Unfair Amsterdam collaborates, curates and promotes the brightest contemporary artists of today and tomorrow. Constantly evolving, we seek new methods to present and push the most engaging art now. Get involved with our biennial art fair, our architect award, our fundraiser auction, our embroidered art pieces, or one of our many new events.

The visionary biennial award for the best upcoming architects now.

Designed to celebrate and promote the architectural stars of the future, the Unfair Architect Award yet again showcases a unique cross-over between current contemporary art and architecture.

 

Exhibition Design by Arna Mackic & Lorien Beijaert (2013), photo by Onno Kramer

Award

The Unfair Architect Award is a biennial visionary architectural prize and tender for the exhibition design of Unfair20, our fifth and largest exhibition of contemporary artist yet, April 10 to 13, in Zuiveringshal, Westergas, Amsterdam. Over 40 emerging en renown artist present their latest works in solo-presentations, showing a unique overview or the most recent developments in contemporary art in the Netherlands.

Unfair aims to create a fusion between an exhibition and art fair format. In search for a design in which the adventurous, exciting thrill of visiting large- scale exhibitions is combined with the more intimate experience of the 40 individual art presentations, the Unfair Architect Award challenges the boundaries of architecture as subservient and focuses on designs with autonomous quality. By reflecting new ways of experiencing art, the design becomes a piece of art itself and therefore could be considered the most substantial artwork on show at the event.

With the no nonsense promise of direct commission and talent development, the Unfair Architect Award sets out to find the most inspiring design, bringing Unfair20 to another level.


Winner

We are thrilled to announce that architect duo Unknown Architects have won the Unfair Architect Award 2019 with their design ‘Collage City’.
In their victory, Unknown Architects bested two other shortlisted designs by IWT and Office CCXD. It will be brought to life in April, 2020 during Unfair20.

‘Collage City’, which features four different areas that each was inspired by visionary urban planning from the past, was chosen by our panel of judges. The design will be brought to life in April, 2020 during Unfair20.
On the winning design the jury stated the following:

‘The jury believes the design ‘Collage City’, by designer duo Unknown Architects, to be strong and to speak of museum quality and a good sense of spaciousness. The large variations that are possible in the various individual presentation rooms are an extension of a strong concept and guarantee a playful walk-through for visitors.’

Unknown Architects

Unknown Architects was founded by Daan Vulkers (1991) and Keimpke Zigterman (1986). In their practice, they strive for a refined architecture with an eye for detail and context. They aim to create great spaces for their clients by means of specific and clear interventions, and a good sense of structure, detail and materiality. Unknown Architects is an office where the work, the architecture, comes first. Built works include interiors of private houses, store interiors and stage designs and have been widely published and exhibited among which in the Deutsches Architektur Museum in Frankfurt and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp.

Collage City

‘How do we create a place that enables forty individual artists to present their work in the most ideal way possible and at the same time inspire and excite thousands of visitors? We propose to build a city, inspired by four visionary urban plans from the past, which together form our pitch for Unfair20: Collage City.  An exhibition design that is characterized by four unique areas, each with its own character: coulisses, light-air-space, square and superstructure. Well-positioned and carefully designed openings in the walls allow infinitely different routes and offer beautiful views through all four areas. A bridge with a view over the central square acts as a landmark and forms the literal highlight of the design.’


Runners up

Besides Unknown Architects, two other parties were shortlisted for the award. Find their designs here.

OFFICE CCXD

OFFICE CCXD (Context/Concept Exploration & Development) is an architectural research and design studio based in Rotterdam and founded by Cédric Van Parys. As a practice, it positions itself on the threshold of architecture, design and art and focuses on exploring, designing and developing architecture, exhibitions, stages, and installations. Often monumental, always meticulously detailed and occasionally neurotic, CCXD’s aim is to communicate and realize intricate spatial concepts through a variety of visual languages.

