"Our priority is to play our part in society at large" says Ben van Berkel

UNStudio founder Ben van Berkel says the architecture firm is researching "how design can support the sectors that are in need" after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, in a video message for Virtual Design Festival.

"Our priority is, of course, to safeguard our employees, our business and our running projects, but also to play our part in society at large," van Berkel said.

The Dutch architect explained how the coronavirus pandemic has changed his mindset when it comes to his work. "Personally I have shifted my thinking from 'what can we build?' to 'how can we be more resilient?'" he said.

In the video, van Berkel poses several questions about how technology can assist in making the built environment safer in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.

"How we can use data to track the spread of disease?" he asked. "How can we make the built environment healthier with technology?"

"17 video calls a day"

Van Berkel explained how UNStudio has adapted to working during the lockdown, including using sharing platforms instead of physical design sessions.

"At UNStudio, our daily routines have completely changed: we have switched from an average of 40 hours of travel a week to 17 video calls a day," he explained.

"Instead of hands-on design sessions, we are now using online sharing platforms. It’s amazing to see how resilient everyone has been to all these changes," he said.

Van Berkel's video message also features in the VDF launch movie alongside contributions from 34 other architects, designers and artists in lockdown around the world, including Stefano GiovanniEs DevlinIni Archibong, and Bec Brittain. You can watch the full movie here.

Founded by van Berkel and Caroline Bos in 1988, UNStudio is a Dutch architecture firm with a particular focus on sustainability.

The firm recently developed a design for a neighbourhood in the Netherlands, where residents produce their own resources and control the use of their data.

UNStudio associate director and senior architect Marianthi Tatari spoke about the firm's work on smart neighbourhoods in a lecture streamed earlier this week as part of VDF's collaboration with Prague conference reSITE.

Send us a video message

Dezeen invited architects, designers, artists and industry figures to record video messages from lockdown and made a montage of 35 video messages to launch Virtual Design Festival.

We'll be posting an individual video message each day. Check them out here. To submit your own message, see the brief here.

About Virtual Design Festival

Virtual Design Festival runs from 15 April to 30 June 2020. It brings the architecture and design world together to celebrate the culture and commerce of our industry, and explore how it can adapt and respond to extraordinary circumstances.

To find out what's coming up at VDF, check out the schedule. For more information or to join the mailing list, email [email protected].