Unit 17




Gregory Katz


Nico van Loggerenberg

view from our garage











Unit 17’s research interrogates and broadens the range of techniques, materials and processes with which we build, by taking on the project of thinking-through-making. The contemporary philosopher Richard Sennet describes the process of making, as a kind of dance between problem-finding and problem-solving. Architecture and making are part of an iterative process of feedback loops. Whether it be a conceptual maquette or a 1:1 prototype, in the act of making we uncover the many hidden and under-exploited potentials of our materials. This explorative process opens up new possibilities for how we use materials and what we do with them. We make, we discover, we draw, and we think. We make with our hands, with tools and with machines, both analogue and digital. We recognise that the technologies we adopt are integral to design, from conceptualisation to production. 


All big societal issues can be discussed through the lens of materiality and making. Making is not just about how we make and what we make with, but it can broaden and deepen our understanding of the environment, politics, ideology and context. Whether your obsession is climate crisis, global migration, gender dynamics, class or labour issues, material scarcity, polarising politics, surveillance paranoia, land ownership, throwaway culture – it’s all material.


Each year Unit 17 selects a fairy tale as a catalyst for our research. As a narrative device, fairy tales allow us to temporarily suspend belief. Things that may seem impossible or contradictory are easily reconciled and a space is created for fantastical encounters. Over the past three years our research has looked at innovative building materials (The Fourth Little Pig), alchemy and detective-work (Rumple-stilt-skin) and reverse engineering (Hansel, Gretel and a Trail of Breadcrumbs). This year it’s the idea of shifting scales and calibrations as conveyed in the Goldilocks story: too big, too small, too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft… just right. Through strategies of comparison, of incremental adjustment, of intensification and transposition we find unexpected ways forward. Unit 17’s methodology is to look deeper, to assess our findings, to pull them apart and make something new.  

GSA LOGO RGB 2018-01.png