This node is submitted in conjunction with the Lars Spuybroek node to provide a counter argument for those examining the prioritization of form over program in architectural theory (such as the work of Greg Lynn and Peter Eisenman).
The office of Ben Van Berkel and his partner Caroline Bos, most clearly represent the ideology of primacy of program. Theirs is a process which opens up to more than either notions of architectural 'interiority' or abstract representations of external forces. Their 'united' studio is a platform for the bringing together of the many social, political and professional diversities in the built environment.
The term they use to describe their working methods is 'inclusiveness', it's intention is to ensure that all possible influences on a project are allowed into the process with equal priority. UN studio are perhaps furthest from the work of architects described in the node on Peter Eisenman.
UN Studio completely dismisses the idea of autonomy,
"We should start by acknowledging that all architecture is deeply rooted in the public field." 1
Then proposes how the public field is allowed to shape the design process by absorbing,
"...all aspects of a project; its material and virtual systems and its underlying values are all taken into the equation." 2.
Also, we should note the denial of any form of style. The inclusive system is deemed to rise above any shallow aesthetic, thus;
"The inclusive organisation tolerates any style, any concept." 3.
One aspect of their work, however, does demonstrate a link with architects such as Eisenman; UN Studio also employ diagramming in their investigations. Initially in the form of drawings, Van Berkel has begun to utilise 'found' diagrams as well. The tradition of acknowledging the influence of Deleuze's work on Foucault continues with the diagrams of UN Studio.
Examples of diagrams that became architecture include a dwelling titled 'The Mobius House'. It's axiom is the diagram of the movement about a Mobius strip. This 3-dimensional computer model charts a representation of the ever circular patterns of sleeping, working, living, sleeping, working, living. The topology of this field - which is both spatial and temporal - is then allowed to become the construction itself. Where the consumer/subject and object fields cross, deformation occurs to form furniture, partitions and facade etc; the 'frozen moments' that implicate the process.
A more recent example of diagramming using a computer can be seen in their work for the competition set in West Side, New York (ultimately won by Eisenman). Following extensive recording of site specific information regarding inhabitants, commuters, city users, goods exchange and metropolitan businessmen; UN Studio use computer modelling to develop the information into a 'Deep Plan' which 'incorporates economics, infrastructure, program and construction in time'.
"The procedure of the Deep Plan involves generating a situation-specific, dynamic, organizational structural plan with parameter based techniques." 4
The computer, then, is the ideal tool with which UN Studio can realise their 'inclusive' architecture. A break from previous theories of collage and superimposition (which by obliterating the program beneath deals only with the resultant surface) can be partly attributed to the changing array of tools available to the architect. The non-hierarchical techniques possible in software such as Photoshop's overlay/multiply/blend commands are perhaps a suitable analogy here. As their book 'Move' illustrates 5, the computer allows the user to easily move back and forth between the complex layers of information in the project. Whilst at the same time being able to make new connections across any number of layers, ensuring that,
"...the project is not founded on isolated concepts being worked out in a linear process." 6
A list of projects can be found at http://www.unstudio.com/html/proj_all.htm , some of the most critically acclaimed include:
- Erasmus bridge, Rotterdam
- IFFCA Competition Penn station, New York
- Möbius house
- ‘Real Space in Quick Time’, pavilion Bienale di Milano
The discovery of UN Studio and Lars Spuybroek during my post-graduate education, and the self-confidence with which they accept that they are an integral part of the final solution, was a cathartic experience for me. I owe them my Distinction.
1. Ben Van Berkel speaking at the Anyhow conference in 1997
2. Move, Van Berkel Bos (1999), Un Studio & Goose Press
4. 'Deep Planning: West Side, New York', Van Berkel Bos in Contemporary Processes in Architecture, 2000. Academy Group.
5. see essay by Van Berkel Bos entitled 'Inclusiveness' in Move