Jan completed his Masters degree in architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He then moved to New York where he spent several years working for some of the city’s top architectural practices on high-profile projects including a children’s wing for the Brooklyn Public Library. In 2001, he became a partner at MACH.
He has played a pivotal role in shaping our design ethos and ensuring our commitment to excellence.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Natural materials such as wood and stone. They are “unpredictable” in the design and detailing process because the appearance of wood and stone is highly dependent on where the tree grew or what quarry the stone came from. The grain pattern of the same species of wood or type of stone can vary greatly. But therein lies the great creative potential of these materials.
What role does collaboration with craftspeople play?
When you use natural materials it is very important to collaborate with good craftspeople because they possess enormous specialised knowledge in their field. When working with them, I inevitably discover new aspects of the material and what can be done with it. And that can, in turn, influence the design.
What generally distinguishes the design process at MACH?
As a student, the maxim was “form follows function”. But nowadays we are more relaxed about it. That’s because in interior design, we often encounter predetermined forms and spatial structures that first need to be given specific functions. In the design process, we look for solutions that are both refined and subtle.
What design principles are most important in your work?
As an architect who pays loving attention to details, precise and coherent detailing is a fundamental design principle for me. An important question in my work is how to join different materials and built elements in such a way that the outcome leaves a harmoniously well-balanced impression in the eye of the beholder or user. That’s why I often use a pencil and straightedge to draw details at full scale, because the proportion between material thicknesses and joints has a significant influence on the design.
What does sustainability mean to you?
The term sustainability has been on everyone’s lips for some years now – and I have a few problems with it. We live today in a wasteful world of consumption, so expectations of sustainability are often strained. In our work as architects we can try to act sustainably by using as few environmentally harmful materials as possible and, above all, by using renewable materials. We should design and style spaces in such a way that they are long-lasting and still function properly in 30 years. At a minimum, they should be adaptable enough to meet changing requirements of use and to be modified with little effort.
What building or interior has inspired you recently?
The Bucherer flagship building on Bahnhofstrasse, by Office Haratori: its sculptural marble design and detailing and its interior design exude a noble luxuriousness without being ostentatious.
Since my childhood, one of my favourite buildings has been the shop by Fritz Schwarz at Neumarkt 17. Interestingly enough, this fascinating spatial sculpture gets by almost entirely without details. Maybe it’s precisely this reduction to material, form and proportion that fascinates and inspires me.