Digital technology has changed the business of architecture. The traditional designer-engineer-contractor model is becoming out of date. New production techniques are entering the building industry: mass-production of building elements, digital fabrication, DIY. New scales, both bigger and smaller, challenge the position and role of the designer. Design itself is rapidly becoming more and more democratic and community based. Within the framework of A Mies for All, a seminar at Het Nieuwe Instituut explored the new business models for architects that come from these changes.

Architecture is in essence one of the best-suited design disciplines for ‘open source design’: it is technically relatively simple, and it has a history of architects and builders copying elements of earlier works. And what do architects do these days? Are they designers of buildings? Of ideas? Of processes? Of communities? Are they consultants, coaches, activists, builders, members, or are they simply unemployed? Do architects initiate, share, invest? Where is the architect’s knowledge presently of greatest necessity and value? Can architects show a new value proposition to the marketplace? Who does the architect work for? Clients? Consumers? 

Speakers and format

In the seminar, architects will present the business cases that form the basis of their advanced practices:

  • Filson Rohrbacher presented AtFab, a design company that develops content for emergent, networked digital manufacturing platforms.
  • Ben van Berkel presented UN Studio’s new organization as an open-source knowledge-based practice operating projects around four specialized Knowledge Platforms.
  • Jelle Feringa presented his factory in Denmark, where robotic production lines produce buildings directly from code.
  • Artist Pierre Bismuth and Matthijs Bouw (One Architecture) talked about various possible business models that are embedded in A Mies for All, a company that that will make the endless reproduction of iconic architecture – in this case the Farnsworth House – possible.
  • Self-building-building. Waag Society, Volume, TU Delft and Topika work on the financial, organisational and technical implications of endlessy adaptive, end-user driven buildings

A panel of Dragons (entrepreneurs, investors and business consultants) commented on the feasibility of the business cases. The evening was moderated by Nanne de Ru (Powerhouse Company, dean the Berlage).


Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam