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Ben van Berkel


Ben van Berkel

Ben van Berkel
Born 1957
Utrecht, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch

Charles Jencks Award 2007
1822-Kunstpreis 2003
Charlotte Köhler Award 1991

Eileen Gray Award 1983
Practice UNStudio
Buildings Moebius House
Erasmus Bridge
Mercedes-Benz Museum

Ben van Berkel (born 1957) is a Dutch architect. He studied architecture at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, and at the Architectural Association in London, receiving the AA Diploma with Honours in 1987.[1]

In 1988 he and Caroline Bos 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,[2] Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen,[3] the Moebius house,[4] and the NMR facilities for the University of Utrecht[5]

In 1998 van Berkel and Bos relaunched their practice as UNStudio, the UN standing for "United Net". UNStudio presents itself as a network of specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure. With UNStudio, van Berkel has built several projects, including the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, a façade and interior renovation for the Galleria Department store in Seoul, Korea, and a private villa in up-state New York. Current projects are the restructuring of the station area of Arnhem, a masterplan for Basauri, Spain, the Dance Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the design and restructuring of the Harbor Ponte Parodi in Genoa. In 2009 New Amsterdam Pavilion in Battery Park in Manhattan was revealed.[6] The pavilion was presented to the city of New York by the Dutch government to celebrate 400 years of relations between New York and the Netherlands.

Academic appointments

Ben van Berkel (Professor, Arch., AA Dipl. (Hons), (F)RIBA, Hon. FAIA) 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.

Personal awards and affiliations

  • Honorary Fellowship AIA (2013)
  • Member of advisory board for Gehry Technologies (2011)
  • RIBA International Fellowship (2009)
  • Charles Jencks Award (2007)
  • 1822-Kunstpreis 2003 (Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart) (2003)
  • Member of Honor of the Bund Deutsche Architekten (1997)
  • Charlotte Köhler Award (1991)
  • British Council Fellowship (1986)
  • Eileen Gray Award (1983)

Selected projects

Current Projects

Past projects


Reflections - Small Stuff by UNStudio (2010)
Reflections, Small Stuff by UNStudio presents a selection of interiors, installations, pavilions and products from the last 20 years. The 30 projects are organised in pairs which form each other’s mirror image, illustrating the idea of reflection and its manifold meanings at literal and symbolic levels. Scattered throughout the book are statements by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos expressing the thoughts behind each design. These texts bear witness to the theoretical richness and versatility at the basis of UNStudio’s highly particular approach to architecture and design.

Buy me a Mercedes-Benz (2006)
This book about the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany shows how various forms of expert knowledge have been combined and interwoven to finally result in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It gives an insight into the various ideas, experiences and ambitions behind the project. At its basis was a unique design model: the digitally programmed, three-dimensional, cross-connected trefoil. Implementing this model has resulted in a building that radically breaks with many of today’s architectural conventions. The aim of the book is to allow the visitor of the Mercedes-Benz Museum to take the building home; it recreates the experience of visiting the complex, yet strongly directional structure which provides many surprising perceptual experiences.

UNStudio, Design Models (2006)
Design Models is the complete monograph of UNStudio’s output. The book begins with an essay that sets out the principles of their ‘design models’, five conceptual methods that serve as the point of departure for their broad array of project types. Divided by design model, the book’s main section presents 00 concepts and buildings, presented in detail: from the initial, generative diagram through the digital-modelling process, to construction and final outcome. Bookending the projects is a second essay, ‘After Image’, which contemplates the role and representation of contemporary architecture in today’s visual and information culture.

UNStudio UNFold (2002)
This book documents a number of UNStudio projects and takes critical stock of a welter of previously unpublished designs: the restructuring of the station area in Arnhem, the generating station in Innsbrück, the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) laboratory in Utrecht and the competition-winning design for the Ponte Parodi in Genoa. In this new book UN Studio have draped a personal layer over the analytical project documentation. With texts by Caroline Bos, experiments in associations and out-of-the-rut architectural photography, UNStudio UNFold immerses the reader in the firm's design process. The book appeared simultaneously with the large retrospective exhibition on the work of UNStudio from May 26 to September 29, 2002 in the Netherlands Architecture Institute.

