New Functions of the Surface. Pushing the Urban Envelope
2017 - 2020

Over the next 2-3 years, ANCB will think the city as a sequence of layers and conduct investigations through its inherent cross-sectoral inquiry methodology as part of the new programme New Functions of the Surface. Pushing the Urban Envelope. This research on the cities' envelope, surfaces and spheres includes and goes beyond façades, roofs and pavements. It serves as the 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 cities´ surface with regards to innovation and experimentation, various questions will be grouped into the following three clusters:

Society and Arts 
This cluster brings together sociologic, artistic, cultural, philosophical as political positions and strategies of perception of the societal and physical conditions of the city and will emphasize visionary approaches and ideas for the functionality of the facade ‘and beyond’. In the context of this analysis, artistic and creative positions will be discussed: From ‘how does the visual art deal with the façade as a projection surface and potentially change the way a building, a shell, is perceived’ to ‘how to transfuse or intertwine various types of boundaries, physically or in theory’.This also includes the science fiction genre and film as a speculative platform to test innovation and provide stimulus. Strategies can also be derived from fashion design, sound, music or literature.

Technical, engineering and infrastructure models
This cluster seeks to present innovative engineering and technical models. Production processes, innovations in the crafts and materials such as cloth, woven fabrics, plastics, foils, metals, ceramic and glass play a role in the analysis of new possibilities. We will also explore the implications – also for the building itself – of using a building’s shell as a (digital) user interface, and the consequences for the city of using the façade as infrastructure, for example as a means of transport or storage (for energy, water and other supplies).

Scientific and physiological approaches
The scientific and physiological approaches gathered in this cluster include links with medical, neuroscientific and haptic aspects. Surfaces as a space for experimentation with haptics, for tactile “understanding”, or in other words perception through active exploration, open up new biophysiological approaches for the functions and influence of facades in urban spaces. Which strategies can be formulated by combining kinaesthesia, ergonomics, biology and medicine?

The increasingly complex requirements of current global challenges and development processes in society, politics, culture, technology and design, demand a new approach and cultural response. A change in perception and interconnection of diverse disciplines is needed in order to develop a common language between experts, professionals and the public to address questions and stimulate innovation. The city of today and its inhabitants are faced with constantly changing challenges by urban densification, digital control, mobility networks, growing infrastructure requirements, new materials, products, social diversity, new working environments and new knowledge. In order to keep pace, intersections between the different disciplines need to be continually redefined, coordinated and renegotiated.

In response to rapid developments, visionary approaches must be formulated and tested on urban elements to create a robust living environment. The cities´ surface represents in many ways and through multiple functions, just such an interdisciplinary testing space and area of intersection. This surface encompasses facades and roofs as well as pavements, roads, open spaces, its air and its climate. In architecture, terms like façade and shell designate complex relationships.
Michel Serres’ idea of “the house as a second skin” considers the cover or shell of a building as an extension of our “clothing”, as a means of interacting with our surroundings. This connection develops in relation to the state of technology, culture and nature, and therefore offers the potential for an interdisciplinary discourse aimed at exploring innovative and new functions for the city. It encompasses areas such as geography and politics, public and private spaces, infrastructures, science, and not least digital user interfaces as well as interfaces of technology and the real, physical world.

In preparation to be announced shortly.

Folding Berlin
University Design Studio: Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology
23 July - 3 August 2018
More Info

New Functions of the Surface. Pushing the Urban Envelope
Colloquium: Saturday, 9 September 2017
More Info
Video Recording

Space On Demand
Conversation with Elizabeth Diller, Director, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York and Chris Dercon, Director, Volksbühne Berlin
Friday, 8 September 2017
More Info

From a Vertical Forest to a Forest City
Public Debate: 16 March 2016
More info

Shigeru Ban. Works and Humanitarian Activities
Public Debate: 7 October 2014
More Info
Video Recording

Materialien für smartes Licht
Public Debate:  29 October 2013
More Info

Innovative Werkstoffe für die Energiewende: Energy Materials in Design und Architektur
Public Debate: 13 March 2013
More Info

Design and Politics: the next phase: On the Surface of Architecture? 

Public Debate:28 July 2011
More Info

Video Recording

More than green! - The added value of Cradle to Cradle in Architecture and Urban Planning
Public Debate: 9 March 2011
More Info

TouchHouse. Smart Living - Communicating Surfaces 
with ANCB Research Partner Busch Jaeger
Collaborative Research and University Design Studio:  February 2011
More Info

Part of the ANCB Theme:
Responsive City

Concept Paper:
download PDF

Miriam Mlecek,


ANCB Partners 2018

© ANCB, Berlin