Let's twist again
VilLA NM, Upstate New York 2000-2006
On a frozen February day in 2008 VilLA NM passed away. One of the sexiest buildings designed by the omnipotent computer architecture had caught on fire and could not be extinguished, due to the ice capping the idyllic hill where it sat. The owners were away from their well known summer home at the time of the fire.
Minimalism a la Mies van der Rohe with deformation characteristic of Dutch avant-garde created an attractive juxtaposition that took full advantage of its wooded surroundings. A system of five parallel walls shifting five times on their axis created a split-level space - with the kitchen and living room below, and the bedrooms above. Two inter-level ramps created further separation between the rooms, some exposed to the scenery, others concealed for privacy.
VilLA NM was designed by UNStudio - a Dutch office co-founded in 1998 by architect Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, with whom he had begun working already in 1985 during his studies at AA in London.
Caroline Bos studied History of Art at the University of London, recently completing a master's degree in urban planning - the area she is in charge of in the office. With Ben van Berkel she was editor of Forum (1985-86) and the ANY publication ‘Diagram Works’ (1998).
Bos' writing and analyzing capability have undoubtedly contributed to her professional involvement in all of the office's projects, and apparently to its top place in the media - without which no office that respects itself can exist. And by the way, an area where van Berkel's abilities come into play too.
Furthermore, over the years the two have co-written a number of books: Ben van Berkel Architect (1992), Delinquent Visionaries (1990), Mobile Forces (1994), Move (1999), Unfold (2003), Design Models (2006).
Born in Utrecht, Ben van Berkel studied architecture in Amsterdam and at the Architectural Association in London. His first projects were built almost immediately after founding Van Berkel & Bos Architectuur Bureau. Among these: Karbouw offices in Amersfoort, Holland; the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam; Het Valkhof Museum, Nijmegen; the Moebius House in Het Gooi; and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart - five avant-garde projects that have placed van Berkel at the forefront of the architectural arena. A keen eye, by the way, may discern in a number of his projects the twist characteristic to Villa NM.
Ben van Berkel has been a visiting lecturer at Princeton after teaching at Columbia University, the Berlage Institute and UCLA. He is currently Professor of Conceptual Design and head of the Architecture Department at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main (Germany).
UNStudio has recently opened an office in Shanghai, China, where they direct the Raffles City project.