Move (1999)
Architects are going to be the fashion designers of the future, dressing events to come and holding up a mirror to the world. The re-thinking of public imagination, public space and public forces transforms architects into public scientists. Their imagination is informed as much by the semi-conscious preoccupations of collective vision, such as glamour, mediation, advertising and celebrity, as by the specifics of the discipline. Architecture must engage with the banal dreams of the contemporary world, and stop presenting its products as uncontaminated objects that say only: 'architecture... Time is on the architect's side […]’. MOVE examines the architect's new role in an environment of technological, public and economic change. The redefinition of organizational structures was the common thread running through the original three books.

Museum het Valkhof (1999)
The contemporary museum is a mixture of supermarket, temple and tourist attraction. This heterogeneous collection of functions imposes a great diversity of technical and structural requirements. The wide variety of the objects and works of art belonging to the different museological collections reflect the potential heterogeneity of the building. The central question with respect to the architectural design therefore concerns the insertion of a layer of coherence and continuity by way of protective netting and background to the diversity and differentiation. How to fit the extensive programme with the collections, circulation and climatic and lighting installations? And how to tie together these aspects so as to achieve an integrated whole?

Mobile Forces (1994)
For this book the authors have chosen to employ the very format of the book to elucidate their architectural approach, differentiating four themes that together constitute a modest repertoire of new architectural definitions: Mobile Forces, Crossing Points, Storing the Detail and Corporate Compactness. All projects are headed under one of these categories. In our electronic age the old architectural definitions have lost much relevance; even the building processes themselves are changing, making it necessary to look afresh at the potential meanings of architecture. Presenting such views in conjunction with the projects in this pioneering way, accompanied by two external essays and four essays by the authors, makes this book less a conventional architectural monograph, than a profoundly theoretical statement.

Delinquent Visionaries (1993)
In Delinquent Visionaries Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos investigate the changing perspective of architecture. This collection of fifteen essays on subjects ranging from the language and notation of architecture to contemporary architects such as Santiago Calatrava, Daniel Libeskind, Nigel Coates and Bernard Tschumi, is a tribute to the architectural imagination. 'This book should be viewed not so much as a 'visionary' collection of writings, but as a well presented accumulation of thoughts, ideas and observations. As a publication it’s formatting and design earnestly corroborates its contents.', according to Deborah Hauptmann in De Architect.

Selection of external publications

  • 2012 UNStudio in Motion, Published by: Phoenix Publishing and Media Group, Tianjin Ifengspace Culture &Media Co., Ltd
  • 2010 Sollazzo, Andrea, Van Berkel Digitale - Diagrammi, Processi, Modelli Di UNStudio, EdilStampa, Rome
  • 2006 Bauwelt 17. This issue of Bauwelt is dedicated to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart
  • 2004 Love it. Live it, DAMDI Architecture Publishers, Seoul
  • 2004 Gannon, Todd, UNStudio Erasmus Bridge, Princeton Architectural Press
  • 2003 Antonello, Marotta, Ben van Berkel, La Prospettiva rovesciata di UN Studio, Testo & Immagine, Torino
  • 2003 Carnevali, C., Delbene, G., Patteeuw, V., Geno(v)a, Developing and rebooting a waterfront city, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam
  • 1995 Ben van Berkel, El Croquis, Madrid
  • 1992 Ben van Berkel, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam


  • "Innovation exists! You just have to accept that today you can’t innovate on your own. So we seek the experiment of working with others, including other architects. What do we have to lose? Instead of being afraid of losing our ‘identity’, maybe we should be glad; let’s liberate ourselves from our brand."
  • "We have learnt to see projects as public constructions and we have organized ourselves as a flexible platform organization, in which a ‘public scientist’, an architect as the co-coordinating, networking expert of the public realm, has replaced the Baumeister."
  • "When all is said and done architecture does take up a lot of space, so the least you can do is say something. It’s the construction manger’s role to be the silent hero; the architect’s to be Donald Duck, the desperate chatterer full of bright ideas."
  • "Architects age really well. There is no need to get bored. The years fly by expanding upon a theme, once you have articulated your fascinations. Like philosophers, architects feel at home in history."


