Architect Ben van Berkel

Ben van Berkel
Photo courtesy: Inga Powilleit

"Fundamental to our practice is the idea that new concepts for architecture can be generated almost everyday." --- Architect Ben van Berkel

Education Executive Agency and Tax Office

57 year old Dutch architect Ben van Berkel is a director and a co-founder of international architectural practice, UNStudio, which is today recognized as a network of specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure. The firm was established by Architect Ben and his wife Caroline Bos in 1998.

Born in 1957, Ben van Berkel studied architecture at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and at the Architectural Association in London and received the AA Diploma with Honours in 1987. In 1988, he and Caroline Bos set up an architectural practice in Amsterdam, extending their theoretical and writing projects to the practice of architecture. The Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau has realized, amongst others projects, the Karbouw office building, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen, the Moebius House and the NMR facilities for the University of Utrecht.

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Education Executive Agency and Tax Offices, Groningen, NL
Photo courtesy: Ronald Tilleman

In 1998, Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos recognized that they were no longer working in a linear manner anymore, and the whole production of drawings was different. Moreover, clients approach had also changed and they no longer came alone to the table, but instead came accompanied by numerous specialists. This way the firm began to work alongside these specialists and learned to work in a relational, rather than in a linear way. This is how the architect duo got an idea of the "united network" concept and established a new firm: UNStudio that stands for United Network Studio, referring to the collaborative nature of the practice.

According to Architect Ben van Berkel, "Our ideas and solutions differ to a large extent in each our projects. Fundamental to our practice is the idea that new concepts for architecture can be generated almost everyday. We at UNStudio strive to create fully contemporary works and to be fully absorbed in the process. And for this we have many experts from a wide variety of fields involved in our projects as we call our practice a United Network."

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Tour Bioclimatique, Paris (UNStudio)
The firm's prestigious projects include the restructuring of the station area of Arnhem, the mixed-use Raffles City in Hangzhou, a masterplan for Basauri, a dance theatre for St. Petersburg and the design and restructuring of the Harbor Ponte Parodi in Genoa. UNStudio's other works include Ardmore Residence, SG, Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, a façade and interior renovation for the Galleria Department store in Seoul, a private villa up-state New York, Ponte Parodi Harbour Redevelopment, Genoa, IT, Lock Island Bridges, Dubai, UAE, Education Executive Agency and Tax Offices, Groningen, NL etc.

Throughout over 25 years of international project experience, UNStudio has continually expanded its capabilities through prolonged collaboration with an extended network of international consultants, partners, and advisors across the globe. This network, combined with its centrally located offices in Amsterdam and Shanghai, enables it to work efficiently anywhere in the world. With already over seventy projects in Asia, Europe, and North America, the Studio continues to expand its global presence with recent commissions in among others China, South-Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Germany and the USA.

Ben van Berkel has lectured and taught at many architectural schools around the world. Currently, he is Professor of Conceptual Design at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main and was recently awarded the Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor's Chair at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Central to his teaching is the inclusive approach of architectural works integrating virtual and material organization 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); RIBA International Fellowship (2009); Member of advisory board for Gehry Technologies (2011); the Honorary Fellowship AIA (2013) and many more.