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UNStudio Tried Riding the Open Source Wave, but Failed

United Kingdom Architecture News - Oct 25, 2013 - 17:44   2652 views

UNStudio Tried Riding the Open Source Wave, but Failed

Diagram illustrating the potential applications and developments of UNStudio’s knowledge & Twofour54 Media Zone 1, featured in STORY OF THE DOUBLE-SKIN FACADE.

What were you doing that glorious April the 9th 2013, the day when UNStudio announced that they were going open source? You don’t remember? Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal.

The announcement that UNStudio did a ‘relaunch as open source architecture studio’ got picked up by all the big architecture blogs: DezeenArchdailyArchinect and even Waag, producer of the book Open Design Now, wrote an article about it. While I don’t blame Dezeen, Archdaily and Archinect for not being more critical, Waag should know what real open source is. Yet, they just went with it. Anyway, let’s start with a few catchy phrases Ben van Berkel came up with to plug his new open source network:

“(…) we became fascinated by the new initiatives put in place by online start-up companies — such as social networking firms — who have moved from an old economy to a far more innovative economy which celebrates communication, open exchange and co-creation.”

“I sometimes believe that we all live in the iPhone 5 phase while architecture is still in the Walkman phase.”

“Knowledge sharing – from nodes to knowledge, from network to meshwork.”

“Yes. I think we will be the first, yes.”

Reading the blog posts and the interview with critically acclaimed Dutch architect Ben van Berkel raises some questions. What exactly are they going to share? Will it be more than just some sketches they have laying around? Could it be a big database of materials and tools? Or maybe a bucketload of failed competition entries? Unfortunately, the platform features none of this. At his very moment there are only 27 articles available (they’ve been online for 6 months now), 26 of which were written by UNStudio, and most of them are as vague and imprecise as their view on open source. At some point articles are even contradicting each other:

“In a typical office, 65% of the total emissions are from the people who are using the building.” – from the ENI – ATTAINABILITY article.

People as the biggest possible sustainability win, that sounds plausible. Other articles suggest other biggest possible sustainability wins:

“Passive design tools are seen as the starting point of sustainability. They have the biggest impact on the environmental benefit and are financially efficient. (…) Natural light impact, orientation of the building, open and closed façade strategies, glazing strategy and related program orientation, natural ventilation and air tightness” – from theACTIVE AND PASSIVE CIRCLE article.

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