A New Urban Living Concept by UNStudio

UNStudio and Bauwerk introduce the Van B residences in Munich – a completely new ‘analogue smart’ urban living concept.

The new Van B residential project, designed by UNStudio, located on Infanteriestrasse next to the future ‘Kreativquartier’ (creative quarter) in Munich, offers a completely new form of housing that reimagines the future of urban living.
As a prototype for modern city dwellings, Van B is designed to cater to changing demographics and multiple family constellations. With its highly flexible apartments, outdoor and shared communal spaces, and striking facade, Van B offers a new form of urban living.

Explaining the concept behind this new dwelling, Ben van Berkel says, “What makes Van B truly special and unique is that it offers a completely new form of ‘smart’ living. This is not smart in the usual sense of tech integration; it instead involves reinterpreting ideas from the digital world in order to improve the analogue, physical spaces we inhabit.“ Taking notes from the recent situations arising from Covid 19, designers around the world have come to realise that flexibility has become more important to people today than sheer size.

“With Van B we introduce new ways to make the footprint of an apartment more flexible. Individual spaces in our homes have had to become multi-functional, serving as offices, gyms, living rooms, and sleeping nooks, all at the same time. This means that now, more than ever before, we need to develop new living concepts that cater to the changing demands of our homes” says the architect.

The architectural strategy was to devise as many different ways as possible to reconfigure an apartment. To achieve this, the design team at UNStudio designed an adaptable partition and furniture ‘plugin-based’ system that allows homeowners to use the space in a 40 sq metre apartment almost as if it were a 60 sq meter loft.

The Van B plugin system allows one to easily change the use of the same floor space in a matter of seconds, making it possible to transform a room from a generous office into a cozy living room, or a bedroom.


Ben van Berkel says,“ The current pandemic has highlighted how important social connections are for our wellbeing. Now more than ever, we are seeing that many people desire and need to meet regularly with their families, friends, and neighbours. But with neighbours, in particular, such encounters are usually spontaneous and so they need to be facilitated. Architecture can create frameworks that enable people to meet, where neighbourhood communities can be shaped and where spontaneous encounters can occur.“

Van B challenges old conventions of square footage and fixed footprints to empower people to live in more flexible ways. Quality space becomes more important than square meters.

The flexibility lies in the fact that each element can work in different configurations and that the resident can choose an individual configuration of plugins based on a catalogue of nine elements, explain the architects.

In order to achieve this, a grid was devised upon which each element is based, as whenever one element is opened, the back of the other one needs to be adjacent to it. This means that no matter which elements the homeowner chooses, and no matter how they arrange them inside their apartment, the modules will work together. With the possibility to reconfigure the apartment to their immediate needs, the homeowner can choreograph their space around their day, instead of the other way around.

Ben van Berkel: “Related ideas have been seen in architecture in the past, but Van B goes beyond traditional ideas of flexibility as we know them in architecture. It is more intelligent, adaptable and user friendly, while also providing high levels of comfort.”


A Variety of Apartment Types

Van B offers a variety of apartment types and sizes including one to three-room apartments, flats, gallery lofts and rooftop flats, each catering to different demographics and resident constellations.

Essential in the design of Van B is the relationship of the inside to the outside and the creation of a community within the development. Creating connections between people and to the outdoors, and using outdoor space as an extension of the living spaces was essential to the design.



In the apartments, the large bay windows and balconies create visual connections between the street, the homes, and the beautiful trees that line the road. A sense of expanding the space is created by pushing the inside out and pulling the outside in.

The bay windows also serve to provide the building with a sculptural three-dimensional shell. In the apartments from the first to the fifth floor, the living space expands from within, enabling 180-degree cityscape views while retaining privacy for the neighbours. The result is an apartment block that makes the most of both neighbourhood living and its interior spaces.

With their glazed facades, the gallery lofts that face the courtyard on the ground floor invite residents to open up their apartments and extend their living rooms into the garden. Furthermore, the voids that span over all three levels create unique spatial configurations. Having their own address, these triple-height apartments almost work as small houses nestled within the building.

Van B also offers an architectural expression of the ideas of the sharing economy, community creation, and inclusive ways of living. It provides a roof terrace that is open to all residents, alongside a communal “Kitchen Lounge“ that provides space for entertaining, working, and socialising outside of the home. There is also a fitness patio, bike repair station, alongside a car and bike-sharing services.

The Van B project fulfills all of the strict sustainability regulations in Germany, says the architect. In addition, parts of the foundation and basement structure from the previous building were re-used for the new building and the basement walls were reinforced. In this way, the architects were able to save on construction materials, while speeding up the building process. The roof garden also serves to cool the building, while the bay windows are orientated to optimise daylight in the apartments.

Project credits:
Client:                                         Bauwerk Capital GmbH & Co. KG

Location:                                    Munich

Building surface:                    15.945 m2 total (9.905 m2 above ground)

Building volume:                    51.380 m3 total (29.807m3 above ground)

Building site:                           2.419 m2

Programme:                            Residential & office

Status:                                       Under contstruction

 UNStudio: Ben van Berkel with Jan Schellhoff and Julia Gottstein, Bart Chompff, Alexandra Virlan, Dimitra Chatzipantazi, Ana Maldonado, Patrik Noomé

Local Architect: BKLS Architekten

Landcape Architect: Andreas Kübler und Partner

Cost and Quantity Surveying: Leitwerk AG

Structure: Ingenieurgesellschaft albrecht + brettfeld mbh

MEP: IB Schmidbauer Planungsgesellschaft Haustechnik mbH  & MTM-Plan GmbH

Fire safety: Brandschutzservice Zobel GmbH

All Images Courtesy:  Bloomimages