David Marquardt / Jan Fischer (Dipl. Architekten ETH SIA)
David Marquardt and Jan Fischer were both brought up in the same part of Zurich from families with strong architectural connections, they became friends at the same high school and went on to train together at the city’s Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule). Of international renown, the ETH provided a thorough grounding in theory, but placed a particular emphasis on practice. The graduate school’s rigorous, hands-on training instilled a sense of design that was bold and ambitious, yet able at the same time to meet the complex needs of the commercial world.
A varied early career took David Marquardt to Berlin, where he worked on the façade of Mercedes- Benz’s new headquarters on the Potsdammer Platz, and then back to Zurich, where two years’ experience at PH Design included detail planning for the new Grand Hyatt Hotel in Berlin and the renovation of international shoe company Bally’s main Zurich store.
The Bally project marked the beginning of an association that would prove to be a key foundationstone of MACH ARCHITEKTUR. In 1997, David joined Bally as their head architect with the responsibility for supervising the renovation of their stores worldwide. Responsible for the refurbishment of over one hundred and seventy sites, David acquired an intimate knowledge of the design principles involved in creating an effective retail environment, but also an important understanding of how large corporations use first-class design to achieve their commercial objectives.
Having gained this invaluable experience of senior management, David decided in 2000 that the time had come to set up his own company, Marquardt Architecture Ltd. The decision coincided with the buyout of Bally by the Texas Pacific Group in 2000. David ceased to work as an employee for Bally one week to find his new company invited back by the new management team the next.
Texas Pacific’s ambitious plans involved the reinvention and relaunch of the Bally name. An old traditional shoe company was to be transformed into a modern luxury brand that could embrace accessories, fashion items and clothes, yet would retain an authenticity by being rooted in the company’s past and Swiss heritage.
With Bally’s new creative director Scott Fellows and architect Craig Bassam, David played a key part in the development of this brief, as well as its subsequent implementation. He not only worked on a new brand and global store concept but also designed the company’s relocated headquarters in Caslano. This considerable challenge involved renovating an old factory and building the new headquarters on top of it in just nine months. To enable 140 staff to work in the renovated factory without disturbance from the construction of the headquarters above, David had to devise a system of prefabricated units which were then put into place in just ten days.
Working under extreme time pressure to finish Bally’s headquarters and its flagship stores but also to devise an easily roll-outable design concept for hundreds of franchise stores around the world, David spent the next few months shuttling between Zurich, Caslano and New York. It was during a visit to New York that David met up with his old school and college friend Jan, who had moved to the city in 1997 with his American-born wife.
In New York, Jan gained considerable and varied experience of US architectural methods and
approaches. He worked on high end residential housing for the firms Ike Kligerman Barkley and Cecil, Pierce Associates, and then joined PKSB, where his assignments included project-managing the refurbishment of the youth wing of the Brooklyn Public Library and the building of a ballroom hall for the Rodeph Sholom Upper West Side synagogue.
With a Bally flagship store planned for Beverly Hills, David realized that Jan’s experience of
architecture and construction in the US would be invaluable and, discovering that Jan was considering a return to Zurich, made the suggestion that the two might consider working together.
The first big achievement of this new partnership, which became formal in the following year with the founding of MACH Architektur GmbH, was the launch of the reinvented Bally. The opening of the Berlin flagship store in January 2001 revealed a striking all-wood interior that possessed a modern, clean look, yet at the same time evoked the traditional arvestübli mountain chalets of Switzerland. The authentic Swiss feel of the design lies in the careful use of materials that brings out the country’s associations with nature while at the same time suggesting its powerful tradition of solid craftsmanship, durability and precision. The oak boards on the floors and walls contrast with the walnut finish of the store’s furniture and observe a grid pattern that suggest order and functionality. Minimalist in feel, the great success of the design is to create an elegant, adaptable space that combines a sense of rationality with warmth and comfort.
