Dutch architect Rein Jansma dies

Rein Jansma passed away at the age of 63. The Dutch architect, co-founder of Zwarts & Jansma Architects (ZJA), died on April 17, 2023. He was an architect “curious and inquisitive“, who approached “architectural issues“with the approach”of an inventor“, wrote his agency on his site. He found “his inspiration in technical innovation, conversations with as many people as possible and experimentation with materials“. Rein Jansma notably conducted research on wood, steel, fabric and clay, and was curious about the work of shipbuilders, space travel designers, artists and the discoveries of biologists. “He applied this mentality to all the projects he was involved in.

A life made of inventions

Born in 1959, Rein Jansma was the son of a visual artist and a mathematician. He studied architecture for a time at the Dutch university Delft University of Technology but did not complete his course. In the 1980s, he worked as both an artist and a designer. The small foldable sculptures that he likes to cut out of cardboard lead him to create a series of pop-ups representing different staircases. His creations are published in the book “Stairs”, which is a great success. Subsequently, Rein Jansma was invited to design and build, using stairs and movable ladders, the set for the opera The Photographer by Philip Glass, which was to premiere at the Holland Festival. He then created the decor for a theatrical production in Paris.

Wilhelminaplein metro station Rotterdam JZA
Wilhelminaplein metro station, Rotterdam. © Rob’t Hart

In 1988, his friend Moshe Zwarts asked him for help in making a large model for Shell’s modular service station design competition. The two men add shelters for the Hague tram company. Their modular and flexible system made for more than a thousand tram stops won them the Berlage prize a year later. In 1989, they were invited to participate in a competition for the design of the Dutch pavilion at the Seville International Exhibition. The building will be delivered the year of the event, in 1992.

Meanwhile, Rein Jansma and Moshe Zwarts founded the architecture firm JZA in Amsterdam. The latter mainly designs public buildings and infrastructure, such as football stadiums, stations, bridges and tunnels, in the Netherlands and internationally. For example, he designed the Wilhelminaplein metro station in Rotterdam or the renovation of the De Kuip stadium in the same city. Today, the agency has around fifty employees from around fifteen countries.

Beatrixlaan Rotterdam ZJA
Beatrixlaan metro station in Rotterdam. © Rob’t Hart

JZA has lost an inspiration, a warm and generous mentor to many young architects, and living proof that architectural design is rooted in curiosity, play, math, material knowledge and wonder.“, said the agency.

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