Architecture Research Unit: Architecture as City
Submitting InstitutionLondon Metropolitan University
Unit of AssessmentArchitecture, Built Environment and Planning
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Built Environment and Design: Design Practice and Management, Urban and Regional Planning
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Visual Arts and Crafts
Summary of the impact
ARU is a significant international leader in the definition and practice
of design as research. Buildings and realised urban designs are
the main research outputs. The research is also disseminated with books,
international exhibitions, international journals, television and
newspapers. This research is having verifiable influence on the direction
of architectural practice and education in Asia and Europe. Impact can be
seen in the numbers of visitors such as: 800,000 people to the 2011
Gwangju Biennale ARU Urban Folly; 170,000 people to the 2010 Venice
Biennale; 130,000 people to the 2008 Venice Biennale, and 471,000 page
views to the ARU website between Sep 2008 - Sep. 2013. Florian Beigel was
awarded the Grand Art Prize 2013, of the Academy of the Arts, Berlin, 18
March 2013 for the research works he has carried out with the Architecture
Research Unit over the past three decades.
Architecture as City is an idea of architectural space that makes
a house into a (small) urbanism, i.e. the space is similar in character to
the space between buildings on a street, a square, in a mews, both in the
intimate and more public parts. This idea has been developed further by
introducing a differentiation between the infrastructural and the
inhabitational spaces in architecture. This design approach is applicable
to large and small architectural scales.
The enhancement of the public realm at all scales in the city is the
starting point for ARU. Prof. Florian Beigel (Director of ARU) and
Prof. Philip Christou (Co-Director of ARU) have worked together since 1985
as key researchers with a team of Design Research Assistants at London
Thinking about Architecture as City began as early as 1985 with the
design of the Half Moon Theatre in London http://aru.londonmet.ac.uk/works/halfmoon/
— `a theatrical street with a roof over it'. This lead to ARU's
prize-winning international design competition entries for larger urban
landscape design projects in Japan, Nara Mats (1992), and the Sky
Mat, Yokohama Port Terminal (1994). Research into landscape
infrastructure was taken further with international design competition
projects that were built in Germany. Large open-cast coal mining
landscapes are being transformed into a city landscapes of lakes and new
settlements, Brikettfabrik Witznitz (1st prize, 1996), Kunstlandscaft
Cospuden (1st prize, 1997-2001). Following this, a large area
formerly used as military training grounds was to be transformed over
decades into a new city district on the southern edge of Berlin, Stadtlandshcaft
Lichterfelde Süd, Berlin (1st prize, 1998).
http://aru.londonmet.ac.uk/works/lichterfelde/ In these projects the
dimension of time and the idea of designing for uncertainty became drivers
in the design research process. Experiments with the concept of
architectural infrastructures in the city were played out here, where the
inhabitation could be designed by others. We began to question the notion
of the master plan.
"...implying a redefinition of planning, designed not to anticipate
the final picture, but to make possible or rather to stimulate
development processes, creating guidelines that allow us to interpret
land as a medium for laws of change and transformation that is not the
project's concern to predict or specify."
Iñaki Abalos, 2001
These large German urban projects led directly to ARU being invited to
develop the Urban and Landscape Concept Design for Paju Book City,
Korea, (1999-). Paju Phase 01 (completed in 2007) with over 300
buildings built by individual clients and their architects. Paju enjoys a
unique sense of civility which can be experienced in a special public
realm: an urban wetland that unifies the entire site; and a number of
cultural building clusters that offer views of the Han River landscape and
the nearby Simhak Mountain. ARU will be involved in the design of an urban
block in Paju Phase 02 during 2014.
ARU has completed three publishing houses at Paju Book City: Youl Hwa
Dang Publishing House 01 (2003), Positive Thinking People Publishing
House (2007) and the Youl Hwa Dang Book Hall Building (2009).
http://aru.londonmet.ac.uk/works/youlhwadang02/ These buildings sit
next to each other on Bookmakers' Street, forming a city cluster in Paju
with a generosity of spirit and sense of civility. Each building is an
essay about architecture as an urban figure, beginning with the abstract
almost pictogram quality, to a pair of dancing figures forming a little
public space, to an enquiry about the architectural language of continuity
and public decorum.
