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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, working in the architectural practice UNStudio. With his studio he designed the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany and other building.


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.[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. In 1998 van Berkel and Bos relaunched their practice as UNStudio, where UN stands for "United Net".

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).


Theatre Agora, Lelystad, Netherlands
Main hall, Theatre Agora, Lelystad, Netherlands
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
VilLA NM, Kenoza Lake, New York[2]
VilLA NM, Kenoza Lake, New York
Galleria Department Store, Seoul, South Korea
Interior Galleria Department Store, Seoul, South Korea
Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam, Netherlands
NMR Facility, Utrecht, Netherlands
La Defense Offices, Almere, Netherlands
Moebius House, Het Gooi, Netherlands

Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau

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,[3] Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen,[4] the Moebius house,[5] and the NMR facilities for the University of Utrecht[6]


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, an LED media façade (designed with Rogier van der Heide) 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.[7] 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.


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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Selected projects

  • Erasmus Bridge (1991-1996), Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Het Valkhof Museum (1995-1998), Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • Möbius House (1993-1998), Naarden, Netherlands
  • Music Faculty and Theatre (1998-2009), University Graz, Graz, Austria
  • VilLA NM (2000-2007), Upstate New York, United States
  • Mercedes-Benz Museum (2001-2006), Stuttgart, Germany
  • Theatre Agora (2002-2007), Lelystad, Netherlands
  • Research Laboratory (2003-2008), University Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Galleria Department Store (2003-2005), Seoul, South-Korea
  • UNStudio Office Tower (2003-2010), South- Axis Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Five Franklin Place Residential Tower (2006), New York, United States
  • Holiday Home (2006), Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, United States
  • Star Place Department Store (2006-2008), Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • Education Executive Agency and Tax Offices (2007-2011), Groningen, Netherlands
  • Galleria Cheonan Department Store (2008-2010), Cheonan, South Korea
  • Lock Island Bridges (2008), Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Mychair (2008), Walter Knoll
  • New Amsterdam Pavilion (2008 - 2009), New York, United States
  • Diakonessenhuis Health Care Campus (2009), Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Creative Zone Masterplan (2009), Beijing, China
  • Twofour54 Media Center (2009), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Youturn Pavilion (2010), Sao Paulo Art Biennale, Sao Paulo, Brasil
  • SitTable (2010), PROOFF
  • Exhibition Motion Matters (2011), Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, United States
  • New Amsterdam Chair (2011-2011), Wilde + Spieth

Current Projects

  • Ardmore Residences (2006-2013), Residential Tower, Singapore
  • Beijing New Scitech Reconstruction (2011), Mixed-use, Beijing, China
  • Shenton Way (2010), Mixed-use, Singapore
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (2010), Singapore
  • Scotts Road (2010), Residential Tower, Singapore
  • Entre Les Deux Portes (2010), Commercial and Residential Complex, Brussels, Belgium
  • Twofour54 (2009), Media Campus, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Dance Palace (2009), Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Raffles City (2008), Mixed-use, Hangzhou, China
  • Post Rotterdam (2007), Lifestyle Retail Centre and Hotel, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Arnhem Central Station (1996), Arnhem, Netherlands
  • Ponte Parodi (2000), Harbor Redevelopment, Genoa, Italy

Selection publications

  • 1992. Ben van Berkel, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam
  • 1995. Ben van Berkel, El Croquis, Madrid
  • 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
  • 2004. Love it. Live it, DAMDI Architecture Publishers, Seoul
  • 2004. Gannon, Todd, UNStudio Erasmus Bridge, Princeton Architectural Press
  • 2006. Bauwelt 17. This issue of Bauwelt is dedicated to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart
  • 2010. Sollazzo, Andrea, Van Berkel Digitale - Diagrammi, Processi, Modelli Di UNStudio, EdilStampa, Rome
  • 2012. UNStudio in Motion, Published by: Phoenix Publishing and Media Group, Tianjin Ifengspace Culture &Media Co., Ltd


  • With UN Studio 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.
    • Ben van Berkel in: A + U: architecture and urbanism. Vol 404-405. 2004
  • Innovation exists! You just have to accept that today you can't innovate on your own. Real, significant, innovation occurs mostly when several people simultaneously have the same idea and mysteriously move in the same direction, following subliminally emitted and received signals. The contemporary cultural inclination to see innovation as an inherently collaborative effort, a communal, discursive growing and groping towards the new, as consensual and shared, appears to find confirmation throughout history, going back to the Renaissance, looking at Picasso and Braque, the Surrrealists, and the radical architecture groups of the 1960's and the early 70's such as Superstudio and Archigram. 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 brands.
    • Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos in: UN Studio - Amsterdam Architect van het jaar, 2007.


  1. ^ Wolfgang Amsoneit, et al. (1996). Contemporary European architects. p. 170.
  2. ^ "Fire Destroys UNStudio's VilLA NM". Architectural Record. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Todd Gannon (2004). UN Studio: Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. ISBN 1-56898-426-X
  4. ^ B. van Berkel, Caroline Bos (1999). Museum het Valkhof. UN Studio 1999. ISBN 90-805188-1-6
  5. ^ Manuel Gausa (1999). Single-family housing: the private domain. p.224
  6. ^ Bart Lootsma (2000). Superdutch: new architecture in the Netherlands. Princeton Architectural Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56898-239-9, p.261.
  7. ^

External links

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