Van B

Architect
UNStudio
Location
Munich, Germany | View Map
Project Year
2018
Category
Apartments

Van B - Contemporary Smart Home

UNStudio as Architects

The new Van B residential project, located on Infanteriestrasse next to the future ‘Kreativquartier’ (creative quarter) in Munich, offers a completely new form of housing that reimagines the future of urban living.

As a prototype for modern city dwelling, Van B is designed to cater to changing demographics and multiple family constellations. With its highly flexible apartments, outdoor and shared communal spaces and striking facade, Van B offers a new form of urban living.

Ben van Berkel: „What makes Van B truly special and unique is that it offers a completely new form of ‘smart’ living. This is not smart in the usual sense of tech integration; it instead involves reinterpreting ideas from the digital world in order to improve the analogue, physical spaces we inhabit.“

Multifunctional plugin modules
Ben van Berkel: „Individual spaces in our homes have had to become multi-functional, serving as offices, gyms, living rooms and sleeping nooks, all at the same time. This means that now, more than ever before, we need to develop new living concepts that cater to the changing demands of our homes.” Flexibility has become more important to people today than sheer size. With Van B we introduce new ways to make the footprint of an apartment more flexible.

The architectural strategy was to devise as many different ways as possible to reconfigure an apartment. To achieve this, we designed an adaptable partition and furniture ‘plugin-based’ system that allows homeowners to use the space in a 40m2 apartment almost as if it were a 60m2 loft. The Van B plugin system allows you to easily change the use of the same floor space in a matter of seconds, making it possible to transform a room from a generous office into a cozy living room, or a bedroom.

Van B challenges old conventions of square footage and fixed footprints to empower people to live in more flexible ways. Quality meters become more important than square meters. The flexibility lies in the fact that each element can work in different configurations and that the resident can chose an individual configuration of plugins based on a catalogue of nine elements.

In order to achieve this, a grid  was devised upon which each element is based, as whenever one element is opened, the back of the other one needs to be adjacent to it. This means that no matter which elements the homeowner chooses, and no matter how they arrange them inside their apartment, the modules will work together, With the possibility to reconfigure the apartment to their immediate needs, the homeowner can choreograph their space around their day, instead of the other way around. Ben van Berkel: “Related ideas have been seen in architecture in the past, but Van B goes beyond traditional ideas of flexibility as we know them in architecture. It is more intelligent, adaptable and user friendly, while also providing high levels of comfort.”

A variety of apartment types
Van B offers a variety of apartment types and sizes including one to three room apartments, flats, gallery lofts and rooftop flats, each catering to different demographics and resident constellations.

Indoor-outdoor flows and community building
Essential in the design of Van B is the relationship of the inside to the outside and the creation of a community within the development. Creating connections between people and to the outdoors, and using outdoor space as an extension of the living spaces was essential to the design. In the apartments, the large bay windows and balconies create visual connections between the street, the homes and the beautiful trees that line the road. A sense of expanding the space is created by pushing the inside out and pulling the outside in. The bay windows also serve to provide the building with a sculptural three-dimensional shell. In the apartments from the first to the fifth floor, the living space expands from within, enabling 180-degree cityscape views while retaining privacy for the neighbours. The result is an apartment block that makes the most of both neighbourhood living and its interior spaces. With their glazed facades, the gallery lofts that face the courtyard on the ground floor invite residents to open up their apartments and extend their living rooms into the garden. Furthermore, the voids that span over all three levels create unique spatial configurations.

Having their own address, these triple height apartments almost work as small houses nestled within the building. Van B also offers an architectural expression of the ideas of the sharing economy, community creation and inclusive ways of living. It provides a roof terrace that is open to all residents, alongside communal ‚Kitchen Lounges‘ that provide space for entertaining, working and socialising outside of the home. There is also a fitness patio, bike repair station, alongside car and bike sharing services. Ben van Berkel: „The current pandemic has highlighted how important social connections are for our wellbeing. Now more than ever, we are seeing that many people desire and need to meet regularly with their families, friends and neighbours. But with neighbours in particular, such encounters are usually spontaneous and so they need to be facilitated. Architecture can create frameworks that enable people to meet, where neighbourhood communities can be shaped and where spontaneous encounters can occur.

“ The Van B project fulfills all of the strict sustainability regulations in Germany. In addition, parts of the foundation and basement structure from the previous building were re-used for the new building and the basement walls were reinforced. In this way it was possible to save on construction materials, while speeding up the building process. The roof garden also serves to cool the building, while the bay windows are orientated to optimise daylight in the apartments.

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