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News | Jun 29, 2020
Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

If you’re one of our readers, this means that you’re a design aficionado – just like us – always searching for the latest design news, tricks and trends! Ben van Berkel is one of the most renowned architects of the field, and today we’ll explore his biography, and also get inside his most famous design projects! Be our guests and enjoy! 

Ben van Berkel is a Dutch architect, known as the master mind behind UNStudio. The architectural company has a team of experts, capable of pulling of some of the most outstanding and mindblowing buildings around the globe. The interdisciplinary design team develops urban projects, builds bridges and public buildings all over the world, as well as working on the design of products and media.

Big scale industrial projects that seem more like sculptures, blending in perfect harmony with the surroudings, and taking culture and other aspects into consideration.His artistic language makes use of the possibilities of computer-aided animation. His designs are eye-catching but at the same time respect historical structures as illustrated by the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, the new Mercedes- Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the urban concept for Genoa harbour.


Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

📍 Biography

Born in 1957, Ben van Berkel studied architecture at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, and at the Architectural Association in London, receiving the AA Diploma with Honours in 1987. In 1988, together with his wife Caroline Bos, he set up an architectural practice in Amsterdam named Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau, which realized, amongst others projects, the Karbouw office building, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam. In 1998 van Berkel and Bos relaunched their practice as UNStudio, where UN stands for “United Net”.

Ebook Top ID Mid-Century

Ben van Berkel has lectured and taught at many architectural schools around the world. He has led Diploma Units at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam (1992-1993) and the Architectural Association in London (1999). Before he became Professor Conceptual Design at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 2001, he was Visiting Professor at Columbia University, Princeton University and Harvard University. In 2011 Ben van Berkel was appointed the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Central to his teaching is the inclusive approach of architectural works integrating virtual and material organisation and engineering constructions.

Ben van Berkel received many personal awards and affiliations, such as the Eileen Gray Award (1983); the British Council Fellowship (1986); the Charlotte Köhler Award (1991); Member of Honor of the Bund Deutscher Architekten (1997); the 1822-Kunstpreis 2003 (Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart) (2003); the Charles Jencks Award (2007); and the Honorary Fellowship AIA (2013).


📍 PONTE PARODI in Genoa, Italy

Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

The Ponte Parodi project establishes a new city attractor based on the proliferation of experience. A three dimensional piazza located on the waterfront combines a variety of programs including a cruise terminal, wellness, cultural and leisure program, all of which bring liveliness to the old harbour. With its low-slung, undulating outlines the piazza provides a park with sport fields, beaches and other public functions while emphasizing the view of Genoa and its Alpine setting.

📍 URBAN OASIS in Beach Road, Singapore

Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

The Urban Oasis is a unique mixed-use development comprising of office, hotel, retail and residential components within a garden setting. The integral design implementation of sustainable technologies constitutes the driving force behind the design. The two high rise structures – an office tower and a mixed-use residential and hotel tower – are designed as slender volumes. Sky gardens, sun and rain shelters, balconies, terraces and bay-windows are incorporated into the design in a transformative manner. The office tower offers large floor plates, while the lower section of the second tower allows for two luxurious hotels. The residential component is situated on the 22 levels above the hotels, offering high-end apartments with spectacular views. Allocation is made for activity-generating commercial uses in and around the public spaces.

📍 CANALETTO in London, England

Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

UNStudio’s design for the Canaletto tower incorporates the remodelling of the facade, a streamlining of the building’s mass and a contrasting of scale and detail untypical of a residential tower. Near and distant townscape views are enhanced through scale, detail and material variation. The building facade creates a modelled elevation in which clusters of adjacent floors are grouped together. Using both textured and smooth materials contrasts with the expected contemporariness of a typical high-rise metal construction and lends the facade a residential ‘twist’. Sustainability benefits are achieved by the surface modelling that creates opportunities for shading, balancing good internal daylight and views with reduced heat gains.

The Canaletto residential tower is located half-way between Old Street and Angel Stations in Islington and comprises of a 31-storey tower with a variety of one, two and three bedroom apartments. Offering waterside living, the tower will also include secure underground parking, swimming pool, gymnasium, resident’s cinema, restaurant, entertainment centre and a sky terrace on the 24th floor.



Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

The Galleria Department Store project had two main goals. The first was a new façade that projects a lively, ever changing surface and the second was the renovation of the interior into a luxurious integrated design. Inspired by the catwalk the customer finds himself immersed in the world of fashion while moving through the generous corridors. The interior design focuses on the elimination of superfluous details and introduces two new integrated Big Details; the escalator which becomes a moving event space, and the ceiling lighting which becomes a device providing a fluent directionality and dynamics to the shop floors. For the main circulation corridors (catwalks) the lighting is integrated within the dropped ceiling. The illumination of the corridor is designed as a continuous lighting element in the form of linear rails which follow the directions of the pathways below.

📍 THE W.I.N.D. HOUSE in North-Holland, Netherlands

Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio

The W.I.N.D. House in the north of Holland incorporates both integrated sustainable solutions and home automation, whilst enabling a flexible use of space.

Located on the outskirts of a Dutch village and close to the sea, the house is backed by a wooded area and fronted by an open expanse of polder landscape. The design of the house responds to both its setting and to the seasons. The more intimate working and sleeping areas are located towards the back, where the enclosure of the woods provides an intimate setting, while the living areas enjoy panoramic views of the polder landscape to the front.

The elevated position of the open plan living areas enhances the views to the exterior. Each of the four facades, curve towards the inside to create four distinct petal-like wings. These curving recesses are visually connected to each other through their view lines, which cross at the heart of the building. The vertical organisation of the building follows a centrifugal split-level principle. An open staircase at the centre of the house connects the front and back wings.


Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Brubeck Pendant Lamp 

Meet Ben van Berkel: The Crown Jewel Dutch Architect of UNStudio!

Image Credit: UNStudio


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