600 E Rosedale St.
Fort Worth 76104
Matthijs Melchiors has a great idea for Southeast Fort Worth – one that’s been done before.
That the tirelessly inventive architect would repeat anything would seem unlikely, but his latest plan already is successful.
“I want to take this model, what’s worked here, to another location,” said Melchiors, whose MEL/ARCH architectural studio is one of several businesses sharing space at IDEA Works FW, a business incubator just west of Interstate 35W along East Rosedale Street.
Since opening its doors in 2014, IDEA Works FW, overseen by the city and the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center Education Foundation, has provided workspace and development programs for startup companies. Melchiors jumped at the chance to establish his architectural firm in such a communal, creatively vibrant atmosphere.
Impressed at how IDEA Works has attracted companies, including his own, to an often-overlooked part of town, the Netherlands native envisioned a similar business environment just east of the freeway.
His newly acquired property at 1201 Evans Ave. is set to house a facility for start-up entrepreneurs. Melchiors hopes to attract 20 tenants to a 7,000-square-foot building in which professionals from different industries would share more than workspace. They could share ideas and suggestions throughout the workday in a single-building facility featuring individual, climate-controlled workspaces within an otherwise open-air atmosphere with a rooftop garden.
Rather than using the latest construction materials, the facility will be built from shipping containers used to transport goods on seagoing cargo vessels. Melchiors browses Dallas fabrication yards for such containers, which range from 20 feet to 50 feet high.
“The nice thing is we can go out and tag the ones we like to reserve them. Some are more beaten up than others,” he said.
Melchiors is funding the project himself and confident that enough prospective tenants will sign up to justify his effort.
Melchiors hopes to break ground in early 2017 and occupy the building four months later.
“Building this will be a lot faster [than constructing traditional office buildings] because of the containers’ modular design. I think finishing it out should go pretty quickly,” he said.
Melchiors is no stranger to innovative design. After earning an architectural degree from the University of Houston in 2004, he moved to China to establish Houston-based STOA Architects’ Shanghai office. He oversaw everything, from project design to client relations to spending weeks at a time on the road traveling throughout China. The experience honed his creative chops and people skills.
“We were involved with mostly small-scale housing developments, urban regeneration projects. For me, that blew my mind. I experienced so much.”
Melchiors also met his fiancé and future colleague, Jie, and the couple returned to Texas to be closer to family and to raise a family far from Shanghai.
“Shanghai would not be a good place for that, so we wanted to return to Texas,” said Melchiors, who lived with his parents in Fort Worth before buying a home bearing the subterranean imprint of the underground residential trend of the ‘70s. Fusing creativity with construction materials collected from local building sites, Melchiors renovated the home, which reflects the environmentally friendly, green-sustainable design and zero-energy features that highlight his own architectural style.
“That’s something I believe in strongly,” Melchiors said, speaking of sustainable green design. “It’s not an add-on; it should be put in every project regardless.”
Still, Melchiors waits before adding environmentally friendly features to existing homes.
“I stay away from adding those at first because I like seeing how the building performs over the seasons. It’s difficult to predict that beforehand.”
His embrace of building information modeling, a 3D approach to architectural design, also sets him apart from many architects.
“A lot of people have a hard time looking at a two-dimensional print and visualizing it,” he said, explaining that 3D imaging allows clients to see a building’s thermal components, for example.
“As we’re building it, we can see if this window is oriented in this direction or if this room has the heat-load requirement. It’s a powerful tool.”
So powerful that Melchiors’ monthly utility bill for his 3,000-square-foot home in West Fort Worth averages only $70, he said. “It’s not from solar [energy] or anything like that. It’s just the way we build it, orienting the building to be as sustainable as possible.”
Diving into local architecture was the furthest thing from Melchiors’ mind when he returned to Fort Worth from China. He considered the city a temporary home until he and his wife got on their feet.
“But as we lived here, we kind of fell in love with this place, the vibrance and entrepreneurial spirit of the town.”