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bna cube presented to cepezed

On friday the 12th of december the BNA Cube 2008 has been presented to cepezed.

Jury report on the BNA Kubus Prize 2008

The assignment to the jury of the BNA Kubus 2008 was as clear as it was challenging: the recommendation for ‘an oeuvre award for an architect who is of exceptional significance to Dutch architecture due to his or her excellent proficiencies, as indicated by his or her realized work’.

As is always the case with prizes of any magnitude, this assignment led to almost existential jury discussions on the nature and range of our profession. After all, what is architecture exactly, and when is someone an architect? Is there an ‘Out There’, beyond the construction and beyond the planning where there can still be a mention of ‘architecture’? Such issues were the theme of a complete International Architecture Biennial this autumn, so a jury is not going to resolve them in merely a couple of meetings. And, if this kind of architecture does exist, how is it related to something like proficiency or expertise? What does that mean, precisely, ‘architectonic expertise’? Is it something to do with design intelligence, or perhaps with construction intelligence?

Or with both? In that context, what should we understand by the term ‘realized work’. Is that a completed design, since that is the literal blueprint in which the expertise is embedded – if everything has gone right? Or does it also concern the capacity to guide this type of blueprint through the increasingly complex body of regulations, negotiations and construction-site logistics, a combination of design and construction intelligence? What should we understand under the heading ‘Dutch Architecture’? Does that mean ‘Built in the Netherlands’? By Dutch architects? Advancing internationalization has meant that this has become an untenable position. And to place everything in an even more challenging light, it is not about a person or a project that incidentally rises above the rest. No, this time it is about an oeuvre, about the skilled and consistent production of architectonic quality over a lengthy period – on a broad scale, yet with depth and meaning.
You wonder how all those juries in the past ever dared to recommend a candidate.

Nevertheless, despite or perhaps even due to the occurrence of all these existential questions, this jury found the task less troublesome than initially envisaged. When all is said and done, the Netherlands may count itself fortunate to have so many architects who have built up a consistent and fully-fledged oeuvre. The jury mentioned these architects and their work in the preliminary reviews, and weighed them up carefully. A number of them will undoubtedly be honoured in the future. But not this time, unfortunately, as there can be only one winner of the BNA Kubus 2008. The jury is wholly convinced and unanimously of the opinion that the honour ought to be conferred upon cepezed.

In the thirty-five years that the office has existed, cepezed has amassed an impressive oeuvre. It is an oeuvre that not only consists of the technologically high-quality new construction by means of which the company acquired a solid reputation, but also comprises striking feats of urban planning, reuse, and even restoration, both in the Netherlands and – remarkably frequently – also abroad. It is a recognizable and consistent oeuvre, with breadth and depth, displaying great expertise. It has been of significance to Dutch architecture for several reasons. cepezed is not an office that invents new architecture every Monday morning or breathlessly chases the latest trends. The firm began with an outspoken attitude on the part of the founders Michiel Cohen and Jan Pesman with regard to architecture and the professionalism and responsibilities of the architect. The office has maintained this attitude down through the years, even with the advent of fresh blood in the form of new partner Ronald Schleurholts, and with the establishment of the affiliated companies Bouwteam General Contractors and cepezed systems.

This attitude probably best corresponds to that of the traditional master-builder: someone who wishes to have a mastery of the profession across its entire breadth, and who wishes to control the process all the way from the commission to the completion, who does not passively accept everything the consultants say, but often comes up with his own construction or climate-control solutions; someone who personally assumes building control if necessary. In short, cepezed is a generalist who does not allow himself to be marginalized into an aesthetic advisor. It is because of this attitude alone that cepezed can be mentioned as a shining and inspiring example in present-day construction culture in which complaints about the lost status of the architect are gradually deafening observers. If this position is already lost, cepezed shows that this loss is not self-evident. With solid professional knowledge, design intelligence and nerve, there is still a world out there to be conquered.

cepezed excels on a construction-technical plane. The pleasure of creation is unmistakable. In that respect, too, cepezed again follows an old tradition – that of the ingenious madcap engineer – or, in today’s language, cepezed is a technologically innovative office par excellence. It has pioneered in new techniques. It has personally developed a number of construction components, and advanced these further in a series of projects. It is no secret that cepezed is a great proponent of industrialization in the building world. In that field, the office has played a leading role in the Netherlands. For instance, cepezed was an initiator of Booosting, the association for innovation in the building world, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. cepezed has also played a principal role in the field of sustainable architecture, particularly with regard to the reduction of material and waste in the construction process, and the quest for natural ventilation in a ‘building without installations’. But is would not be correct to qualify cepezed as being merely technologically competent. The supple, trouble-free integration of technology in architecture is especially characteristic of its oeuvre. Technology is always the means, but architecture is the end. That is why, to cepezed, there is no ‘architecture beyond building’. The act of design and building and the resulting architecture are united and indivisible.

It is primarily the architectonic quality of cepezed’s work that is inducing increasing admiration. This architecture can probably best be typified by the efficiency-adage of Buckminster Fuller: ‘Doing more with less’. Limitation is the key word. Limitation in material: cepezed prefers to work with steel and glass. Limitation in finishing and details: cepezed is eager to omit all superfluities, something that is only possible with great technical skill and knowledge of material. Limitation in installations: cepezed prefers a building to breathe by itself, to cool and heat itself; and if channels or ducts are necessary, they are built into the construction components. And above all, there ought to be limitation in spatial complexity: cepezed frequently translates a complicated programme into a simple, transparent and orderly spatial configuration. This restriction in material, detailing, installations and spatial order has been one of the principal reasons why the architecture of cepezed has been able to evolve and become stronger in the course of time. A certain mastership has been achieved in the limitation manifest in the most recent buildings, reaching much further than Rietveld’s ‘wealth of simplicity’. Perhaps it would be better to speak of a ‘magic of limitation’. For the rarity of the spaces, the splendid light, the mastery of reflection and transparency are truly magical. And all this is realized without having to make concessions to comfort or functionality. cepezed is responsible for an admirable, poetic oeuvre, as modern as it is timeless, as simple as it is spectacular.
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