Munich; ‘SÍ/NO: THE ARCHITECTURE OF Urban-Think-Tank’ at Architekturmuseum of TU München at Pinakothek der Moderne

by Venetia Kapernekas

A truly amazing  exhibition opened last night at the Architektur Museum at Pinakothek der Moderne of  “SI/NO: The ARCHITECTURE of Urban-Think Tank”.  A great concept and fabulous installation;  presented to us an architecture of uncertainty, fixed images of the profession from the inside.  It clearly reflects the present state of our global society. Congratulations to Dr Andres Lepik, director of TU/München and Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner (direct the Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at ETH Zurich)


exhibition view at Architekturmuseum, Munich  photo@VK

Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) is an interdisciplinary design studio, founded in 1998 by architects Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner in Caracas, Venezuela.

according to some estimates, around 60% of the population lives in informal settlements due to the long-term failure of official housing policy. Urban Think Tank has addressed this extreme situation from the very beginning, having recognised the chance for its research to result in insights that might be transferrable to other, comparable locations around the world. … the practices’ founders, Brillembourg and Klumpner went beyond simply analysing the existing situation, and instead attempted as architects and planners to develop concrete contributions for upgrading the barrios in small steps, or linking them to the planned city in the long-term.


U-TT, Empower Shack
Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa
© U-TT, photo: Daniel Schwartz/U-TT at ETH
U-TT, Reactivate Athens, Greece
© U-TT, photo: Daniel Schwartz/U-TT at ETH
Daniel Will, exhibition architect; Daniel Schwartz, filmmaker, photographer and the leading person in the organisation of the exhibition and Helen Bendixen, architect who are  involved in the exhibition with curatorial support say about the structure:
.. it was inspired by marketplaces, circuses, and favelas – places which show extreme concentrations of spatial density and where the effect of moving through these spaces changes each time and depends on how it is approached.  Ultimately, we wanted to create an exhibition that was both didactic and experiential, and this design allowed us to do so.  (from the interview to Ayca  Beygo, at TU newsletter, 11/2015)



 exhibition view at Architekturmuseum,Munich @photoVK


With this exhibition, Brillembourg and Klumpner work to advance their vision in another unusual way: much of U-TT’s collected research and project-based stories are distributed through a spatial installation. PVC water pipes generate a series of tents and passageway, covered by two layers of fabrics. The visitor is encouraged to find her personal path, discover and interact with the material e.g. touching the fabric and lift it up. The simplicity of the structure, the easy installation and dismantling that enable easy transportation, the adaptability, as well as the minimum employment of tools, show the originality of the design. Such process- oriented components represent the approach of U-TT in their projects.


exhibition view at Architekturmuseum, Munich, photo@VK

What is the role of the architect today? How feasible is the status quo for future cities? With focus on the political and economic conflicts of Caracas, U-TT principals Brillembourg und Klumpner point out that the profession of architects is no longer engaged with social reality. This is the case not only in Caracas but all around the world. Although cities matter more than ever to the future of the humanity, they are sites of inequality and exclusionary growth. A combination of idealism and criticality is essential to redefining the possibilities of design and usher in an alternative to the status quo.

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U-TT, Mama Margarita Children’s Home Caracas, Venezuela
© U-TT, photo: U-TT at ETH


The Architecture of Urban-Think Tank is already the third show in which the Architecturmuseum of TU Munich is addressing that new generation of architects who are radically questioning the traditional occupational profile, and developing new approaches in practice to once again bring the profession closer to the social problems of today.


exhibition view at Architekturmuseum, Munich, photo@VK

The fact that with this exhibition Urban-Think Tank is also trying out new and unusual strategies for presenting architecture is a logical extension of the practice up to this point. The provocation generated in the process will not, however, be beneficial in every case, since Urban-Think Tank allows visitors to participate in the complex questions that Brillembourg and Klumpner ask themselves on a day-to-day basis in order to position architecture as a relevant discipline.  What they present to us is an architecture of uncertainty, questioning fixed images of the profession from the inside. Their work clearly reflect the present state of our global society.  (Dr Andres Lepik. director of TU/Munich, ‘Healing Provations’ at the Intro of the publication “SI/NO: The Architect of Urban-Think Tank, Slum lab No. 10”

A  wonderful publication for the Exhibition is published by Slum Lab magazine (is a unique lab that works as a nomadic enterprise, bringing planners, academics, architects, and students from all areas of the globe to converge and work towards an understanding of the link between urban planning. poverty alleviation, and sustainable urban development. It was founded by Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Clumpier at Columbia University and is now part of their curriculum at ETH Zurich).

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exhibition view at Architekturmuseum, photo@VK
U-TT, The Anglican Church Upgrade
Baruta Caracas, Venezuela
© U-TT, photo: Daniel Schwartz/U-TT at ETH

Since 2010, Alfredo Brillembourg und Hubert Klumpner  direct  the Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at ETH Zurich. Through teaching, they have focused on the education of a new generation of socially engaged architects. Through exhibitions, publications, and films, they ask questions that challenge public perceptions and design dogmas.

A corresponding lecture series will take place during the exhibition in the Architekturmuseum.

Design strategy collective Urban-Think Tank has designed and built a prototypical house as part of an initiative to improve housing conditions for slum dwellers in some of the 2700 informal settlements across South Africa (+ movie). (published on Dezeen magazine, march 7, 2014)