A feature of the MACH partnership is an adaptability which enables it to accommodate the needs of both international corporations and private clients. Impressed by their work for Bally, the company’s head of marketing, Julie Stern, invited the partnership to renovate Casa Monica, her 1950s holiday home on the shores of Lake Lugano. The challenge was to maximise the potential of the lakeside setting and to open up a dark, cramped house to light and space. By removing an overlarge stone fire place, enlarging windows and introducing sliding glass doors down one side of the house, MACH achieved a simple yet striking solution. In 2001, the partnership was offered a high-profile platform when it was invited to refurbish the St Moritz apartment of Tyler Brûlé, the founder of Wallpaper magazine and Wink Media. The project, which featured in an issue of Wallpaper, involved the rearrangement of interior walls to optimize the use of space and the design of inbuilt furniture that was integrated within the overall look of the apartment. By relocating the kitchen, MACH rationalized the layout of the apartment into distinct zones – a sleeping/bathing area, a large living/entertainment area and the completely redesigned kitchen. Situated in a 1960s modernist block, the renovated apartment amounted to a stylish updating of modernist principles for the twenty-first century.
At Brûlé’s invitation, MACH then designed an eye-catching model of a house, assembled from 2,227 blocks of wood, for the cover of the July/August 2001 issue of Wallpaper. A second Wallpaper cover followed in the January/February issue 2002, and a fruitful collaboration continued with MACH developing a concept for a night train with Brûlé’s new company Wink Media, and – again in collaboration with Wink Media – devising the corporate design for Swiss International Air Lines.
As with Bally, this huge project involved developing an authentic image of Switzerland. The brief required the creation, and codification into design manuals, of a co-ordinated look and design for the entire chain of spaces that the future customer would experience – from the ticket office in the city to the check-in and departure lounges at the airport, as well as the aeroplane cabins and even the seats.
While the full extent of MACH’s work for Swiss International Airlines has yet to be implemented, a striking example of their scheme can be found in the airline’s office in the Lichthof building on the Paradeplatz, Zurich. MACH’s clean, spare, contemporary design, with its carefully co-ordinated wooden panelling and furniture, impresses with its elegance and feel for texture, as well as its sense of human scale.
While meeting the needs of a large commercial enterprise, it also possesses an intimacy that provides an unusually welcoming public space. Calm, solid and reassuring, MACH’s design for Swiss bears out their belief that a vital part of successful architecture is providing a space with the correct psychological ambience for its purpose.
David and Jan have always worked hard to ensure that their design should serve the needs of the individual client. They are wary of claiming a style for themselves in isolation from a specific project, yet their belief in a simple, rational solution that combines function and elegance puts them within the tradition of Mies van der Rohe and le Corbusier. They belong to an exciting new generation of Swiss architects who are revitalizing that country’s strong modernist heritage.
Their work is characteristically Swiss in its attention to top-quality detail and its rigour of both thought and execution. Often relying on traditional, hand-crafted materials, they aspire to achieve an authentic look that lies not in the instantly fashionable but rather in a timeless, durable beauty. Their work has a contemporary feel, but never loses sight of the fact that the most successful architecture is a long-term investment.
MACH’s offices are in an old Zurich apartment block in the part of the city where David and Jan grew up. The company has an international outlook, but draws considerable strength from the continuity and stability of its local roots. Its character, in many ways, reflect those of Zurich itself, a homely yet international town that has been described as too big to be a village and too small to be a city. The atmosphere of the MACH office is one of informality and dedicated commitment.
Their practice also benefits from the extraordinarily high standard of Swiss craftsmanship, which requires even the most humble carpenter, plasterer or electrician to undergo years of training. Drawing on this pool of home talent, as well as its international connections, MACH has access to not only some of the world’s top craftsmen, but also a diverse network of design professionals, ranging from graphic designers, web designers and photographers to lighting and visualization specialists. With these resources, MACH is well equipped to provide a full range of services for large scale and multi-disciplined design projects.
Now in the sixth year of their partnership, David and Jan have successfully established a practice to which they bring a broad range of qualities. David is the entrepreneur with an eye for the big picture: his personal experience of senior management in an international company gives him an intimate knowledge of the corporate world and the needs of business.
Jan complements this strategic awareness with a pain-staking eye for detail as well as an acute appreciation of the legal, social and environmental concerns that play a part in any major development. Together, they form a remarkably balanced and rounded team able to provide clients with a thorough assessment of a project’s risks and opportunities.
Although the early days of MACH has seen the company involved in several major interior refurbishment projects, David and Jan see no logical difference between such work and the design of an entirely new building. As David points out, no one speaks of an ‘exterior architect’, so why speak of an ‘interior architect’? Whether the task is to design an office block, a house or even a piece of furniture the quality required is the same – the rational arrangement of proportion and space.
This ability both to work on – as well as to find coherence between – different scales has been a feature of this partnership’s progress so far.