Most people take a head-down approach to work. Not Annemoon Geurts and Koen Rijnbeek. Though they had created a thriving design firm in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, with Geurts as lead designer and her husband Rijnbeek as an integral part of their multidisciplinary agency, they looked up at the city around them and saw a great need. “We sensed something missing in Eindhoven, and even on a national level,” explains Geurts. “There was no venue where the public could learn about the value of design and where the impact of world-class design could be experienced throughout the year.” Following a series of popups that combined design with culinary feasts—the duo also defines themselves as “series foodies”—Kazerne was born.
AG: Our very first reaction was, “This is unbelievably good.”
KR: And bad! Because it was enormous space. And because it was not being used properly. It was just storage.
AG: The incredible thing was that it was 50 meters from where we lived.
KR: And we didn’t know about it!
AG: We passed it every day, but it was closed off from the street. It was a former garage, and when we set foot inside for the first time, we said, “What the f…!”. Here’s this giant space right in the middle of Eindhoven!
KR: It was beautiful! But what a waste. We immediately saw the potential.
AG: Yes, that was our first thought. But our second thought was, “We must find more idiots like us to help us do this.”
AG: It was a very natural process. We just listened to the building! Of course, Koen and I did quarrel about things. But that was to get things to the point where they were perfect.
KR: We only quarrel professionally, but Annemoon is always right!
AG: Yes, that is the true secret to our success. [She laughs].
KR: I began my career as a musician. I’m a drummer. So when it comes to Annemoon, I’m not the lead. I am backing her up! But seriously, we share the same dream and have the same taste. Design-wise, we both love minimalism and the combination of old and new.
AG: True, but the minimalism here feels warm and inviting and not absent and distant. And from our discussions together, our designs only get better.
AG: Our mission is to bring different styles of design to the public.
KR: If it weren’t for the design program, we never would have done the hotel.
AG: Yes, the design led us to the Members Club. [Hotel guests are welcomed into the property’s private club during their stay, allowing them to meet the local creative community.] And now we are developing a friends and loyalty program. In many ways, we feel as if we are just starting. We love coming up with ways to create new opportunities for our design community.
KR: In fact, quite a few designers who have exhibited at Kazerne have found their way onto the world scene and international galleries. It’s like we set the stage for them to shine.
AG: We are very proud that a crazy idea from two people has become a launching pad for design careers and a place where 40 people work and make a living.
KR: To be honest, the fact that we do what we do. And we do it not because we have to, but we want to. We are not doing this for the money, because if we were, we would be really stupid. We had a great design studio!
AG: And now we don’t since the hotel and its design program take 99 percent of our time.
KR: It’s an adventure.We started Kazerne to create possibilities—as much for others as for ourselves. We fought since 2007 to get things where they finally are today. It’s been two steps forward and one step back. But we wouldn’t have missed this for the world!