 

The Agora

The Agora was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states that facilitates communication, debate, activities and play. Just as Unfair today, it provided a place for the artistic life in the city to gather, assemble and collaborate. For Unfair 2020, the Agora was carved from a series of parallel walls which gradually grow thicker and higher. Multiple transversal axes divide the walls into smaller partitions, generating a continuous sequence of volumes, thresholds, openings and corridors. The final layout is both monumental and accommodating, creating a visual dialogue between the artworks, the artists and the spaces.

IWT (Instability We Trust)

IWT, founded by Bastiaan Kalmeyer (1981) and Chantal Schoenmakers (1983), designs dynamic environments – from small-scale interiors to large scale architectural urban projects – and spatial brand identities open for interpretation and adaptation over time. With projects ranging from inner-city development, spatial narrative design, architecture, branding strategies, interior and design, they know how these scales interact in our spatial perception of a place. IWT is embedded in a flexible collaborative network of strategic advisors, urbanists, architects, interior architects, designers, engineers and scientists. ‘

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes is an installation of a constant changing play of front stages and back stages; formal presentations and informal gatherings. A dense configuration of 40 stage sets that highlight each individual artist. Behind this interwoven landscape of thin backdrops and upholding structures a secondary intimate world finds its place full of passages to discover.


Selection Committee

Each edition The Unfair Architect Awards works closely with a selected expert selection committee. They have the important task of selecting and introducing ten of the best up-and-coming architects. In collaboration with Unfair16 architect Donna van Milligen Bielke three shortlisted participants are selected and invited to pitch their sketch-designs. From this shortlist the final winner will be chosen.

Introducing this year’s committee below:

Jan-Richard Kikkert was appointed Head of Architecture at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture in 2016. He studied Architecture at Delft University of Technology and at the Berlage Institute. In 1997, he founded Architectenbureau K2 in Amsterdam together with architect Judith Korpershoek, an architectural firm that has won numerous prizes, including Europan 6.

Flora van Gaalen is head of Programme at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Before taking up this position she held a dual position as project manager and editor for ARCAM and later project manager for Premsela, the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion. In 2013, together with The Netherlands Architecture Institute and Virtual Platform, this institute merged into Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Kristian Koreman studied landscape architecture at IAH Larenstein and Philosophy at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. He founded ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles] in 2001 with Elma van Boxel, where they work on solicited and unsolicited designs and research studies in the field of architecture, urbanism and landscape design.

Marijn Schenk is one of the co-founders of NEXT architects. He graduated cum laude from the architecture department of the Technische Universiteit Delft and won first prize in the ARCHIPRIX 2000 for their joint project “Het Gelaagde Land”. As a project architect, Marijn Schenk has many projects to his name, won various prices and regularly performs educational duties as a teacher and guest critic.

Afke Laarakker studied Public Building/Border Conditions at TU Delft. She interned for Tatiana Bilbao in Mexico-City, worked for Onix NL en wrote about art in the public space for the Rietveld Academie. This year she started working as an editor for de Architect, the leading architecture platform in The Netherlands.


Nominees

Together with our expert selection committee we’ve carefully curated a longlist of ten architects- or architect studio’s who we see as undeniably important and interesting.  This years selection is:



Location

Traditionally, Unfair’s upcoming exhibition fair Unfair20 will be held at the Zuiveringshal. This large industrial hall is known as the heart of the old gas factory that the Westergasfabriek once was. Dating from 1885, this 1200m2, 18m high hall is where originally the huge boilers that purified the gas were located. With only the explosion relief roof as a remaining relic from the past, the otherwise empty hall serves a perfect location for substantial architectural designs.


Interviews

In the run-up towards the winner announcement, we interviewed our three shortlisted participants and asked them to further elaborate on their designs. Read all three interviews here.

IWT on 'Behind the Scenes'

Behind the Scenes’ is an installation of a constant changing play of front stages and back stages; formal presentations and informal gatherings. A dense configuration of 40 stage sets that highlight each individual artist. Behind this interwoven landscape of thin backdrops and upholding structures a secondary intimate world finds its place full of passages to discover. 

