Amsterdam – What is the role of the architect? This challenging, sincere and increasingly expansive question has been a consistent preoccupation for UNStudio. The recursive tendency toward re-evaluation is natural when operating in a discipline that is so affected by changes in technology, cultural mores and shifts in financial and political climates.
As architecture’s inseparable relationship to this network of forces persists, we are prompted to question a broad range of assumptions about the discipline, including how it should be taught, produced, experienced and disseminated.
To do this, the conversation needs to shift from defining a fixed role of the architect within a network, and instead ask: What sort of knowledge should architects produce? Our first decade of practice explored the architect’s position and potential as an ‘actor’ collaborating within these larger networks. Observing this expanding network of forces influencing architectural production, we sought to embrace and mobilise its potentials. Reorganising and renaming our firm because a synonymous exercise now known as United Network Studio.
Here are several case studies, excerpted from the book Knowledge Matters, that detail the strategies deployed to reach programmatic and efficiency potentials within our work – the basis of our in-house Knowledge Platforms.
ARNHEM CENTRAL STATION, THE NETHERLANDS
One of the most significant elements of the Arnhem Station masterplan is a series of twisting structural supports. These ‘twisting’ Seifert geometries are load-bearing structural elements that allow for a column-free terminal hall, while the resulting gestural form and sight lines they enable work in concert to perform as wayfinding elements that direct smooth passenger flows to the various components of the masterplan.
The geometry originals from a topological study of the surface geometry of the terminal building – the twist picks up the roof geometry, smoothly connecting it to the underlying levels in one fluid motion.
The SitTable is designed as a social activator; a tool for communication and interaction that can function as a public square within the office. A hybrid table and chair, the SitTable encourages informal gathering and communication through proximity and inclusion. Possibilities for additional seating arrangements further enable different scales of intimacy and public interaction.
THE MÖBIUS HOUSE, THE NETHERLANDS
The organisational and formal structure of the Möbius House is informed by the principles of the endless Möbius loop. This organisational model is correlated to the 24-hour living and working cycle of the family where individual working spaces and bedrooms are aligned, but collective areas are situated at the crossing points of the paths. The way the programmatic components of the single family house are located on the loop defines the appearance of the building and its resulting materialisation.
RESEARCH PROJECT, CONSTRUCT PV CONSORTIUM
The Construct PV project aims to improve the visual appearance of PV modules through a collaborative process with a number of international science and industry partners. The research has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme. The goal of the project is to improve the standard industrial PV module toward creating a product that offers greater design flexibility to meet the needs and requirements of different socio-geographic areas within Europe. A further aim of the research is to create a design catalogue with aesthetic and cost-effective choices for PV modules, and bring these possibilities to the European market, together with our partners in the PV manufacturing industry.
HOLIDAY HOME, USA
The Holiday Home is an experiential installation exploring ways in which the holiday home could depart from domestic spatial proportions. The orthogonal surfaces of the archetypal house are extruded and skewed, creating a sculptural armature within which the dichotomies of home and holiday home are played out.
The unadorned construction allows attention to be directed towards the spatial configurations of the structure. Visitor movement through the installation activates unexpected views and the multidirectional shadows cast create unpredictable perspectives as they fall onto faceted surfaces. These new architectural geometries are distended and without the details of dwelling, produce a space that evades the habitual patterns of daily living. With the stable and familiar so dislocated, its extreme abstraction beings to emulate escapism from everyday routine.
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