Amsterdam, Architecture, Technology, UNSense, UNStudio

UNStudio launches tech start up to align architecture with the age of technology

Founder of Dutch studio UNStudio, Ben van Berkel has launched a tech start up company, UNSense, which will help architecture “catch up” with the digital revolution.

The firm’s press release reads: “The digital revolution is driving change in every part of our lives, except within the built environment. The time has now come to catch up”.

UNSense will integrate innovative technologies into the built environment in order to improve the daily lives of people and to “humanise” the fields of architecture, construction, as well as indoor spaces.

“We are living in the age of the iPhone, yet the architecture and construction industries are still in the Walkman phase,” he said. “With UNSense, I want to fully integrate innovative technologies into the built environment and improve the way people live, work and get from A to B. It is not the hardware or the software itself that interests me, but how it can be applied within architecture and urban design to improve our daily lives.”

People are at the very essence of architecture, he added, and through correct technological application, environments can be designed to support the needs of individuals and populations at large.

“I look at technology within the built environment from the viewpoint of an architect, and that always starts with people. Instead of focusing only on performance or energy use optimisation, with sensorial adaptive environments, I see a great opportunity to create buildings and cities that are sensible and sensitive to human beings,” Van Berkel said.

UNSense will operate independent of UNStudio’s architectural practice – located in the Freedom Lab Campus in Amsterdam – and will be led by Roger Tan.

The start up will collaborate with various disciplines and bodies, including data analysts, algorithmists, neuroscientists, policy makers, students, municipalities, sociologists, economists, data architects, business case modellers, financial specialists, and other architects.

This allows for a diversified insight into how one can use technology to create usability and modality in a city and its buildings, predicting human behaviors and needs and how spaces can respond to them.

“I am of the firm belief that in the future all architecture practices will become arch tech firms, but for now we have to pave the way to make this expansion of our knowledge and expertise possible,” Van Berkel said.

At the moment, the start up is working on a solution called ‘CitySense’ which focuses on health, safety, and livability based on a collection of data through a sensory digital infrastructure. The results will be implemented to create more positive environments and experiences for people.

The company’s future aim is to “develop solutions that go beyond smart city technology”, and to allow architecture and interiors to fully respond to people’s needs, emotions, and intentions.

Some of UNStudio recent works in the Middle East includes a skyscraper for Dubai that features the world’s tallest ceramic facade. Within the wider region, the firm is also designing the new extension of Georgia’s Kutaisi International Airport.