New Functions of the Surface. Pushing the Urban Envelope


An Enquiry Programme examining new functions of surfaces, shells, skins and façades in the urban context

New Functions of the Surface: Pushing the Urban Envelope considers the city as a sequence of layers and conducts investigations using ANCB’s cross-sectoral enquiry methodology. This research on the cities’ envelope, surfaces and spheres includes and goes beyond façades, roofs and pavements. It serves as a starting point for a societal, technological, cultural and infrastructural analysis as well as a projection into the future.

To display the full potential of the city’s surface, innovation and experimentation need to connect to social, environmental and political relevance. Surfaces have brought many new aspects and questions into the conversation on urbanism in terms of comparisons and examples. Resembling the immune system’s ability to recognize and change according to a virus or other invasion for example, we might be able to train a surface design process to adapt. The surface can also negotiate what is needed for human comfort and help finding out if is this something that all people have in common. Furthermore, surfaces tend to be flexible on various levels, therefore the dynamics and aspect of time and temporality are important. Space will always be branded by a group, a function or a possibility: Street art for example is an approach to reconfigure the urban surface.

What implications does this have? Who is the buildings’ and therefore the surfaces’ user? Can the surface be a zone of friction and interaction between private and public? Can there be a niche for specific tools for maintenance, a so called 'façade cosmetics'? As a means for interaction, we may ask what the façade can do for the city?

Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology: Folding Berlin
Design Studio: 23 July – 3 August 2018

New Functions of the Surface. Pushing the Urban Envelope with Schüco, Bielefeld
Lab Talk and Round Table: 9 September 2017. Video Recording

From a Vertical Forest to a Forest City. Almut Grüntuch-Ernst in conversation with Stefano Boeri
Book Presentation: 16 March 2016

Materialien für smartes Licht with TSB Technologiestiftung Berlin and Haute Innovation, Berlin
Lab Talk: 29 October 2013

Innovative Werkstoffe für die Energiewende: Energy Materials in Design und Architektur with TSB Technologiestiftung Berlin and Haute Innovation, Berlin
Lab Talk: 13 March 2013

Design and Politics: the next phase #2 On the Surface of Architecture? with Henk Ovink, The Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, The Hague
Collaborative Project: 28 July 2011. Video Recording

More Than Green! The Added Value of Cradle to Cradle in Architecture and Urban Planning with William McDonough, William McDonough + Partners / MBDC, Virginia/USA
Lecture: 9 March 2011

TouchHouse. Smart Living - Communicating Surfaces with Busch-Jaeger, Lüdenscheid
Metro Lab: 3–6 February 2011



Concept Paper

Miriam Mlecek, [email protected]


ANCB Partners

© ANCB, Berlin