Lecture by Caroline Bos (UNStudio) @ Dutch Design Workspace | TMC @ Shanghai World Expo 2010

ʻDeep Planning: Relational Models for the Sustainable Cityʼ by Caroline Bos (UNStudio)

This lecture formed an introduction to the new book by Caroline Bos and Ben van Berkel that will be published in December 2010: Caroline Bos & Ben van Berkel, ʻDEEP PLANNING – Relational Models for the Sustainable Cityʻ, August 2010, UNStudio Amsterdam.

This lecture was organized by the The Mobile City together with Virtueel Platform and the Dutch Design Workspace. It took place in the Dutch Design Workspace in Shanghai on Monday August 16 2010


Lecture Report

Caroline Bos, one of the two partners of architecture office UN Studio introduces some of their work in the recently opened Dutch Design Workspace in Shanghai.

UN Studio is an Amsterdam based architecture firm, that recently opened a second office in Shanghai. According to Bos, ‘Shanghai is a very optimistic city in a world that is in crisis’. The crises the world is facing vary from energetic, economical tot environmental. Bos explained that she and Ben van Berkel started their studio in 1988, and redefined themselves as ‘United Network Studio’ in 1998. She defines their book ‘Move’ the ‘manifesto of our time’

UN Studio works with a strategy called ‘Deep Planning‘(pdf) that they define as ‘the integral, time and user based approach of urbanism and infrastructure’. It is based on the idea of making a connection between local and global networks: ‘Deep Planning revolves around the definition of pivotal problems at the basis of the development of postindustrial, global locations, that is to say, specific, localized sites that link up with global networks.’ In this analysis, movement studies form one of the key issues. In these studies UN Studio tries to map information on flows and movements of both people and goods. According to UN Studio, ‘this information, together with time, defines use’, and that use should be the basis for the programme of a site.

The procedure of the Deep Plan involves generating a situation-specific, dynamic, organizational structure plan with the aid of parameter-based techniques. The in-depth, interactive nature of the Deep Plan means that it incorporates economics, infrastructure, program and construction in time. As a result, relations instead of the optimization of individual data form the parameters of a project, generating potentials that no single, individual interest could have engendered.

An example of Deep Planning is found in the development of a train terminal in Arnhem, NL, which is a work in progress for already 14 years. At first the assignment for the the train terminal program seemed to be about designing a train station. However, after analyzing the users and movements in the site, it became clear that only 41% of the people in the area were train passengers, the other were passengers of other modalities. This shows that the stakeholders play a crucial role in these kind of projects: suddenly the railway company is not the most important stakeholder anymore, but a whole diverse group of users.

UN Studio also participated in a group of architects called ‘United Architects’, with whom they made ‘only competitions that we could not win’. The group proposed for a new building on Ground Zero (which they lost against Daniel Libeskind), and also the headquarters of the European Bank in Frankfurt, which will be realized by Coop Himmelblau. An other example was their proposal for the European Headquarters, consisting of a spherical volume. By cutting away mass, the floorplans turned into revolving plans.

Although not executed in Frankfurt, the revolving floorplans returned in another project: Raffles City in Hangzhou. This project consists of two mixed-use towers on a commercial plinth.

Bos concludes with stating that UN Studio operates on the intersection of the urban and the architectural, where new moments can be discovered. The four elements that she thinks are crucial are first of all the development of a negotiation strategy. Then, UN Studio believes in the reversal of served and servant spaces – as defined by Louis Kahn. In this definition the serves spaces are those spaces designed for a particular use (e.g. the living room, the shop, the office). The servant spaces consist of those spaces that serve these spaces, e.g. corridors, stairs etc.

For UN Studio, the served spaces are more or less fixed, there is not that much room for innovation, whereas the servant spaces form a domain  ‘where we can still be inventive.’ These are the spaces of mobility and flows that are traditionally somewhat disregarded by architects. However Bos finds these circulatory spaces of particular interest, since that is where people meet and are still confronted with one another. Bos states that these spaces can serve as the motor for our healthy future. For instance – with regard to the environmental crisis – by developing them in such an aesthetic pleasant way that they promote walking or public transport.

Lecture Report by GoWest, with additional remarks by Martijn de Waal.


In 1988 Caroline Bos with Ben van Berkel founded the worldwide renowned architecture firm UNStudio (United Net). This year UNStudio opened its first office in Asia located in Shanghai. Current projects include the Raffles City project in Hangzhou, the Galleria department store in Cheonan (KR), a dance theater in St. Petersburg, the restructuring of the station area of Arnhem, a master plan for Basauri, and the design and restructuring of the Harbor Ponte Parodi in Genoa. UNStudio has realized amongst others the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, a shopping mall renovation in Kaohsiung, a music theatre for Graz, and a façade and interior renovation for the Galleria Department store in Seoul.