Designing and thinking differently | Jan Pesman

Cepezed does not only consist of designers, but also of developers and people who coordinate the construction. Nevertheless, we remain an architectural firm above all else. Like all other architects, we create spatial designs for people and their activities. The biggest difference between us and other agencies is that we focus entirely on prefabricated construction. As much as possible, we design in such a way that building components come straight from the factory to the construction site and are immediately dry-assembled there.

This requires a different way of designing and therefore a different way of thinking. When you come up with solutions, you should immediately think about which materials you want to use for them. About how you want to connect these and about how exactly all the different parts will eventually interlock on the construction site.

Thus, designing also consists of thinking about the actions that are required on the construction site. And about the order in which they need to take place. All specialists and suppliers should preferably be able to do their work independently of all others, in one uninterrupted flow. This results in higher quality and that is what you want.

Someone may suggest that you force yourself into a straightjacket with this way of designing. And that you limit your artistic freedom enormously. If you are used to designing in complete freedom of form and then materializing your plan with all kinds of hybrid solutions… then so be it. But we do not experience prefabricated construction as a limitation at all. We simply look for the most appropriate "construction kit" for each project. We also rely on lessons learned in previous projects. We often reuse successful solutions in subsequent plans, in which they also often further evolve.

Many architects start their buildings with a beautiful appearance. The inner world is a consequence hereof and often somewhat of a side issue. cepezed starts the other way around, with a structure that suits the use and a grid size that suits the function. The façade design comes about only last, as a skin around the rest of the specifications.

Based on the program, the requirements and the ambitions of the client, we first determine the rules for the main structure. The resulting structure often surprises us with possibilities we had not thought of in advance. In such cases, t may just be that the building, so to speak, "starts to design itself".

So with the main structure, we actually design a kind of platform for possibilities. You can actually do anything with it and that is not at all limiting. For that you have to stick to your own design rules, however. Actually, the essence of design lies in drawing up those rules. Sometimes you need a few tries. But once you’ve got it, the further process mainly consists of further ordering and detailing.

A danger could be that you render the structure too generic. Because if you can do everything, you can actually not do anything. And the building also becomes bland. Therefore, always give each building something specific. You can use the location for that, for example. You can do something beautiful with a view and daylight or create rooms of different sizes with completely different experiences. In this way every building gets something completely unique.

In general, within our way of working, we opt for a main supporting structure of steel. Because steel can be dimensioned slim and slender, and so the construction can be elegant and lightweight. But just as important: steel can be produced very accurately, with tolerances of just one millimetre. So you can work with high degrees of dimensional stability. Moreover, you can also use it to create very beautiful and refined details.

The steel skeleton then serves as a framework for all other components, such as the floors and facades. With every choice of material, it is important to have a producer or production method in mind. By devising everything in advance, you can prevent improvisation on the construction site as much as possible. You therefore want to be well informed about what producers and suppliers can do and what they have to offer.

Operating in this manner, construction already largely takes place in various workshops. All parts arrive neatly finished and tailor-made at the place of final assembly. Waste is limited to some packaging material. Ultimately, this way of working brings endless possibilities; also because you can use advanced production techniques. And materials other than those normally used in construction. Research and product development broaden the possibilities even further. The method also offers the best chance of keeping high-quality construction affordable in the future, when labour on the construction site becomes more expensive. Finally, prefabricated building is also super circular. After all, you can easily demount everything again and reuse or recycle the parts.

Article written by Jan Pesman, Cepezed