ben van berkel
The New Understanding
W 29 February 2012 | 6:00pm | Carnegie Library Lecture Hall
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the Netherlands Cultural Services
Today, the discipline of architecture is wide open to the possibility of radical change. The narratives of gain and growth that explained, legitimized and propelled forward so much architecture in the past decades have been interrupted. The focus now is on articulating new conceptualizations of possibly all the vital considerations at the core of the field. Yet this is nothing new in itself; architecture thrives on newness. Without continuous material, cultural and ideological innovations, the profession loses its specificity and becomes simply a bland part of a generic building industry. With UNStudio we have long realized this, which is why we have pushed ourselves in many different directions, continuously addressing new challenges and questions. But at the same time this experimental attitude has also led us to consciously seek to build as much as we could. Disengagement from the dangers of the building industry within the globalized economy has never been our preferred option. Perhaps now, more even more than at the height of the boom, this engagement is necessary to identify the topics that we need to understand in new ways. These topics are: knowledge, cultural versus economic values, speed and the future. How do we begin to understand these anew? How can we find a new balance between timeless values endogenous and exogenous to architecture? Ben van Berkel is co-founder and principal architect of UNStudio. He holds the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and is Professor of Conceptual Design at the Städelschule in Frankfurt.