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Co-owner and architect Carlo Abdul runs it together with his partner Jasper van Rijn ENZO architecture & interior. The architectural firm has a wide range of portfolios. They develop homes, urban development plans, renovate and install complete private high-end apartments and villas, but also design social housing. In addition, Carlo and Jasper recently launched their new furniture collection ZOEN by ENZO. Who created Carlo's career?

Text: Mical Joseph
Image: ENZO Architects

What kept you busy at a young age?

“I was born in the Netherlands, but moved to Bonaire with my parents when I was five years old. My parents are from there and could not settle in the Netherlands. In my youth I was always outside. We actually lived 'outdoors': we built huts, swam often and played until late on summer evenings. We enjoyed nature.

Besides being outdoors, I was always drawing and discovered at the age of about 12 that I wanted to become an architect when I grew up. My parents had a house built in the garden by someone architect. Upon completion, I had a strong opinion about the end product: I saw possibilities that others did not see. What others also didn't see was that I would go into architecture. I was often told: 'You do MAVO, you will never succeed in becoming an established architect'.

At the age of 17, I moved back to the Netherlands where I did MBO Architecture, then HTS and then Delft University of Technology. I met my current partner at the HTS Jasper van Rijn know, we chose the same major: Architecture. Jasper's father had a small architecture firm and after high school I worked with Jasper at the office. So I learned a number of tricks of the trade there.

Just on a side note: do you miss the outdoor life like you had on Bonaire?

“Yes, I definitely miss that. I go to Bonaire with my children once every two years to show them where I lived as a young boy. Every time I return I see how beautiful and special the island is. It is completely different from the Netherlands, here we live to work. On Bonaire it is the other way around: there you work to live, but at a slower pace. The residents live much more in the here and now! That said, I love the 'European system' and the Netherlands.”

Carlo Abdul with his partner Jasper van Rijn

But how did you end up in your current job?

“As I indicated, I worked with Jasper at his father's house. In 2000, his father bought a former grain silo and he asked us if we wanted to design it. Of course we said 'yes' to this request! Jasper and I did everything from A to Z ourselves: from applying for permits from the municipality and checking zoning procedures to contacting the contractor and making budgets. Three years later, construction and our graduation started.

After construction, we decided together with Jasper's father that we would move into the company together as a duo. In 2008, ENZO architecture & interior, our own architectural firm, was founded. We are changing the name (formerly Van Rijn Architecten), the look and feel and put our own spin on everything.

We grew and grew, even during the crisis in 2008, orders continued to flow in. The agency started with seven employees, which I prefer to call colleagues, and now the team consists of seventeen colleagues. Also we have KISS by ENZO set up: our own furniture collection.”

Who was your wheelbarrow?

“Jasper's father was a mentor to me during the early years. He taught me the ins and outs of the agency. Jasper is the business genius and I am the creative brain. He knows what I can do and the same applies the other way around, so we complement each other well. In fact, the entire team is a wheelbarrow for each other, where we keep raising the bar and attach great importance to authenticity and quality.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“Design is my great passion, and I have an opinion about interior design, furniture and art (I also make some art every now and then). For example, our furniture collection started out of a passion and missing certain designs in the industry.

When renovating a house in Amstelveen, I was looking for a sideboard, but I couldn't find the design I had in mind anywhere. From that fact we produced our own sideboard. After having manufactured a number of furniture, we set up the ZOEN by ENZO collection. An authentic line where you can really see the passion.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“Jasper and I had to experience the feeling of doing things and doing things together ourselves, so this was a learning experience. We didn't take a course or anything like that, we just went for it. We also conduct performance reviews together with our colleagues. We don't want a manager involved, that just doesn't work, in our opinion. So we don't actually have the 'boss' principle. I don't want anyone in the company to call me their "boss." I'm just a colleague.”

What do you learn during the current corona period?

“Why are we so stressed about everything? Everything must always be completed quickly and before the deadline. The current period makes me wonder why we make things so difficult for each other and last year gave me many moments of reflection.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“Always go for your dreams and ambitions and if someone says you can't do it, work twice as hard and believe in yourself.”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“I try to be a mentor to my children, friends, colleagues and interns, but the same applies the other way around. We learn from each other every day.”