“We must make assumptions about technological progress, future needs of the users, changing socio-economic trends, possible shifts in political and legislative frameworks and climate change.”
As Founding Partner of Berlin-based spatial innovation studio Urban Beta and design collaborative BART//BRATKE, Marvin is taking a collaborative and social justice approach to human-centred design. “Today’s architecture inherits a very static and object-based approach, but in an accelerated knowledge society, tomorrow’s urban and cultural landscapes need to be human-centred and act in real time... I work with a network of creatives who combine our design endeavours from academia and practice to a synergetic model of applied research and co-creation. Together, we focus on participatory methods to create inclusive, unconventional and transformative spaces through predictive planning.”
Marvin’s life and work have been deeply impacted by the political landscape in Germany during his childhood. “When the wall was still up in Germany, my family settled in the Bavarian forest north of the Alps after my Mom was deported from East Germany for refusing to cooperate with the Stasi [East Germany’s State Security Service]. The German separation and, more importantly, its unification are deeply rooted in my family ties. I am still deeply influenced by the migration to Bavaria, with its lush, green landscapes and forests.”
He cites the Bavarian concept of the ‘Almende’ or ‘Common Land’ as an inspiration for much of his current work in collective ownership. “The owners, called commoners, have rights such as allowing livestock to graze upon the land, to collect wood or to cut turf for fuel. This medieval form of collaboration allowed the partakers not only to maximise their profits, but to sustain the forest capacity for the long term and allow for cross-financing in the form of using cleared land for the animals of other commoners. Today we base our design approaches on similar models, but with an augmented digital layer.”
It was a childhood love of video games that elicited Marvin’s passion for technology, he says. “My Dad used to distribute arcade machines and I was always allowed to play them for free... The digital aspect of my work deals with gamification, simulation, augmentation, seamless transition and building models for digital co-creation.”
Marvin found his passion for architecture while studying transportation and industrial design at the University of Munich. “Through the guidance of Professor Fritz Frenkler – who continues to mentor me through my PhD – [BART//BRATKE and Urban Beta Co-Founder] Paul and I learned to design beyond immediate function and to combine experiences from different fields. In university, we were part of a team of 20 researchers with the mission to build a self-driving electric car in one year, which resulted in the prototype car, Mute/Visio.M. This experience opened our eyes for designing at the intersection between architecture and mobility, which became the common thread throughout our design career. I later was part of the team to design the first vertiport for Volocopter in Singapore in 2019 and I am currently working on the sustainable mobility hub system BetaPort. The first prototype of this adaptive spatial system will connect multi-modal mobility – autonomous, bike, aerial, micro, EV – and will be built at the GreenTech festival in June this year.”
Deep life experience in politics, social justice and international planning led Marvin to co-found the start-up Urban Beta in 2019. “In our first project BetaHood, we saw the potential of unused or developing plots around Berlin and their potential for the city and investors to do something with a positive social footprint. So the idea of temporary, modular and collective neighbourhoods was born. With the City Mission, we found a social carrier and partner to further develop the concept. We bring the planning and development expertise and they bring the urban plots and knowledge to create social mixes that enable the reintegration of homeless people back into society. Our focus is on building community and empowerment through circular economic models that are ready to scale and make the concept viable for investors. It’s win-win.”
“Every building is an anticipation of the future.”
Buy-in is the key to success, he says, with input from stakeholders required at each stage in the design and development process. “The goal of the co-creation process is long-term acceptance by the public. We try not to design top-down, but see our process rather as a negotiation between parties. We find tools to visualise future scenarios for multiple parties who could be experts or non-experts and we use our digital background to build interactive platforms and configurations using digital 3D models as well as physical, interactive models and workshops to explain our ambitions in full.”
Marvin is currently working on a large-scale development informed by ecological simulation. “We used supercomputers to negotiate the geometry of 80 unique building typologies built from discrete sets of building parts. We used a generative model to cross-reference multiple options and calculate micro-climates of squares, passages and public places. It was an extremely exciting approach. In the future, we will try to use this knowledge, extend it to our other projects and combine it with participatory planning models to get constant user and stakeholder feedback for an informed planning platform.” BetaPort will benefit from this approach, he says, and will provide valuable experience to develop the larger-scale system to involve more mobility and energy providers, property owners, cities and communities to envision interactive urban models.
Looking ahead, Marvin is eager to see how the gamification of architecture develops, as well as the potential to apply emerging technologies like blockchain into social and democratised design systems. “We are currently working on 3 spatial systems that offer new economic models and space on-demand solutions in the areas of mobility, social housing and urban production... I am particularly interested in combining digital planning methodologies, generative design and the use of AI with building systems that are easy to use, participatory, circular and reversible. Our projects at Urban Beta have these ideologies inscribed as their core values.”
Urban Beta is eager to engage with all requests to foster social involvement and welcomes questions and inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Marvin’s work and to keep up-to-date with BetaPort and BetaHood, visit www.urban-beta.de. Urban Beta are currently looking for investors, partners and sponsors for the BetaPort prototype and the development of the greater mobility platform.
Urban Beta and image by imperfct