand your atypical details.”
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
“That if one project doesn’t go through, there will always be another one. Never give up! The moto here is never give in, never give up. Fight if you think your idea needs to go through, teach your client and for sure, be who you are. Not everybody will like you but be proud of who you are and what you are doing.” The images you see here show you Residence P and Residence VF. Residence VF in Brussels is a recent project designed by Studio P Architects for a family. The brief was clear: the design had to be somewhat eclectic and contain arches. Also here Julie left her comfort zone because she had never done a project with such elements before. She made a compromise with the client and came up with a beautiful design in which the arches were nicely incorporated.
With her love for the unknown and the typical atypical details of Studio P, Julie also designed her own Art Deco house and architecture office Residence P in Rhode-St-Genèse. The beautiful light-flooded house dates from 1929 and is shrouded in a natural palette of colours and materials of white, beige and brown and wood, marble and brass. The house was decorated with the Art Deco style of the thirties in mind. With this, Julie took a leap into the unknown and stepped out of her comfort zone. A challenge that she gladly accepted and led to a beautiful result.
Want to discover these inspiring projects ever more? You can read the full article in Imagicasa Spring 2020. This issue came out last March, but you can still order it on our webshop or for international orders, go to Boutique Mags. Header Image: Residence P
Images © Cafeine