Based on the strength and public influence of the Paju project, ARU was
invited as one of 7 international design research teams to make an urban
design proposal within a 400 square km site on the South-West coast of
Korea. The ARU Saemangeum Island City (2008) http://aru.londonmet.ac.uk/works/saemangeum/
anticipates a city of approx. 600,000 people to be built on land
reclaimed from the sea. This project is a compilation of the design
research concepts and strategies that ARU has developed over the past 2
The highly figurative and enigmatic Urban Folly Gwangju, Korea (2011)
http://aru.londonmet.ac.uk/works/folly/ is playing out these themes
at the scale of a small building within the public realm of a busy Korean
city street. It is much loved and appreciated by the local citizens acting
as a shrine to commemorate the Gwangju Democracy Movement and public
massacre in 1980, and marks the position of the former city wall and
eastern city gate.
References to the research
We have selected 6 outputs listed in chronological order below. Each
output generates the next.
1. International Exhibition at the Venice Biennale
`Critical Topic Paju Book City As Culturescape' (2008)
11th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia 2008,
Korean Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, 12 Sept.- 23 Nov. 2008. Paju Book City
was exhibited as the sole subject of the Korean Pavilion at the Venice
2. Governmental Design Research Report
`Seamangeum Island City: Design Research Reports submitted to the
Provincial Government of Jeollabuk-do (in Korean and English)' (2008)
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, ARU, London, with contributions by
Urban Economy Team from LSE Prof. Athar Hussain and Dr. Fran Tonkiss, Cost
Consultants Davis Langdon & Seah Korea — Mun-Su Max Lee, Environment
Consultants — Jonathan Cook and Hydrologist Dr. Qingwei Ma, Renewable
Energies Network coordinated by Prof. Dr. H. Mueller, University of
Dortmund, Germany and Video Animation by Neutral, London.
July 2008 Final Report, 181 pages, Economist Report, 102 p.
October 2008 Supplementary Report, 92 pages including animation by
`Youl Hwa Dang Book Hall, Paju Book City, South Korea' (2009)
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, ARU, London, with executive architect
Choi JongHoon + NIA, Seoul, completed June 2009. There continues to be
considerable international interest in the architecture and urban design
of Paju Book City with an array of buildings designed by leading
international Architects such as; Alvaro Siza (Portugal); Kazuyo Sejima
(Japan); Alejandro Zaera- Polo (UK); Stan Allen (USA); Seung H-Sang; Joh
Sung-Yong; Kim Jong Kyu (Korea).
"Its principal facade is a quite extraordinary piece of design — a
free arrangement of myriad doors and windows bound together by the
insistently figurative nature of their proportion. It is a project
unlike anything I have ever seen and yet one that communicates a
powerful commitment to an urban culture."
Ellis Woodman, Building Design, 18 Dec. 2009
4. Exhibition at the Venice Biennale
`Seamangeum Island City, Korea' (2010)
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, Architecture Research Unit, London,
12th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia 2010,
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Giardini, Venice, 29 Aug. — 21 Nov. 2010.
`Architecture as City, Saemangeum Island City' (2010)
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, ARU, London, Springer Vienna, New
York, August 2010, 160 p. ISBN: 978-3-7091-0367-8. This book is a thorough
account of the design process and methodology that ARU used for the urban
design proposal titled `Saemangeum Island City'. The first edition print
run of 1000 copies is now sold out internationally.
"This book is a contribution that requires maximum attention from the
reader: design practice related to territory is still a discipline under
construction; it will be crucial in the perpetuation of the figure of
the architect in the coming decades."
Book review by Inaki Abalos, Arquitectura Viva, issue 133 p.83
`Seowonmoon Lantern Urban Folly, Gwangju, Korea' (2011)
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, Architecture Research Unit, London,
with executive architects Ahn Jong Hwan, AN architects, Seoul, and Shin
Young Eun, SA_RAM architects, Gwangju, building completed September, 2011.
The Urban Folly project forms part of an exhibition at the Gwangju Design
Biennale 2011, "Design is Design is not Design", Seung H-Sang and Ai Wei
Wei, Co-Directors, Gwangju City, Korea, 02 Sept. — 23 Oct. 2011. The Urban
Follies will be maintained "forever" by the City of Gwangju.
"The more successful among them have a public generosity beyond the
scope of their site; the least successful are nothing more than clumsy
additions to the already cluttered streetscape. Of the former, the works
by Florian Beigel and Philip Christou's Architecture Research Unit
(ARU), Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Juan Herreros stand out as bringing more
than the sum of their parts to unpromising locations." `Hello
folly!', by Oliver Wainwright, Building Design, 04 Nov. 2011, p.10-15
Details of the impact
Paju Book City Seven international journals, two national
journals, four books, five international exhibitions including 130,000
visitors to the 11th International Venice Architecture Biennale, 2008.