What served as the biggest inspiration for this design?
Unfair is a platform for emerging artists, enabling them to take center stage as a collective showcase. We’ve designed 40 16m2 center stages as backdrop for each individual artist, and we were triggered by the aspect of ‘the backstage’ as a hiding place, a place to discover at any theatre, concert or gig. These notions are translated in two different worlds: a woven network of fronts and backs.
As a second inspiration layer we felt the need to create a canvas which relates to the world we currently live in. To us, that’s not a world of white cubes, but a world which is more a ‘call for action and discussion’ a free, rough, flexible field of stages and billboards to actually take a stand.

How has the already existing space of the Zuiveringshal affected the design process?
The position of the Zuiveringshal at the heart of the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, with its connotations of the gas industry. Days gone by, mixed with a new urban era of (digital) discovery forms an inspirational backdrop to push for a design that enables a wide variety of uses, with different heights and hints at the feeling of discovery around every corner.

What was the biggest challenge?
The layout. We’ve tested and tried various layout concepts to come to an interesting interwoven landscape of two different worlds within the limited amount of space to create 40 individual spaces of 16m2. Which at the same time needed to be budget-smart and buildable by artists themselves within 4 days.

What would you say is the focal point of this design?
It’s difficult to choose one specifically. Since it’s mainly about the contrast between clean formal front stages, which embraces the art – versus rough informal back stages, which stimulate unexpected gathering. The contrast between a labyrinth of passages which make you wonder – versus one straight ‘enfilade’ which brings you back on track. And it’s about the different heights of the stages and passages interacting with the overwhelming height and roof structure of the Zuiveringshal.

Is architecture art?
Architecture spans many fields, politics, engineering, building, sociology, landscape, etc. If you want your project to become a reality you have to navigate in all these different layers. Art is as much part of it as all the above, as a good spatial design triggers your senses and tactile interaction triggers your sense of touch. As a whole, if done right, a place transcends its ‘bricks’ and becomes an ephemeral experience, triggering emotions.

How has the process been different from other pitches?
The process was very friendly, inspiring and transparent. The people behind Unfair are open-minded; they understand the complexity of spatial design and intrinsically search for a new perspective on the traditional settings of art.

'Behind the Scenes', IWT (2019)

Unknown Architects on 'Collage City'

What served as the biggest inspiration for this design?
What makes this project intriguing is the need to create an ideal setting for forty individual artists to present their work in the best way imaginable, and at the same time inspire and excite thousands of visitors with an exceptional architectural design. Driven by a fascination for utopian urban planning from the past, we started this challenge with the research question: can the plan of a city be used as a blueprint for the exhibition design? At the same time we were also very much interested in the layout used for the Fridericianum in Kassel, one of the first purpose-built museums in Europe and also the home of the international Documenta art exhibition, for which it is known. This 1779 building has a series of halls, each with a unique character, which allows the curator to make different constellations in each of them. These two sources of inspiration, creating an exhibition design based on a city plan and the Fridericianum’s careful pairing of artwork and exhibition space resulted in the idea of the Collage City: a collage of different urban fragments a collage of four different utopias.

How has the already existing space of the Zuiveringshal affected the design process?
The relationship to the existing space of the Zuiveringshal is expressed differently in each of the four areas: Coulisses, light-air-space, square and superstructure. For example in Coulisses – the most left area on the plan – the walls are kept separate from the existing building and two open corners connect to the existing double doors, while in Superstructure the facetted is attached to the existing building to reinforce the idea of an endless wall. The bridge is an exception, it is a timber structure that is positioned above the exhibition walls and acts as a point of reference. When ascended by means of a timber staircase, it allows the visitors to experience the exhibition in the hall from a different perspective.

What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to maintain a balance between creating four very different quarters, while at the same time creating a coherent and recognizable overall layout. In order to achieve this we spent a lot of time researching different collages and editing them by drafting, gluing, cutting, shifting, folding and mirroring.

