UNStudio. Image © Inga Powilleit

By Martin Søberg

UNStudio at work is a guaranty for significant architecture as a merger of audacious forms and conceptual precision. The office is a weighty contributor to the global success of Dutch architecture since the late 1980s. With an emphasis on architecture as a discipline requiring thoughtfulness, UNStudio is led by research and material innovation to remarkable results whether their engaged in the design of buildings, furniture, exhibitions, infrastructure, or urban plans.

Established by architect Ben van Berkel (b. 1957) and art historian/architect Caroline Bos (b. 1959) in 1988 as Van Berkel & Bos Architects, the office was reorganized and renamed in 1998 as UNStudio, an abbreviation of United Network Studio.

UNStudio’s architecture strives for congenial intersections between spatial configuration and functional programs: Sometimes through sharp contrasting and twisted geometry; at other times by mediation and subtle morphing. Their buildings feature modulations between dynamic movement and solid tranquility. Such interchange is emphasized by phenomenal ambiguity created by contrasting the spatially clearly defined, the boxy and massive, with form-dissolving qualities such as light and color. These intersections often result from research into building materials. An example of this is the use of a special responsive multicolored foil for their La Defense Offices in Almere.

UNStudio has indeed fulfilled the promises of computer aided and parametric design. It has allowed the office to propose topologically folded buildings in which spaces infiltrate, in helix shapes or Möbius strips. This also results in the creation of new architectural typologies: Their Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart redefines the concept of the exhibition building since simultaneously providing the options of controlled and self-organized touring.

UNStudio’s designs reflect a strong belief that architecture should indorse human interaction on multifarious levels. Configuring the flows of movement through their buildings or urban schemes is based on movement research and way-finding studies, which support intuitive user orientation and communication. Hybridity is a keyword in UNStudio’s design philosophy, as expressed by van Berkel and Bos by pointing to the conceptual figure of the manimal – the merger of man and animal, the logical and the sensuous.

Visit UNStudio’s website here.