4th UNStudio Conference

UNStudio's 4th Conference focused on the knowledge inherent to our daily practice and how we can make that knowledge more accessible and interactive, and how this spurs innovation. The previous three conferences were held pecha-kucha-style, but for this time we wanted a more engaged setting and a more interactive format in order to propel contributions and critical thoughts from as many people and projects within the office as possible.

Ben, Caroline, Harm and Astrid kicked-off the day, and introduced the five themes around which the day would flow: Technology, Health/Well-being, Economy, Politics/Society and Economy.  Each theme was then introduced shortly by two workshop moderators. For each theme two tables of 8-10 UNStudio members had the chance to elaborate these themes with diagrams and statements. Reference should be drawn from past projects and experiences. At the same time, we encouraged the teams to bring forward the opportunities for innovative design in current projects and future work. The sessions were then summarized by the moderators with the aim to bring ideas and concepts to the fore that will continue to engage us in new and inspiring projects in the future.

Each discussion group elaborated on basic questions, starting from “how this was dealt with in past projects” to “what are the key drivers and parameters are for that field” or “how this can be introduced to current and future projects”.



The themes as introduced by the moderators were as follows:

Technology: How can technological innovation inspire our design processes? How can technology become innovative architecture?

Exemplified through technologically driven high-rise buildings, research centers, infrastructure, and tool creation, advancements in architectural workflow technology have spurred new design strategies and architectonic solutions which have, and are changing our practice on a daily basis. Within this constantly evolving environment where technology can both react to, as well as dictate architectural problem solving, what interesting technological achievements, new working methods, and communicative devices will become the impetus for new research? How can we transcend pure technical mastery, and produce innovative architecture reflective of the advanced techniques, tools, and languages responsible for its production?


Health/Well-being: How can we create and experience moments of well-being? What does well-being mean?

Such questions can be addressed in many different scales: when we design a product, an infrastructure network, an urban plan, a building as small as an individual home or one as large as a super high-rise. Independent of these, the parameters that influence well-being are manifold and diverse. They may engage with natural resources, concepts of re-use, adaptation and life cycle, but also social connectedness, transparency, communication and perception could contribute to well-being. How would we draw up the parameters for more healthy designs and what should we consider important to continue improving our environment and surroundings?


Economy: How can we create timeless values within different economies?

We have several experiences with clients from many different regions in the world addressing the design and construction qualities and requirements. What is perceived as costly or luxurious in one region of the world might be considered quite differently in another part. Within different markets, the expectations of stakeholders are different: the user, the buyer, the developer, the investor, the planner, the designer all aim to effectively capitalize on the project. But what has value nowadays, value that lasts and supersedes economic standstills? How can markets, scale and costs be balanced in order to create design value within the economic climate that a project takes place in?


Politics and Society: How to balance intrinsic and extrinsic constraints and still be innovative?

We do work across different markets thus across different cultures. Our clients are sometimes of mixed origin, so they reference their expectations not only to the global market model, and draw reference to their own society, where the company's headquarter is manifested or where the project will be realized. Often the codes of politics and society are layered; being foreign or local can have advantages and disadvantages. Finding our enablers, allowing us to make things possible in a unique manner has become part of the 'soft' skill of an architect. So how do we, as global design studio, understand, absorb and react to such constraints? Or are we simply subjected to these outside forces?


Culture: How can we create opportunities for new “C”ulture and “c”ulture in our designs?

The single-family house has, in the modern period, been the projects where architects could explore new ideas. Similarly, in the later modern and contemporary periods pavilions and temporary structures have been a testing ground for the leading edge of Design. In our work, such projects—along with introducing the concept of 'publicness', commercial or urban work, interactivity, displays and public meeting points—are cultural nodes, sites of exchange and public experience. While we want to 'make places' for “C”ulture, there are other factors that engage with open source ecologies and stimulate the exchange in more ad hoc cultural ways. What may these be? Should it be left to the architect to uncover these opportunities in a project? If so, then how?

Conference Moderators:

Technology - Marc Hoppermann + Seyavash Zohoori

Health / Well-being - Jörg Petri + Milena Stopic

Economy - Filippo Lodi + Konstantinos Chrysos

Politics & Society - Jan Schellhoff + Sander Versluis

Culture - Rob Henderson + Ariane Stracke

Posted by: UNStudio / Rob Henderson