THOUGHTFUL, TIMELESS, SUSTAINABLE DESIGN.
Atelier Umbra is a young architecture and interior design office based in the Netherlands and founded by registered architect Laura Minca, formally trained in Architecture, Urbanism and Fine Arts in the UK, Cuba, and China.
The practice is mixes an international outlook with a strong sense of place. The design direction focuses on environmentally mindful practices and emphasizes values such as functionality, accessibility, and aesthetics while expanding the focus to include human and ecological well-being.
"Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry." - Leonard Koren
A central focus to our design approach is finding the right balance between natural light and shadow as a quintessential tool in creating unique, restful spaces full of ambiance and character. This perspective offers a pleasant counterpoint in today’s architecture that strives for dynamic and bright icons and stems from the idea that it is in the hands of the architect to evoke silence, secret or drama through the thoughtful, sensitive use of light or shadow.
Natural shadows cast by natural light create a space with a dynamic, ever-changing appearance as the shadow slides across the room and the sun moves, giving life to the space. For instance, openings along a long corridor create patches of light and shadow and break up the monotony of a long walk. Elements such as sunshades, jaalis, screens or louvres cast shadows which give depth and dimension to the surfaces they meet. Similarly, balancing out direct and indirect sources of light help define different areas within the same space. We feel the phenomenology of light and shadows is therefore an important aspect of carving out the feeling of a space, inseparable from our design aesthetic.
It is often that the idea of minimalism is confused with cold, polished, seamless and smooth surfaces and our intention is to bring back its relationship with the earthy, imperfect and variegated. Our overall design approach is therefore inspired by the moment the geometric and organic organization of the form meet, by the physical joint where the sharp, precise and definite edge meets the soft, vague, and imperfect shape. The result is a structured, function-focused space, filled with warmth, natural textures, and character.
It is our goal to not only outline a design direction but also propose a way of life focused on the appreciation of the minor, humble details in our surroundings while cultivating an appreciation for the beauty of the unconventional, for the overlooked aspects of nature. Although our palette may look simple, the focus we give to the quality of architectural detailing is outstanding. Our mantra is simplicity as a basis for a new, pure beauty.
There is no secret our worlds have become exhausting. Every day we are bombarded with visual and acoustic clutter that ends up forming the background across which our daily lives unfold. Embarking on the journey of designing or refurbishing our homes can turn into an overwhelming process, with endless options to choose from in terms of finishes and interior furnishings.
Our formula is simple - we thoughtfully create designs that act as a custom-made canvas to your routine and daily needs. There is no doubt clutter and objects will always be there, but our design strategy aims to improve your every day life by incorporating generous amounts of storage space, easy to maintain surfaces, carefully chosen objects and durable, yet flexible furnishing options.
All the principles described above that form the ethos of our aesthetic ideology are linked together by the idea of sustainability. From our selection of materials in terms of sourcing and manufacturing techniques all the way to minimizing wasteful construction practices and discouraging the ‘fast-fashion’ approach to interior architecture and styling, we are committed to a ‘healthier’ approach to living.
Architects and interior designers alike have a tremendous impact on the sustainability of an environment because they are the ones deciding which materials and products will be used and how people will be able to interact with their surrounding spaces. By incorporating sustainable strategies into the design of the buildings, the interior decor, and the furniture, the gap between awareness and action becomes smaller and so the progress towards a more holistic approach and mindful behavior becomes more attainable.
Laura initially studied Fine Arts and IT before pursuing her passion for architecture at university. She began her Bachelor of Arts studies in the UK at Manchester School of Architecture (MSA), where she also completed two Masters in Architecture and Urbanism, followed by her Diploma studies at the University of Westminster in London, all with Distinction awards.
At the MSA, her passion for architecture and design has come to take different forms and scales, ranging from film-making and set design studies to exploring the relationship between deconstructivism and the effects of politically-driven urban scenarios. She has a focus on community-focused projects and has invested two years of academic research into the study of nomadic architecture and the new living typologies such a phenomenon can trigger. She was the recipient of the RIBA Boyd Auger Scholarship which allowed her to implement the theories she developed on nomadic living.
After gathering a cumulated experience of over six years working across award-winning practices based in Ouddorp, Rotterdam and London - including Van Kooten Architectuur, MVRDV, ESA Capita, dMFK Architects and Fletcher Priest Architects - Laura founded Atelier Umbra, a testbed for creative thought, bringing together the theoretical and practical design knowledge she has gathered throughout her career.
She is a member of the Architects Registration Board UK and the Bureau Architectenregister Nederland.
Registration no. (NL) 1.180301.005 | Registration no. (UK) 087691G