River City Carpet at ARTinD

27/02/2018 - Written by Ben van Berkel


The Golden Ratio

1:1.61 : the golden ratio, the Divine Proportion or Phi, is a number rooted in the architecture of our universe. Based on irrational numbers, it can be found in the engineering of all things natural, from the proportions of the human body to the structure of clouds. In equal parts common and exceptional, it is believed to be the most aesthetically pleasing and harmonious means of design.

As an urban space, Amsterdam has an almost tangible physical connection to the golden ratio. In fact, if the golden ratio is applied to the map of Amsterdam, its spiral treads along the Stadhouderskade (which runs along UNStudio’s architectural office) and curves naturally into the very heart of the city. The canals subdivide the city into smaller districts, similar to the golden spiral and ratio. Unbeknownst to tourists on the Grimburgwal, they are standing at the centre of an urban Phi.

For me, this inspired the question: how does this enigmatic ratio relates to our environment? …Specifically, the environments that we design for ourselves. If human centric design is at the crux of all we do, how can we implement it into our urban plans, our architecture, products and infrastructure?


Not so long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking about this very topic in the Swiss town of St. Moritz at NOMAD, discussing carpets, the golden ratio, and the traditional urban map.

Tasked by ARTinD to design a carpet that is inspired by Phi, I designed the “River City Carpet” that took influence also from the colours of traditional map work, overlapping them to form different layers, functionalities and flows within a city. The geographic then becomes graphic, creating a fictitious city map with representations of different heights and urban settings, fitting seamlessly with all elements of the Golden Ratio.

Phi inspired designs were also submitted by Peter Eisenman, Sou Fujitomo, Alessandro Mendini, Peter Zumthor, Piero and Nathalie Sartogo, Thom Mayne and Sir Norman Foster.

The designs (as well as the inspiration behind them) were discussed between Rolph Sachs, Piero Sartogo, Domenico Raimondo, Oliva Sartogo and I in the talk, “Between Art and Architecture” held at the ARTinD event during NOMAD.

The designed carpets will be exhibited in 30 Berkeley Square, London, between the 19th and 26th of April, and will subsequently be auctioned by Philips. The ARTinD Instagram account features drawings from participants, as well as photos from the event at Chesa Planta, in the heart of the Swiss Alps.

Following this event, we were very kindly hosted by Sir Norman Foster at his home in St. Mortiz


Read the original article on Ben's LinkedIn here.

Follow Ben on LinkedIn.