Dutch architect Ben van Berkel stands out as an architectural pioneer valued for his radical, yet prophetic visions of spatial composition. Together with wife Caroline Bos, van Berkel is co-founder of UNStudio, an Amsterdam-based practice configured as a network of working specialists in architecture, urban development and infrastructure. Profoundly influential, the collaborative approach espoused by UNStudio has manifested a wide range of projects, from ambitious large-scale bridges and museums to visionary homes, which span the globe.
Before his own rigor as an inventive visionary became established, van Berkel served under guidance from Zaha Hadid and Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava respectively. Out of these two seemingly contradictory stylistic experiences, van Berkel was able to attain his own particularized voice and vision, unraveling new territories of thinking and creative understanding.
In 1998, van Berkel captured the world’s imagination with the completion of Mobius House, an elaborately constructed concrete and glass environment distinguished by its nuanced but precise expressions. Since then, he has consistently earned his reputation from such notable designs as the REMU electricity station, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, renovation and extension of the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen and others. In 1996, he designed the Dutch pavilion at the Trienalle di Milano.
The firm’s current projects comprise, among other things, the restructuring of Arnhem Central Station (NL), a residential tower in Manhattan, the Museum of Middle Eastern Modern Art in Dubai, the restructuring of the Harbour Ponte Parodi in Genoa, Italy and the mixed-use Raffles City in Hangzhou, China. The completion of the immaculate Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, whose concept symbolizes a finely honed machine and features a bold interpretation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Rotunda, has been instrumental in thrusting van Berkel and his firm to new heights.
van Berkel studied architecture at Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Architectural Association in London. He has been visiting lecturer at Princeton and has taught at Columbia University, the Berlage Institute and UCLA. At present, he is Professor of Conceptual Design, Head of the Architecture Department at Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main (Germany).