Creating holistic architecture requires a sense of perspective

BESSARDs' Studio take virtue in being a small studio, since it allows them to control the entire architectural process. BIM generates a crucial overview for the holistic thinking architectural firm.

”Digital tools reignite the joy of seeing their work being built for architects”. This way Charles Bessard links his company’s embrace of the latest digital tools with the basic satisfaction architects achieve when they see their projects realized.

Village House by BESSARDs’ Studio. Photo: Åke E. Son Lindman

BESSARDs' Studio is located in a beautiful former storehouse opposite Fælledparken in Østerbro, Copenhagen. The firm’s history can be traced back to 2005, where Charles Bessard founded Powerhouse Company with his partner Nanne de Ru. Power House was an international practice with great ambitions and offices in Copenhagen and Rotterdam. The cooperation between them lasted more than 10 years after which they grew apart and went separate ways. Charles Bessard founded BESSARDs' Studio that is directed by him and his wife, Lotte Bessard. While Powerhouses strategy was to become a large practice with all that includes, BESSARD's Studio focuses on optimizing the workflow, and being a compact architectural practice where partners as well as and employees have the skills to follow the projects from A to Z in close collaboration with the developer.

Everyone is responsible

"We want to be a small, efficient architectural office where we all can take care of all the parts of the architectural process," Charles Bessard, one of the partners at BESSARDs’ Studio , explains. "Being a small practice gives greater freedom to access each project in a new way. This means that all employees will have total responsibility for their projects. This way we maintain our position as skilled craftsmen, and spend less time on management and administration. The goal for BESSARD's Studio is not growth, but being able to embrace good craftsmanship and understanding of the overall construction process", he says.

"We hope to change the architectural process so architects have a holistic approach to each project they engage with."

New AArch – competition of the new architecture school in Aarhus by BESSARDs´ Studio / Lacaton Vassal architects

The details are central

"Details are not just details. It may not be the first thing you notice, but the detail is ultimately what defines the functionality of a building, the overall experience of the building and the atmosphere of the various rooms. A detail can tell the whole story of a building. We want to create buildings full of details like a Swiss knife. But the miracle only arises when everything is thought through from the beginning, and brings the building to a higher level - the area, the building site, the materials, the economy and the function", explains Lotte Bessard, who is the second partner at BESSARDs’ Studio.

The projects of BESSARDs' Studio range from private homes and boat designs to lighthouse renovation, the transformation of a large industrial factory building into a climbing hall, big and small competitions, research and teaching. "Our ultimate approach to architecture has an impact on the projects we engage in", adds Lotte Bessard. ”The holistic approach is always implemented from multiple directions at the same time: the customer / users, the location, the function, the economy, the structure, the material. Occasionally, the tasks are conducted from an up and down approach. At other times, the approach is reverse, and a detail, a design principle or a material becomes the starting point for the entire project."

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse by BESSARDs’ Studio / JaJa Architects. Photo: Hampus Berndtsson

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse by BESSARDs’ Studio / JaJa Architects. Photo: Hampus Berndtsson

BIM creates an overview

For developers it is essential that the architect is in control of the economy. This requires the architect to deliver a financial estimate early in the process. "We want to control the quantities to know the price of the building. Some solutions are cheap in purchases, but expensive in execution. However, our goal is to get an early overview of the price of a building at an early stage", Lotte Bessard continues.

The most important thing is the 'Touch and Feel' of the building - an expression Apple also use to describe their software and hardware. "Winning an architectural competition is just scratching a bit in the surface. 90% of the work you do in a competition is about concepts, visualizations and PDFs. We like to build our projects and much of the experience and enjoyment architecture brings can’t be explained in a picture”, Charles says with a glimpse of the eye.

The holistic approach, where the architect constantly shifts between scales and jumps back and forth in the process, is one of the reasons why BIM has been of great importance to the small office.

"BIM helps us all to discover and maximize our own potentials. In order to connect all parts of the process, we require an unifying tool. BIM allows us to make accurate pricing calculations, and also gives us full control over the project", Lotte Bessard explains. "Customers who contact us are not interested in type houses or standard solutions. When it's not standard, it's hard for external advisors to calculate the right price - so it is crucial that we have an overview and full understanding of the project."

An indispensable part of the process

During the short period of time BESSARDs’ Studios have existed BIM has rapidly become an indispensable part of the process. "When we do everything in one model, we get more control in the earlier stages", Charles Bessard points out. BIM is also a way of securing the company. Charles explains: "The architect must become increasingly immersed in the details and production of the building. This will make the buildings cheaper, and at the same time increase the quality. With more control in the early stages, architects will be able to design flawless constructions."

It’s fantastic

Everyone at BESSARDs’ Studio is fascinated by working with BIM. "It is fantastic! With ARCHICAD, we work in 3D from start to finish with means that we save a lot of working hours. At the same time, we can embed models with even more information, and thereby create a bridge between the different phases", Charles explains, and sees many more benefits in using Building Information Modelling. "BIM allows you to jump back and forth between phases, between concepts and detailing, between design solutions and budget strategies. You start with a more precise foundation and can jump from drawing details back to overall design approaches and vice versa. Here, ARCHICAD is a unique tool compared to other BIM programs."

Another way to see BIM as a holistic tool is related to the traditional stages of the building. "The traditional phases are not necessarily something to strive for. A holistic workflow makes the process richer, more consistent, and the result better", Charles states, while Lotte nods. "It is important for the creative process that the work flow is satisfactory for the architect. It boosts the energy level and supports a creative and productive dialogue with the developer and contractor."

New meets old

An example is designing a modern house with thatched roof. Since the outer layer of the roof is very thick with a thin construction on the inside, there is a need for sketching with composite components - the so-called Complex Profiles in ARCHICAD. This makes it possible to see the height of the walls allowing the architects to properly understand the house. On a thatched house, lower outer walls result in a more harmonious expression. This is sketched, tested and visualized directly in ARCHICAD, with a detail that is exaggerated at the same time, but also inadequate, as the holistic approach requires switching between the phases of the design process.

Villa L by BESSARDs’ Studio / Powerhouse Company. Photo: Christian van der Kooy

Everything is done in BIM

Gathering all information and all stages in one model makes work faster. Therefore, BESSARDs' Studio have allocated resources in order to become professionals at visualizing directly in ARCHICAD. The practice also uses BIMx with Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard to evaluate early draft sketches. This is especially done in order to understand the scale of the projects or to send the project material to the developer, who may review the project from his holiday home in Southern Europe.

BESSARDs' Studios blend traditional architectural virtues with futuristic demands for the working method. They don’t wait for technology to evolve, but are constantly pushing how it can be used - just like the great architects have always done.

About BESSARDs' Studio

BESSARDs´Studio was founded by Charles Bessard in 2005 under the name Powerhouse Company ApS. The studio is an award-winning architecture and research practice based in Copenhagen and lead by Lotte and Charles Bessard. Their projects have grown over the years into a holistic approach to design and realization integrating everything from design concepts and strategical research, to the materialization and the supervision of the production processes, from cost estimates and technical details to communication and publications.

Company name: BESSARDs' Studio
Location: Denmark
Type: Architecture and research
Established: 2005
Office website:

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About Thomas Graabæk

Thomas Graabæk has been working 10 years as an architect, with a clear interest in the digital tools used for sketching and detailing, but also with 3D modeling and visualization. Since 2006 he has been working as a BIM Manager, and his main focus has been BIM in general and particularly OpenBIM, trying to bridge collaboration between disciplines and software platforms.
  • Denmark