What would you say is the focal point of this design?
The main objective of the design was to create an extremely varied exhibition layout that does justice to the artists and their work. This is expressed in the four areas in which the artists are grouped together: the artists can position themselves by deciding in which “neighbourhood” and among which fellow artists to present their work. The four quarters have distinct spatial arrangements, which bring together the artworks in their own unique ways.

Is architecture art?
No, architecture is a craft. Representations of architecture in the form of photography, models, drawings and installations can be considered as art. Art inspires architecture and vice versa. During the process of making our collages, for example, we were inspired by the layered photographs in the work of Katja Mater, the “second skin” facade in Herman Zeinstra’s House at the Oude Schans, and the fictional map of Rome by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. How has the process been different from other pitches? The biggest difference from other pitches was that we had the opportunity to discuss our preliminary ideas with Unfair. This not only gave us clues on a practical level but, more importantly, an insight into the underlying principles that Unfair wants to present. In the first presentation leading-up to the shortlist, we were triggered by the conversation to develop our ideas in a more experimental way. Our participation in the Unfair Architect Award therefore gave us the chance to widen our approach and test a new methodology: the use of the collage.

How has the process been different from other pitches?
The biggest difference from other pitches was that we had the opportunity to discuss our preliminary ideas with Unfair. This not only gave us clues on a practical level but, more importantly, an insight into the underlying principles that Unfair wants to present. In the first presentation leading-up to the shortlist, we were triggered by the conversation to develop our ideas in a more experimental way. Our participation in the Unfair Architect Award therefore gave us the chance to widen our approach and test a new methodology: the use of the collage.

'Collage City', Unknown Architects (2019)

OFFICE CCXD on 'The Agora'

What served as the biggest inspiration for this design?
I asked myself the following question: How to design a space for an organization with a focus on art collaboration and art exchange. The analogy of a public square, The Agora, as a meeting place in the middle of a densely urbanized city seemed quite fitting.For the design of Unfair 20— Just as in a city— I’ve utilized the wall as an accessible volume rather than a flat surface.The very concept of walls—one of the most fundamental element of architecture—is based on containing and defining space. When we look at a building we notice its scale and form but as soon as we enter it we begin interacting with its empty spaces. Courtyards, hallways, meeting rooms, galleries and event spaces are just some examples of architectural spaces we will also find in this exhibition design for Unfair 20. The visitors will gradually be submerged while the boundaries between walls and empty space are obscured.

How has the already existing space of the Zuiveringshal affected the design process?
The height of the building and its long rectangular shape were exploited to generate the uplifting effect of rising and thickening walls.

How has the process been different from other pitches? What was the biggest challenge?
What’s different from other pitches was also the biggest challenge.
Unfair has very specific practical requirement, not in the least defined by the fact that the design has to be built by the artists themselves. As stated by the founders of Unfair; it’s important to think about conceptual flexibility, systematic flexibility and practical flexibility.
Most pitches are focused on presenting a strong concept. For this pitch you need to think about how it will be constructed, and include that into your conceptual story. In case of The Agora, these practical limitation where used as guidelines to purify the design. A sculptural exhibition concept was transformed into a functional and ultimately flexible exhibition space.

What would you say is the focal point of this design?
Its flexibility, Its monumentality and an endless variety of rooms generate an exhibition layout which is both monumental and accommodating. Small, large, low, high, private, and public spaces alternate with corridors, thresholds and openings to create a visual dialogue between the artworks, the artists and the exhibition volumes.

Is architecture art?
Architecture can be art, but it mostly isn’t. The real question is not ‘Is architecture a work of art?’ but ‘ When is architecture a work of art?’ We have to recognize that a building may function as a work of art at some time and not at others. A good example is when buildings turn into monuments. We can argue that a monument can be a piece of architecture and a work of art (sculpture) simultaneously.
Architecture is an analytical way of applying artistic thought. But monuments are statements, and have influenced my practice precisely because of their ambiguous position in between art and architecture.

'The Agora', OFFICE CCXD (2019)

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