Youl Hwa Dang Publishing House, Phase 1 Three international
journals, five national journals, four books, two international
Positive People Publishing House 1 international journal, 6
national journals, 2 books, 2 international exhibitions.
Youl Hwa Dang Book Hall, Phase Two 2 National journals, 1 book, 3
Saemangeum Island City 4 international journals, 6 national
journals, 2 books, 3 international exhibitions (including 170 000 visitors
to the 12th International Venice Architecture Biennale, 2010),1 national
exhibition, 3 National Newspaper articles, 4 Korean Local Newspaper
articles, three Korean Local TV Network programmes. Sales of the
Architecture as City, Saemangeum Island City first edition print run of
1000 copies is now sold out internationally. During the first two years it
sold in over 20 countries.
Seowonmoon Lantern Urban Folly, 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale
800 000 recorded visitors to folly, 3 national journals, 2 books, 1
international exhibition, 21 National Newspaper articles, 25 Korean Local
Newspaper articles, 3 Korean Local TV Network programmes, 3 Korean Radio
Significant practicing architects in Korea cite ARU design research
projects in their work. Jong Kyu Kim's infrastructure design of Heyri Art
Valley is influenced by the ARU Paju Book City and previous projects. Paju
is a significant design reference for sustainable urban design
Research into architecture as city has led to a number of ongoing
projects in the UK with exciting clients such Crispin Kelly (BayLight
properties) and Niall Hobhouse — both exploring how to design homes and
shared spaces with productive gardens as city fragments / city origins in
the context of the English landscape.
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou have delivered 23 public lectures
about ARU's architectural design as research projects at international
public events and universities in the UK and abroad between Jan. 2008 and
A significant number of ARU research assistants and visiting
professors have gone on to make valuable contributions of their own to
the field of architectural practice and research:
Sang Soo Bae — Cottrell & Vermeulen Architecture, London;
Adam Caruso — Director, Caruso St. John Architects, London;
Martin Hsu — Director, Adrian Froelich & Martin Hsu Architekten,
Daniel Mallo Martinez, Director, ec-architects, Lecturer, School of
Architecture, Newcastle Univ.
Chi Won Park, Principal Architect, Smal + Partners, London;
Michael Casey — Director, Casey Fierro Architects, London with Victoria
Prof. Kim Jong Kyu — Director, M.A.R.U, Seoul, Professor, Korean National
Univ. of the Arts;
Julian Lewis — Director, EAST, London;
Nina Lundvall — RIBA President's Silver Medal Winner 2002, Caruso St.
John Architects, London;
Prof. Philipp Misselwitz — Urban Catalyst, Berlin; Professor of Urban
Design, University of Stuttgart;
Seung H-Sang — `Artist of the Year 2002, Korea', Director, Iroje
Architecture and Planning Ltd;
Peter St. John, Director, Caruso St. John Architects, London;
Prof. Wilfried Wang — Former Director of Deutsche Architektur Museum,
Hoidn Wang Partner, Berlin, Professor in Architecture, University of
Texas at Austin.
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou are supervising PhD by design students
at London Metropolitan University. A PhD by design within ARU has proven
popular with PhD students internationally.
Approximately 117,000 visits with 471,000 page views between Sep.2008 and
Sep.2013. Visitors have come from 155 countries with the majority from the
United Kingdom, United States, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, South
Korea, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Building Editor of Building Design
- Architectural Critic of the Financial Times
- Former Editor of AMC Le Moniteur Architecture
- Director of Iroje Architects, Seoul, Co-director of Gwangju Biennale
- Chairman of the Bookcity Culture Foundation & Cooperative of Paju
- Gwangju Biennale press office
- Venice Biennale press office
"Beigel's practice is characterized by a strong concept with creative
and intellectual rigor. He has served as an influential teacher in
London who has inspired and shaped a whole generation of young
architects. Together with a thorough and holistic thinking, Beigel has a
distinct sense of style. ...His work is never ideological and
opinionated, but precise and elegant. Beigel has made a significant
contribution to the pan-European architectural discourse of the present
and is a valuable force in making connections between academic
reflection and the practice of architecture."
Matthias Sauerbruch, Selection Committee Chairman's statement when
awarding Florian Beigel the Grand Art Prize 2013, Academy of the Arts,
Berlin, 18 March 2013.