Séan Niermeyer is an interior architect, living and working in Hamburg, Germany.
After studying architecture in Ireland, and several experiences in architectural firms, he decided tomove to Germany, where he found an incredible working environment at Architekturbüro Ratschko.
In the past few years, he had the possibility to become the team leader on a lot of different projects, from hotels to residential buildings, following them from the early stages to the construction management.
Séan is really sensitive to details and methodical in his work, and it was a pleasure to work with him on the 3D Visualization.
Wanna know more about Séan and Architekturbüro Ratschko? Take a look at the interview below, and visit the website www.ratschko.de
Interior Architect @ Architekturbüro Ratschko
This image, realized for Architektürbuo Ratschko, shoe the project for the renovation of the entrance of an office building in Hamburg, Germany, with the realization of a new staircase.
Other than that, we can notice the amount of natural lights entering from the huge windows on the facade.
Paolo: Hey everyone, Paolo here, today I have Sean, the interior architect of Architekturbüro Ratschko in Hamburg, Germany, and we are going to see how Sean has promoted his design in print using 3D visualization. So hi Sean, can you please briefly introduce yourself and your office.
Sean: Yeah, so I’m Sean Niermeyer. I’ve been working for Kai Ratschko, Architektürburo Ratschko for four years now. I am the lead interior architect, in charge of projects.
Paolo: Okay, good. So can you tell us what are your clients and how long have you all been doing it?
Sean: Architekturbüro Ratschko has been going on for, I think, 12 or 15 years. We work in full scope from complete architecture of private building to mid-size buildings to interior projects ranging from client residences, low end to high end to penthouse projects and to hotel projects of varying sizes. So it’s a very mixed office. We kinda cover all aspects of design and architecture and through all the phases of projects from the early research and development up to construction management.
Paolo: Okay. Great. So there is something unique about you? I mean, why they choose you over another firm?
Sean: I think our speciality is kind of the ability to cover all aspects of a project to be able to go from the very early stages of research and development, all the way to delivery and onsite management, and, you know, more and more. In Germany especially the construction projects are split into phases. So you’ll have various different offices only providing the early initial design stages. And as any architect kind of knows, you obviously get to keep more control over your project the longer you stay involved. So, you know, going through planning, application processes and things like that. It’s a more holistic approach and we believe it does offer a better end result. We’re midsize small to midsize office, means you’ve got very hands on involvement of every team member on projects. We really try to push, we really try to push the designs and come up with something new every time as well. So I think it’s always the benefit of a smaller office. It’s the attention that you get and obviously, providing kind guidance along the whole process, been involved from beginning to end is just, it’s a unique enough thing these days.
Paolo: Okay. Good. So let’s see. There is a project, a particular project that you are really proud of or you think it was really good.
Sean: Yeah. We’ve had, obviously we’re proud of all of our projects for different reasons. Sometimes it’s, as far as you’ve been able to push a client or design, you know, sometimes there’s too bit too much of a kickback sometimes there’s really good hand in hand work with clients. Maybe you’re sometimes on the same wavelength sometimes, you know, commercial projects, especially you’ve got corporate or you’ve got brand identities that kinda fight you on designs. Yeah, we’re pretty proud of all of our projects. I think one of the projects I was involved on, is a hotel in Cologne. That’s visible on the website. Is a hotel project in Cologne is refurbishment of the public areas and the rooms, especially the public areas. We were heavily involved in the design and I think it was a challenging project, but the overall result speaks quite loudly for the challenges met throughout the process. So, it’s a project we’re pretty proud.
Paolo: Okay. And do you work mainly in Germany or you are more international?
Sean: Our clients are international brands and international companies. Most of our projects are based in Germany. Like I said we try to cover all aspects of construction process. So obviously managing sites abroad is not really something that architects do. You always end up working with a local architect. We built a Meininger Hotel in Budapest. But they’re kinda done in a way that they’re taken over by the general contractor. Anyway, they kinda need guidance towards the later stages of project, so. But yeah, we mainly work Germany.
Paolo: Great. Okay. So can you tell us a bit more about your role inside the office.
Sean: Yeah, I am interior architect. I’ve been working as an interior architect for 10 years now, on 11 year. And kind of become the project lead on a lot of various projects, anything from hotels to refurbishment and sanitation project. So yeah, it’s… I have quite a kind of spread out role across projects. It’s usually as a team lead though, these days, rather than actual working on the individual aspects of the project, is more of a project manager role and team lead.
