In 1979, shortly after he graduated in Architecture & Urban Planning at Eindhoven University of Technology, Jo Coenen set up his company – at the time Jo Coenen & Co – in Eindhoven. After 10 years Coenen moved his operation to Maastricht to work on the Sphinx Céramique Masterplan. After another 10 years he opened a branch in Berlin to design the residence of the Dutch Ambassador and to work on the Gendarmenmarkt project. This was followed by other studios in Luxembourg (2002), Amsterdam (2002), Milan (2007) and finally Bern (2012). Over the past 40 years, Coenen has designed many architectural and urban development projects, of which the NAi in Rotterdam, the masterplan and library for the Céramique Centre in Maastricht and the Public Library and KNSM Island in Amsterdam are some of the best known.
Today the office – under the name of Jo Coenen Architects & Urbanists (JCAU) – draws from Jo Coenen’s impressive portfolio and extensive experience, while reinforced by a new generation joined during more recent years: Thomas Offermans (director of JCAU Studio Amsterdam), Christof Goldschmid (director of JCAU Studio Bern) and Olivier Graeven (director JCAU studio Euregio). Embracing Coenen’s philosophy and the heart of his work, Thomas and Christof take up new projects with a young and modern eagerness, thus carrying this significant cultural inheritance into the future.
Genius Loci & Zeitgeist
A leading concept within our design is an inherent respect for the ‘Genius Loci’. The theme of our projects could be defined as a search for contextual points of reference and embedment in specific locations, without having a desire to reproduce the context.
Meanwhile we carefully consider the ‘Zeitgeist’. Being aware of the fact that it is now that we design and build, we are not hesitant to give evidence of the social, technical and esthetical influences that are effective today.
To us a project is successful when ‘Genius Loci’ and Zeitgeist’ meet in fine harmony and balance in material and detail.
We start and finish every assignment with fine attention to the user and an exploration of the human scale, an exploration which is like a game of dimensions, proportions, materials and programme. Although our buildings can get large, they always serve individual and communal values in the best possible way.
Every design from JCAU is more or less explicitly derived from its surroundings and context. We see a building never as an autonomous or disconnected object, but rather as a significant part of the urban life and landscape. Like an individual, our new or refurbished building will come to terms with its neighbours.
The overall perspective of JCAU on buildings, people and cities leads naturally to a focus on urbanism and the built environment. These themes are never approached separately, because they all provide relevant rules in every design assignment. This classical orientation to a city’s streets and places, with its drama and choreography, has led to an architecture which is often referred to as ‘friendly monumentalism’.
Whether we talk about historical layers that formed and shaped cities, buildings, materials, and ultimately societies, one thing is certain: it keeps inspiring us on all scales. The historical, cultural, and technical knowledge, analytical insight, communication, and design skills but also the sensitivity required to work on the transformation of historical buildings and sites are part of our fascination for the disciplines of urban design and architecture. This includes restoration, adaptive reuse, new constructions and interior design projects, often intertwined. Whether we talk about old buildings or new designs, we are always keen on sharing core values and emotions within the studio and with our clients, inspired by history. Creating appealing, suitable, and sustainable architectural designs from the concept of the core strengths of existing heritage is not only an architectural discipline, it is also a responsibility.