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Central Bank Azerbaijan

A Non Disclosure Agreement prevented me from including this Coop Himmelb(l)au project in my portfolio. But… finally I’m allowed to share the project I worked on most during my stay at the Wolf. D. Prix founded company. It’s a skyscraper located in Baku, Azerbaijan. And this is not just any building, it’s the Central Bank of Azerbaijan headquarters.

During the course of three months, I worked on countless floor plans, exterior views, some elevations, the vault, the bank president’s office (including a private elevator) and much more.

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Chess Academy Baku


Chess Academy Baku

A Non Disclosure Agreement prevented me from including this Coop Himmelb(l)au project in my portfolio. But… finally I’m allowed to share the Chess Academy of Baku. This project is special to me, since I witnessed its inception. In his typical manner, Wolf Prix, founder of Coop Himmelb(l)au, drew something which didn’t resemble a building at all. Then, the team worked on it to turn it into a building.

I didn’t work on this project for a long time. But this project gave me my first and only all nighter at the Vienna architecture firm. We had to finish a design and presentation before 8AM (yep, in the morning) which forced me and five others to work all night long. But we finished the project in time, which was great!

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Central Bank Azerbaijan

OneMinute – Vienna, Austria

December 19, 2010. It’s the day I returned from Vienna after doing an internship at Coop Himmelb(l)au. I remember this day very well. Not because it was my last day in Vienna, but because of the flight back. Europe experienced extreme winter weather. Temperatures dropped below minus ten degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). Almost no international flights were possible from and to most European airports. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, my destination, shut down for a period of several days. Tens of thousands of passengers stranded at airports throughout Europe.

I was worried my flight would get cancelled too. At 5AM, a cab drove me to Vienna Airport. It took less than ten minutes to check in, drop off my luggage and get through customs (my personal record). Relaxed as I was (I was prepared for the worst), I made my way to the gate. It turned out my flight was one hour delayed, which made me really happy. Why? Not because it’s delayed, but because this meant my flight wasn’t cancelled!

It turned out all passengers who would use Amsterdam as a stopover were denied access to the plane. Only 16 passengers (out of a sold-out 100 seat plane) boarded the plane. Since I’m tall, I immediately asked for a seat with more legroom. “Of course”, the stewardess answered. “We have many empty seats, so you can sit at 1A”. And that’s how I ended up being in business class, together with just one other passenger. Immediately after take off, the blue business class curtain closed and all business class people (yep, thats two people) were catered by our private stewardess.

Before this day started, I prepared myself for any scenario imaginable (believe me, I have a big imagination). This included (but was not limited to); overcrowded airports, no flights at all, not being able to land in Amsterdam, spend a night at the airport, boarding the wrong flight, flying to Amsterdam via Dubai or the States, you name it, I thought of it. There was just one scenario I didn’t think of. I mean, who can imagine an almost empty airport, not having to wait in line at all, an almost private plane, business class seat and a personal stewardess. Wow, it was the best flight I ever had.

Anyway, this story is meant to introduce OneMinute number thirteen. It’s a video about Vienna, the city I lived in for several months. This video starts with a 28 seconds long shot (no, it’s not boring at all!). I attached my small Panasonic camera to my bike and filmed the exterior of the Austrian Parliament in one single take. Enjoy!

An offer you can’t refuse

Here’s the deal. You pay me 150 million euros and you receive 300 million euros back. And it’s no scam. For many all people, this would be ‘the perfect deal’. What would your answer be?

Surprisingly, many people (or companies for that matter) answer ‘no’ to this question. BMW, the German automobile company, did not. They decided to go for it!

Back in 2000, they were in need of a new corporate headquarters. After consulting several architecture companies, they picked Wolf Prix’s Coop Himmelb(l)au as architect of their choice. In 2007 their new headquarters, BMW Welt, opened for business. The building had a staggering price tag of over 150 million euros.

When I worked for Coop Himmelb(l)au, I spoke with someone who had been involved in this project. This architect told me there was quite some debate within Coop Himmelb(l)au and BMW. Is it worth erecting a building worth over 150 million euros? Can we build it for half the money? Does BMW Welt have to be this spectacular? Ultimately Wolf Prix convinced BMW to spend the money and build this ‘temple for BWM’ as he called it. The result: In the following years, BMW received free exposure and media coverage worth hundreds of millions of euros because of their new headquarters.

I’m not suggesting bigger is always better. However, sometimes, it can be worth spending a bit more money to reach your goal. Ultimately vision and courage of the client are factors that matter most. Which is even more true during times of economic hardship.



I’m Benjamin Feenstra, producer and director at Bethel. I studied architecture, which resulted in the design and development of three houses, including my own. This project, named “Benjamin One”, will be completed in 2016.


Curiosity is a word that describes me best. I believe in connecting different ideas, solutions and experiences. Within years and the help of many people, this evolved into a strong international focus. I lived, worked and studied in the Netherlands, the United States (New York City), Italy, Austria (Vienna) and England.

Architecture and design projects

One of my most exciting projects is a multi-million euro enlargement of a mega church. I was involved with this project for several years, culminating in a presentation on stage of the main auditorium. This project was one of the reasons I ended up doing internships at Rietveld Architects (New York City), De Zwarte Hond (Groningen) and Coop Himmelb(l)au (Vienna).

In 2011 a friend and I participated in the eVolo Skyscraper Competition. Out of 715 entries from 95 countries our entry, the On Demand Experience, was awarded an Honorable Mention. In retrospect, this project turned out to be the beginning of web-app, a company I co-founded. The Kiozk app only shows activities which take place now (or in the foreseeable future) at the users current location. It’s sort of the ultimate On Demand Experience, but without the architecture-part. Because of our focus on sport activities, Kiozk is supported by the Dutch Olympic Committee.

In 2015 I moved on to another project: My own house. I thought it would be great to design my own house, which is exactly what I did. In fact, the project quickly grew to three houses. I named the entire project “Benjamin One”. The project will be completed in 2016.

Director, entrepreneur, biker

My interests are diverse. I guess that’s why I also ended up as producer and director. Projects include talkshow event Bolder75 and the Dutch Global Leadership Summit. Oh, and don’t forget to check out this and this. It’s something I worked on as well.

Besides everything mentioned above, I simply love race biking, which is what I do whenever possible.