Paolo: Okay. So let’s go back to the beginning, what you were doing before.
Sean: I was working in Ireland. I studied in Ireland and worked in Ireland. I worked for various different architecture firms in Dublin and gathered experience. I graduated just after the recession in Europe. So it was difficult enough to get a foot in the door, but I managed to work every year, since graduating and work kind of worked my way up from kind of very standard design and some not so glamorous designs into better roles and better jobs and better positions. So it’s been quite a journey, but very fun.
Paolo: Okay. And since you worked both in Ireland and Germany, did you see any difference in the approach to architecture between the countries?
Sean: Yeah. The, the approach to architecture is huge. I think architecture itself, as you know, is deeply rooted in the people and culture practicing. And, you know, tendering for the projects, the requests, the general appreciation for architecture among the public. It varies hugely. I can say that in Ireland, architecture was a little bit more recognized by the general public, as opposed to Germany architecture. And my understanding of my exposure to it, limited exposure I have to say, cause I’ve only been here for four years or three and a half years. Is that it’s a little bit, it’s been made very efficient. It’s been standardized a lot, construction and architecture here, and the actual designs often speak that language, they often look like they’ve been produced, they’ve been engineered, they’ve been reduced them to their most basic elements of cost. And that’s about it. Cost and function and warranty. So the approach to architecture, the general conversation within studios, it’s different as well. I’m very lucky to have found Architekturbüro Ratschko where we have very in depth discussions about design and architecture, but I can see that it’s not that common amongst the public here and especially with our clients, they’re just not as used to it.
Paolo: Okay. So I know how hard is the life of an architect and an interior designer. So, which problem do you face on your daily work?
Sean: I think in recent times, it’s very much been the need for constant involvements for clients. It’s obviously the longer you work with client, the more trust you can build, but, especially with new clients in this day and age, where information is so close to everyone’s fingertips and, the internet, clients have a very distinct view of what your profession, you know, the results, the way a project should look the way things should work. They have all this input on, sometimes, have a real requirement to be constantly brought along throughout the project. The intervals of meeting with clients and being able to work on projects are becoming shorter and shorter. And so you’re constantly producing content for meetings. Sometimes rather than actually working on the real project, which is getting something built, you know, getting something real, working functioning. And also getting input from clients at stages where it’s not necessarily needed, where questions are constantly falling about, you know, very basic design decisions, which are just industry standards for the way things are constructed. You know, they don’t need to be shared with clients, the need for involvement with the clients, which obviously is great, if it works really well, but at times it can be hindering to the process of just getting things built, you know, getting things built efficiently, quickly. And you know, we’re as architects, you fully understand as well, the idea of being able to finish a part of a project and having it, you know, resolved and bringing it to site and getting it constructed is a very clear enough process. And there’s always going to be changes along the way or difficulties or, you know, things that weren’t properly thought of that get to be resolved. But when clients are so involved in projects, they also sometimes think that they can kinda change things until the right last minute, you know, can we change that now? They don’t fully understand the knock on effect of things. They can’t because they’re not trained architects, but it becomes a balancing role is like, how do you keep your clients happy, and how do you get a project to site as quickly and as efficient as possible? You know.
Paolo: Yeah. Yeah, I understand. Absolutely. Okay, so, what kind of issues were you trying to solve using the 3d visuals?
Sean: It’s twofold. So one side has always been, since I started my kind of career, one side has always been the marketing side. You know, the client uses the material. I think the visual that you supported us with was also just a marketing visual, you know, it was a design that was not really done by us. It was very basic kind of information that needed to be just shown in three dimensions so that the client could take it, show to their landlord, get funding for it.It’s a marketing purpose and we tend to do that as well for some hotel groups that we’ve worked with a lot and the visuals end up being used for actual, you know, booking.com front and facing kind of environments. It’s very much for marketing purposes. That’s the one side of it. The other side of it is iterative design, which we don’t actually offer all that much because as you know yourself, there’s a lot of, you know, work involved in rendering and stuff like that. And there is a requirement from more and more clients though, because they’ve seen it on social media or somewhere, you know, they want constant updates of visuals to give them an idea of what the design’s going to look like, which we obviously… it kind of links back to the idea of gaining trust with a client or being able to move along. You know, like we’re not really in the profession of doing trial and error until the client likes it. That’s not really our job as architects. We’re trying to, you know, understand their brief, understand their needs and come up with a tailor made solutions for them that hopefully is unique enough, that they shouldn’t actually recognize it the first time they see it and be like, oh yeah, I’ve seen that somewhere. That’s great. Cause it should really be an original solution. And so, yeah. Unfortunately the kind of constant updated renders, it is a factor. It is a problem. We try to solve, we do it for some clients when they’re specifically asked for it. But, it’s not always the most useful tool. Inside an actual project of trying to get something built. If we’re just trying to sell a design, if we’re just trying to sell a concept, then by all means it’s the right tool. You know, if you can sit there together and you can change things on the fly and get updates really quickly, it can help a client make decisions, but at the same time, it’s not necessarily a solution to the overall idea of getting something built quickly.
