Mike Hermans: humour and criticism

My name is Mike Hermans, I am 38 years old and I was born and raised in Antwerp (on the left bank of the river). When I started studying architecture I knew nothing about it. I’ve started my first year in december. I came from the university of Leuven where I studied Physiotherapy. I was a sportsman (Basketball) and I liked to do some profession involving sports. The problem was that I didn’t like Leuven much so I went back to Antwerp where a few friends from high school studied architecture. So I went down there to have a look. I thought architects were people drawing technical plans behind drawing tables. I didn’t think it involved art. When I was a kid my father brought home some plastic moulds with all kinds of technical figures and some technical pencils. I kind of liked it. I drew all kinds of spaceships with it. When I first came to architecture school and I saw a plastic mold to with furniture I was sold. Besides messing with the molds I never drew before. So I thought I’d give it a go. The first year I didn’t go to many classes. I just wanted to see if I’d like it. I didn’t do any exams. I needed some time goofing around first. If you see what I’m doing now I’m still kind of goofing around. I guess I never grew out of it. I still collect plastic molds. So if you have any, please send them to me. They are hard to find.

What do you do? How is your job like?

I’m a full-time architecture cartoonist and it involves a lot of goofing around. I’ve been a cartoonist since 1997 when I graduated as an architect. That same year I started working as a cartoonist for a belgian newspaper. I also kind of wandered into that. A friend of mine came to dinner. She was dating the editor-in-chief of this newspaper. When he said they were looking for a new cartoonist, I said: “I could do that?” He said: “really?” I said: “sure!” (I have to admit I was kind of drunk and only did some doodling in school like many of us…).

Anyway: about the strip. It’s called “arch.Maaik”. It started 5 years ago when a friend of mine organized an annual indoor soccer tournament for architects’ offices in Antwerp. It then kind of grew and I started to see business in it. It’s a daily strip (american style) and it’s about the life of an architect named Archibald and the things that cross his path. I discovered that I could shape my ideas about architecture better in the strip than in real life. That’s when I started living the life of a comic-strip architect rather than a real one. And it’s great. No real stupid clients and bad contractors. (I bet you notice a lot of frustration…yep) I’ve worked as an architect for the city of Antwerp and it gave me ideas for scenario’s for the next five hundred year.

Let me warn you: if you have any (non-political) artistic ambition, N E V E R go work for a government. I predict: you will leave. So after 6 years I left and became a full-time cartoonist. Frustration is a good breeding ground for a cartoonist as long as you keep seing the positive side of it.

Anyway: you can read the daily strip at: www.archmaaik.com .

About the parts of my work:

Walking around the city, drinking chocolate milk, daydreaming, watching TV and reading for inspiration.

Drawing, sketching and the commercial stuff like meetings, sale etc… I really like the marketing aspects too.


How did you start doing this job?

See above.

Why did you study architecture?

Because my friends did and I like plastic molds. (See above)

Where your studies of architecture of any use to you? Did you apply them in your job?

My studies as an architect serve me well (and I just don’t mean the subject) : It’s a combination of creation (design), technique(drawing and analytical thinking), sales (convincing clients of your design), working with people (leading a team of creative people)… It has all the elements for being a good (humour) manager.

What's, in your oppinion, architecture? Do you feel like being an architect?

A teacher once told me: “An architect is someone who’s busy with architecture…” It’s not about a piece of paper..It’s about how you see the world. To me architecture is the material environment. It’s not about buildings. It’s the material world that we create for ourselves to live a happy live in.

Do you miss making buildings?

No… I think to be a good architect you need to be a materialist. You have to worship materials and I’m not into materials. I’m a people person. To me materials are there to use not to look at or to worship. I draw the strip to focus on the human aspects of architecture. To tell people architecture is about who we are and not about what we materially create.