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Ir. Gemma Koppen, architect and Dr. Tanja C. Vollmer, psychologist, are the founders of the German-Dutch research- and design office kopvol - architecture & psychology in Rotterdam. Their projects are always a crossbreeding of exact science and creative design. From the early beginning of their collaboration in 2008 Koppen and Vollmer developed a common language and methodology to make this transdisciplinarity feasible and work. Their book ‘Die Erkrankung des Raumes (Sickness of Space)- Space perception in the state of physical infirmity and its significance for architecture’ (Munich, 2011), is now considered a standard in architecture-psychology. Their design work is a consistent approach of architecture through the psychologically interpreted needs of the user of a specific facility.


One of kopvol’s main focuses is Health Care Architecture. Kopvol design, plan and survey health care facilities in whole Europe aiming to support healing and health of patients and staff through architec-ture. The development of ‘Qualitative Building Concepts’, user analysis and –workshops as well as evidence-based design are central modules of this work. Both together the two founders have more than 30years of experience in Architecture, Research and hospital practice. In 2012 they received the ’Best Practice Research by Design Award’ of the Netherlands Architecture Fund, affiliate to the Dutch Ministry of Education and Sciences, for the development of design criteria for (psycho-) oncologic polyclinics at university hospitals. In 2013 the OKE prototype (Parent-Child-Patient room), designed by kopvol for the Princess Maxima Children Oncology Centre, received an Innovation award of 8million euro from the Dutch Health Insurances. 2015 kopvol’s Qualitative Building Concept for the University Children Hospital Freiburg became part of the European tendering; a novelty in German hospital building history.


Ir., MScAAD Gemma Koppen is one of the directors of kopvol. The understanding of buildings as living constructions that interact with its users and the emphatic approach is the essence in the work of Gemma Koppen. Her exploring nature in contact with clients and users define the design process and have lead to internationally renowned and innovative results. This is as visible In large-scale projects such as the ‘Temporary International Criminal Court’ in The Hague (2002-2006) – a building between the priorities of victims, accused, perpetrators and justice - as in the smallest spaces like the ‘Anti-Waiting-Room’, an evidence-based design for the University Children’s Hospital Freiburg (2014). Before starting her business in 2008 in Rotterdam Gemma Koppen gathered international work- and teaching experience in renowned architecture offices such as Neutelings-Riedijk, Rotterdam, Asymptote New York City, Nox Rotterdam, Foster & Partners London and Herzog & de Meuron Basel and at universities such as Columbia University, New York City (1997-2001), at the University of Kassel (2002-2003), Academy of Fine Arts Munich (2006-2007) and at the Technical University Delft (2003-2013).

Gemma Koppen graduated in Architecture at the Technical University Delft (1995) and studied Urban Design at Pratt Institute, New York City with a Fulbright Scholarship in 1993-1994. In 1997 she graduated in ‘Advanced Architectural Design’ at Columbia University, New York City.

Dr. Tanja C Vollmer is one of the two directors of kopvol. Perceptual and behavioral changes associated with physical illnesses and their impact on human values and needs, are the focus of the research and concept development of Dr. Vollmer. Tanja is cofounder of numerous psychological expertise networks, such as ‘Psycho-oncology Online’. She received international recognition for her pioneering work in the field of integrative psychology, which she started as research fellow at Harvard Medical School (2005-2006) and to date represents, among others, as lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich (2006-2007); at the University of Applied Sciences Deventer (2010-2011), at the Technical University Delft (2013-2014). Before starting her business in 2008 in Rotterdam Tanja Vollmer gathered international work- and research experience at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged; at the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences  at the Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Department for medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. From 2002 to 2006 Dr. Vollmer was head of the Psycho- Oncology Research- and Advisory Centre at the University Hospital Munich, Großhadern.

Tanja Vollmer graduated in Psychology (1998) and Biology (1994) at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen, where she obtained her PhD 1997. In 2001 she got certified as communication psychotherapist and graduated 2005 at Harvard Medical School with a Master in ‘Advanced Psycho-Oncology’.


The best way of spreading the idea that psychology is as a promising contribution to architecture is to let people experience the added value and share the experiment. In the last years many talented people gained this experience at kopvol and spread the seed of a new perspective and better understanding of human needs –  most of them already harvest the fruits of their training in great architectural projects all over the world (status 05/2015).


kopvol seeds_employees
2016 Simon Ewers
2015 MSc Clinical Psychology and Health Psychology, University of Zurich, CH




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