Paolo: Yeah. okay. Good. Do you remember how you find me?
Sean: I think you contacted us. You had sent us a little portfolio, a little application. We get quite a few as architecture studios. We get quite a few, you know, applications for rendering studios. My boss, Kai Ratschko, he kind of saves the ones that he likes and he always has a folder of them. So, when we had this little quick render to do, we basically looked through the folder and I contacted you and two others. And your response, your manner and your offer, just the way you structured your offer, your ability to be able to, you know, deal with European VAT and stuff, and your quick response and, proper English and stuff like that was quite different to the other office we got.
Paolo: So. Okay. So yeah, I wanted to ask you why, what motivated you to give me the job?
Sean: Yeah, that was one factor. One factor is literally just, you know, I mean like the same way you do with a client, if the client doesn’t look serious, if they can’t, unfortunately, these days can’t write proper emails, can’t deal with the request. We request the quote from you, you came back to us i think within the same day or even half a day, it was all structured properly. You gave us an idea of what your workflow is, and then you sent us your portfolio and your portfolio looked really good. So we were overall as a complete package. Like we’ve gotten really good portfolios from people, but when with the communication then failed, you know, it’s not a whole package. You were the, you were the package of being, you know, you came across as trustworthy and you had the right work and you were offering a good price, so.
Paolo: Good. Okay. And what result did you see working together?
Sean: The results working with you were really positive. It was really quick turnaround, which like I made the point being able to quickly iterate on the design, getting the basic clay model over, being able to do markups that I could write by hand, scan it in, send over to you. You understood what I was trying to mean. And then basically the finished result speaks for itself. It’s a really good image. It’s a really good visual. So, the result for us was fantastic. Being able to have it nearly as if you’re sitting across the desk from us. I mean, I think it was even pre-corona when we were doing this. It was really easy, you know, it was like, it was having somebody across the desk. It was just the turnaround time was fantastic. So yeah, the result was a good image in a timely fashion for a good price. So it was really good.
Paolo: Great. Thank you. Okay. So, do you think some areas of the project improved by getting the 3D visuals?
Sean: Um, sorry. Did you say what aspects of the projects improved?
Paolo: If some aspect yeah, of the project?
Sean: Like for us, we were not that involved. It was just a design for a staircase that needed to be approved by a landlord. So it wasn’t a huge project for us. It’s hard for me to answer on this. I can see the potential for other projects where it can definitely improve. Just generally getting the mood across, you know, selling a design, you know, as well, representing lighting, a lot of what we do with interior designers or architects. We can specify materials, we can do mood boards, we can do stuff. We can even pick the lights, but until somebody’s actually rendered it in a relatively realistic manner, it’s very hard to actually, you know, sell the idea of how all of these aspects play together. So the way a project potentially would be improved would be, you know, just getting that atmosphere across that we can’t do without visual.
Paolo: What do you think would happen if you didn’t get professional 3D visuals?