Solo Exhibitions

  • 2011 Motion Matters, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
  • 2007 Ben van Berkel and the Theater of Immanence, Portikus, Frankfurt a/M
  • 2006 Mercedes-Benz Museum, UNStudio, Bund Deutsche Architekten, Stuttgart
  • 2003 Deep Planning, Architekturgalerie am Weissenhof, Stuttgart
  • 2002 UNFold, Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam
  • 2002 UN in the US, #146 of the MATRIX Program, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford
  • 1999 UNStudio – Move, Architektenforum Tirol, Innsbruck
  • 1997 Mobile Forces, Artists’ Space, New York and UCLA, Los Angeles
  • 1993 Crossing Points, Architecture Forum Aedes, Berlin
  • 1988 Docklands, Luce van Rooy Gallery, Amsterdam

Group Exhibitions

  • 2011 Recent Projects UNStudio, Arch Moscow 16th International Exhibition of Architecture and Design, Central House of Artists, Moscow
  • 2009 Fifteen Pieces for a Soundscape/First Movement, Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, Berlin
  • 2009 Design Evolution, Wechselraum BDA, Stuttgart
  • 2006 One day 1:1, Italian Pavilion of Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice
  • 2006 Evolution of Space, Deutsches Architektur Museum, Frankfurt, RAS Gallery, Barcelona, Yale University, New Haven
  • 2005 European Design Show, Design Museum, London
  • 2005 Dutch Architects in Booming China, Arcam, Amsterdam
  • 2005 Architecture, Engineering, Construction Expo, Bombay
  • 2004 Tall Buildings, United Architects, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 2004 UNStudio, Biennale Beijing
  • 2004 Non Standard Architectures, Centre Pompidou, Paris
  • 2004 Star Network, Dutch Architecture Institute, Rotterdam
  • 2002 Urban Study Hypercatalunya, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona
  • 2002 Latent Utopias, Steirisc[:her:]bst, Graz
  • 2002 Modern Trains and Splendid Stations, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
  • 2001 Cases IM-PROPRIES, Museu d’ Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona
  • 2001 Folds, Blobs + Boxes: Architecture in the Digital Era, Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
  • 2001 Architectural Freehand Drawing, GA Gallery, Tokyo
  • 2000 The Un-Private House, Museum of Modern Art, New York and UCLA, Los Angeles
  • 2000 Area of Tolerance: For Peace and Freedom of the Arts - Against Racism and Xenophobia; A
  • 2000 Project for the Austrian Contribution to the 7th Architecture Biennale, Venice
  • 2000 The Home Show, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
  • 2000 The Long View, Municipal Art Society, New York
  • 2000 Deep Planning, Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice
  • 1996 Modernism without Dogma, Venice Architecture Biennale (Lissabon, Barcelona, New York, Chicago)
  • 1996 Rotterdam 2045, Dutch Architecture Institute, Rotterdam
  • 1996 RealSpace in QuickTimes, Dutch contribution to the 19th Triennale di Milano
  • 1995 De Rubber Mat: Transformatie van Bedrijvencomplex Unilever, Dutch Architecture Institute, Rotterdam
  • 1995 Light Construction, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 1993 Application & Implication, Centre National d’Arts Contemporain de Grenoble (Vienna, Stuttgart)
  • 1993 Das Schloss?, Architecture Forum Aedes, Berlin
  • 1992 Dimensions Expanded/Ruimte Verruimd, Museum Kröller Müller, Otterlo
  • 1989 – 1990 Urban proposal Gare d’Austerlitz, Architecture et Utopie, Gallery Aedes, Berlin and Paris
  • 1989 Docklands and Raaks, Musea d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona
  • 1988 Intertwining Landscapes, Technical University, Delft
  • 1987 Stipend exhibition, Ministry of Culture of the Netherlands, Amsterdam


External links

  • UNStudio Homepage [1]
  • Städelschule Architecture Class Homepage [2]
  • Ben van Berkel interviewed by Architizer on the eve of the opening of the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion in Lower Manhattan. [3]
  • Lecture on 'the Twist' at Rice University, January 2011 [4]
  • Design Report Special, A Visit to Ben van Berkel [5]
  • Lecture on 'the Envelope' at the Princeton Envelope Group, July 2010 [6]
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