VIDEO FRAGMENT of the 2013 - 2014: INNOVATION FOR LIVING brief of UNIT22 Bartlett by Izaskun Chinchilla and Carlos Jiménez

20132014 INNOVATION FOR LIVING teaser from casaleganitos on Vimeo.

Izaskun Chinchilla & Carlos Jimenez

When considering architectural culture, many people feel that ‘the pressure to innovate has become pervasive. Both inside and outside the architectural profession, we are increasingly pressed by the quest for the new; by an innovation imperative’[1]. This year Unit 22 want to explore in depth, the real necessity of innovation, and analyse its commitments with a critical eye.

We will try to overcome architects’ preferences for an innovation based purely on individual values such as imagination, personal entrepreneurship, inspiration or anticipation. We do agree these are crucial requirements for a future practitioner however, through adopting the values of many other authors and institutions, we will define and support a type of innovation based on higher levels of common organisation. This requires re-addressing the action of the architect with respect to his/her environment to consider factors that include the context, users, politicians and industry among others. We will employ Drucker’s definition of innovation (Drucker, 1985) as, ‘the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth’, which for the aforementioned reasons, best introduces our intentions.


As part of the training of our students as future entrepreneurial fellows we would like them to envision the result of the year as a clear, well-defined, relevant and professional challenge. We want the work of all of our students throughout the year, to build a collective exhibition with a high standard of quality and meaningfulness for varying audiences.

‘The New House of the Future’ will be an exhibition designed and produced by UNIT 22 students that we aim to display in several professional spaces. The exhibition will host an interactive set of models that reproduces several houses in a neighborhood at a 1:15 scale. These houses will demonstrate innovations that have real effects, by improving everyday lives, in contrast with the ‘old’ technologically determined visions of the future. This will challenge the rationale of the ‘expert’ technicians using the rationale of the affected communities. The houses will use innovative techniques that respond to predicted global challenges between now and 2050. The set will not only include dwellings but other types of everyday spaces (for working, offices, supermarkets, public amenities…).

Besides these interactive models we want to develop some industrial prototypes of particular details proposed by the students. For this purpose we have been conversing with various buildingproduct companies who can lend their expertise and advice for the development of envisaged prototypes. The exhibition will also include graphics that will communicate how life will be altered through the Unit 22 student designs.

The information will be displayed in the three capacities (interactive models, prototypes and graphics), which will ensure visitors can learn about advanced building materials, low carbon construction techniques, adaptive energy management and other innovative areas related to housing construction. Therefore, the set of models and supporting information will use digital technologies, sustainable materials and techniques, to enable the transfer of our research insights into the public domain.

The intention of the project is also to collaborate with institutions with existing exhibition spaces to curate the exhibition and therefore to benefit from their exposure and experience. In addition, another crucial aspect of this relationship is to allow students to received feedback from external agents, outside of the Bartlett. Obtaining this type of feedback is highly valuable, and an experience that architects usually acquire only after several years of practice.


During the 20th century, the idea of envisioning the ‘house of the future’ has been a prime interest for several exhibitions, publications, films and novels. The house of the future was always intended to be full of innovative products usually based on highly technological achievements. The attention paid by architects to the vision of the house of the future was linked with the role given to innovation: the primary driver of business, financial and economic growth.

However, today, our approach to innovation must be adapted to address multiple global conditions. Innovation can no longer be linked exclusively with growth, but to improving an equal quality of life for people in every part of the world. We face enormous challenges today. The ‘house of the future’ should be one that does not deplete all existing resources and does not dismiss vernacular building knowledge such as solar orientation, cross ventilation or habitual human practices.

We think that meeting the challenges for the new house of the future requires a different approach from the ‘modern’ way. In the modern era, the house of the future was mainly thought of and designed by architects in collaboration with industry. The new house of the future should be designed with a wider vision in which users will have a leading role. It is essential to give the users a voice in their own future.

Every student will need to choose building companies that could potentially fabricate their designs. We encourage students to communicate with these companies. Every student will need to choose a specific community that would benefit from their innovations. We will also encourage students to participate in their own empirical research by talking to members of these communities in order to optimise their designs.


The methodology of the year will be quite precise, pushing the boundaries between design and research. For this purpose we will work on a specific hypothesis.

Enric von Hippel (Massachussetts Institute of Technology) uses the term ‘Manufacturer Active Product’ to define methods and conditions under which most industrial products are generated. The role of the customer is essentially that of the respondent, “speaking only when spoken to”. The manufacturer selects and surveys a group of customers to obtain information based on their need for new products or modification of existing ones; analyses the data; develops a responsive product idea; and tests the idea against customer perceptions and purchase decisions.

In the ‘Customer Active Product’ model (CAP), it is the role of the would-be customer to develop the idea for the new product; select a supplier capable of making the product; and take the initiative to send a request to the selected supplier. The role of the manufacturer in this paradigm is to wait for a potential customer to submit a request. This model will be represented by our student exhibition, supporting several actors’ statements, as a faster and more effective way of creating innovation. We will help design industrial procedures, and adapt them to the new conditions created by the dissemination of knowledge and tools available via the internet.


A calendar and particular formats for the year have been carefully designed to encompass the production of an individual portfolio, the collective construction of a professional exhibition and a meaningful public communication. This triple focus for the year strives to increase the awareness of the social utility of students’ work and therefore will increase motivation levels by doing something real that will be effective for others.

During the first term we will concentrate in the production of interactive models responding the necessities of a community and a context freely selected by each student. Individual models will be related to each other, linked by climatic, social or material requirements. The models will build a neighbourhood that refers to several locations. In addition, during the first term we will also design the up-coming exhibition anatomy, allowing new, forthcoming results to fit within the established formats accounting for an appropriate flexibility.

During the second term a detailed production of the students suggestions will be materialised. This will include the prototyping period, consultation meetings and getting feedback from building industry companies, community champions and external consultants. We expect the students to acquire plenty of knowledge and experience on structures and building techniques in both 4th and 5th year.

The last part of second term and during third term, we will test and demonstrate the life improvements we have created by inhabiting our own architecture through various graphic means, animations or others.


Drucker, P. (1985) ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Practice and Principles’

Hienerth, Christoph, Eric A. von Hippel, and Morten Berg Jensen. “Efficiency of Consumer (Household Sector) Vs. Producer Innovation.” SSRN eLibrary (September 1, 2012)

[1] Ednie-Brown, P.; Burry.M; Burrow.A (2013) ‘The Innovation Imperative: Architectures of Vitaly’, Arhcitectural Design, January 2013.