Sean: We’d have to do them inhouse. We’ve always done them inhouse. I’ve done visuals for years and, it basically just doesn’t fit into our timeframe anymore. So I used to freelance as well, doing visuals for other architecture studios. In other companies there would be a lack of the ability to sell the mood that I was just describing. So the lack of ability to sell the mood of a designer of a project can be a huge issue. Also, if a client approaches you and says, I need marketing and visuals, and you can’t deliver, it’s obviously affects client and architect relationship. So it’s not a great situation to be, you know, to be in when somebody requests a visual and you can’t deliver. But for us personally, the way we’d be affected is that one of us would have to do it internally, which is what we did a lot of the time being able to not have to do it internally. It just allows us to do more design, more projects. You know, if we already have the information and we can hand it over to you and trust that you’re going to deliver something to the standard that we know that you’re capable of. It’s a huge relief because as you know yourself, sometimes working with visuals or, yeah, with renders it’s… when you’re streamlined into doing them, you know, purely every day of every week you can build habits, you can build systems the same way we do it for our projects as architects. Seeing as we only get requested to do visuals on projects every three to four months maximum, if even, I think now we haven’t had a request for a visual in over half a year. So, basically waste resources, office resources, and staff on sitting down, you know, modeling something, rendering it when somebody like you, who can act as an external consultant, who has a quick turnaround time can essentially offer better quality at a faster pace, at a good price, which can be built directly to the client as well, obviously. So, it affects us in that way. It frees us up internally to be the architects, you know?
Paolo: Great. Really good. So, okay. So at the end, Did you like my results? And did you like working together?
Sean: Yes, we enjoyed it a lot. Like the image was perfect. It was exactly what we were looking for. It was exactly what the client was looking for. And, the process of working together, like I said, it was really good. It was really well communicated. Feedback time was incredibly fast. Kind of the turnaround of making changes. I think we didn’t have too many this time, but like, it was just really good and we were very happy with the process.
Paolo: Great. Thank you. And, would you recommend me to others?
Sean: Yes. In fact I have recommended you to former colleagues in Ireland. I dunno if they ended up going for the visuals, but I did pass on your information to others.
Paolo: Yes. Great. Thank you. Do you think I’m a good fit a specific figure?
Sean: I don’t know. I mean, I’ve seen your interior visuals. They look really good. My exposure is always to interior side of projects. So you’re a good fit to that. I don’t know why you wouldn’t be a good fit to big, large scale master plan projects either. I don’t really know. From what I can tell you’re really good at transporting atmosphere of an interior visual, you were able to make a staircase look really good, you know, and it was a very boring staircase. So yeah, you’re a good fit for doing interiors and getting the atmosphere across.
Paolo: Good. Okay. So let’s go back to you. What is going on Architekturbüro Ratschko? There is, uh, something new?
Sean: Yeah. There is a lot of mixed projects. We have hotels again. We’ve got new hotels, we’ve got old hotels being refurbished. We have private projects from very small kind of domestic refurbishment to large penthouse projects. So there’s… it’s very varied. We also have some projects ranging and educational buildings and, one in a hospital, outside Hamburg but still regional, a lot of different project.
Paolo: Great. Okay. Now I would like to know what is your first advice for architects and interior designer who are changing country.
Sean: Changing country? So the biggest shock for me was that… I always worry very much about legislation and, kind construction law and, you know, the local regulations because they are very important, you know, you need to get your certification. Otherwise you’re not gonna get planning permission and Ireland, there’s a huge emphasis on universal access, which is, you know, only rightly so for everyone, and to be able to use a building. I was very worried about not knowing them in a different country. And my biggest realization was that they’re usually very similar once you move within the European union. Because there is a move towards standardizing everything, or even, you know, the building regulations in the UK and Ireland do reference German standards anyway, partially. So it’s not that important. And the other thing is for me, the having to get back up to date with German, the, you know, the architecture language. Like learning another language is one thing. But then, learning to speak architect in that language obviously is another challenge. And that’s something that here in Germany, the local chambers, the architecture chambers can really help. And beyond that, it’s more so to also realize that architecture and design, usage and appreciation are deeply linked to the culture of a place and the culture of the people who are the end user. So. I would’ve been able to come over here and would’ve been able to do a house for some Irish people perfectly well, but I couldn’t have done a house for German straight away because the value set the way society or people value something is very different and you can be critical of one style or another, but in the end, you have to kind of understand the people and the end user. And that is, you know, that can be formed through generations of culture the same way a Northern Italian client is going to have very different expectations of a Southern Italian client, you know, so.
Paolo: Yeah. okay, great. And, can you tell us where can people find more about you and more about Architekturbüro Ratschko online?
Sean: Yeah, the best place is just at www.ratschko.de it’s just our website. It’s relatively easy to find. It’s a little bit outdated, but it’ll be updated again soon.
Paolo: Really good. So thank you very much. And, bye everyone.
Sean: Bye guys.
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