Since the founding of the practice, UNStudio has been developing knowledge as a result of combining the design and building of projects with an active participation in architectural theory. Following on a continued interest in geometry, digital production, material effects and attainable design solutions, this communal knowledge led to the introduction of Knowledge Platforms to the studio. Whilst the primary objective of our project teams is to deliver the ‘result’ of architectural thinking (buildings, plans, designs), the objective of the Knowledge Platforms is to distill knowledge from within the practice of architecture in order to propel design thinking and innovation.
Following the introduction of Knowledge Platforms, external forces such as economic issues, climate concerns and an increase in production speeds led to the need to rethink the role of the architect and therefore the organisation of the practice of architecture.
As a result of this, UNStudio’s Knowledge Platforms have been developed into self-organised groups, operating as cross-linked platforms within the studio. Instead of being organised as processes which run parallel to the design work, the Knowledge Platforms form an integrated part of the practice. Organising the Platform-project relationship in an interactive, non-linear manner allows us to effectively combine research with practice, cross-fertilise innovative solutions and discover new approaches to architecture.
The Platforms are meeting places within the studio for colleagues to share expertise gained from projects, conferences and advisors. Furthermore the Platforms create and maintain a database of collected information from running and completed projects. These projects provide a range of solutions for different environments worldwide, including information on technical solutions, materials and standards for various design and assessment methods. The dual goals of the Knowledge Platforms are facilitating the exchange of knowledge within the studio and expanding UNStudio’s range of co-creation with our current and future collaborators.
Each Platform, within its specific topic—Sustainability, Organisation, Materials, or Parametrics—is mandated to assemble our project knowledge and produce new knowledge through internal initiatives and innovative external collaborations. In doing so we reorient our design process to valorise our knowledge and reposition ourselves in the global design market.
Research Coordinator: Rob Henderson
The Architectural Sustainability Platform engages all UNStudio projects from the early phases in order to ensure that the correct choices are made and that the office’s high sustainable standards remain an integral part of the design process. With the emphasis on the architectural, we make sure that our sustainable knowledge and conclusions directly inform our design decisions. This involves both active and passive design tools, which have a recognizable effect on the design of the building, product or urban plan.
The ASP is committed to the promotion and practice of sustainable design. Environmental issues such as economic, social and ecological sustainability are considered from the initial stages of each project both at a global and local level. It is through looking at both financial and social feasibility that the term ‘Attainability’ was coined within the office. Attainability is simply the contraction of the word ‘affordable’ and ‘sustainable’ but it speaks to the inclusive approach embedded within the practice.
The Architectural Sustainability Platform is continually involved in the development of new tools for an improved design process. Together with the application of the many international environmental regulations, including BREEAM (UK, NL), LEED (US), DGNB (DE), Greenmark (SG), QSAS (QA) and Estidama (UAE) and an in-house assessment toolkit, new sustainable assets are created.
ASP Coordinator: Milena Stopic
The Inventive Materials Platform has been created to engage the development of knowledge involving the ability to develop and adapt existing materials. This type of material innovation has been pivotal to the dynamics of the changing form and modalities of architecture. The creative assets developed within the platform and its relationship with UNStudio projects provides a lens for an understanding of the complexity of material science.
The IMP endeavors to investigate material systems. That is to understand materials beyond their singular physical properties, and to understand them in relational terms of economics and environmental effect and sustainability. This investigation includes collecting and developing materials in search of the most sustainable, long-lasting, easy to manufacture and functional materials.
Even in cases where it is not necessary to invent a completely new material, UNStudio strives to select, adapt, combine and deploy existing materials in a thoughtful and inventive manner. We make every effort to grow inspired and imaginative collaborations with other experts and with manufacturers in the construction industry to push for progress in the field of materials.
IMP Coordinator: Filippo Lodi
The Innovative Organization Platform has been established to find new answers in reaction to changing programmatic and spatial demands, and to interrogate new types of organizations to create spatial solutions. Through the analysis of existing typologies and research into new types of organizations and methods, the Platform can strengthen the UNStudio design process and product.
UNStudio considers organization to be a driving force in the office’s working processes. This is true for the office structure, design process and for each project. In this way, organization does not only involved typical architectural programs. The IOP delves into innovative potentials in the overlap of program assemblies with social, cultural and environmental criteria. By inflecting organization with additional soft parameters we are able to develop more efficient methods and novel spatial configurations. These methods and surprising spatial results help us to anticipate and forecast the coming organizational developments.
IOP Coordinators: Tina Kortmann & Sander Versluis
The Smart Parameters Platform has been instigated to further UNStudio’s approach of architecture as relational. This relational approach involves the thorough integration of what we commonly conceive as separate systems pertaining to the positioning, construction, circulation, cladding, and programming of a building. As a result of this holistic understanding the design and building processes also must be seen as interwoven and connected.
The Smart Parameters Platform manages, maintains and develops the computational tools and processes involved in an integral design and construction process. The knowledge dealt with in the SPP is subject to rapid modification, which gives this Platform a young and energetic character.
Computational design is thus not limited to form-finding for UNStudio, but explicitly encompasses all the parameters involved in the design and building processes of architecture.
SPP Coordinator: Marc Hoppermann