UNStudio’s Plagiarism of Elastic Living by Angelo Roventa

In the field of research, plagiarism is unacceptable and denounced. Here begins a post denouncing UNStudio’s shameless plagiarism of over a decade’s worth of research by the Austrian architect and inventor Angelo Roventa.

Roventa has long been researching ways to make space adaptable to different needs at different times, hacking high-density archive systems into furniture modules that instantly transform spaces. He patented “Elastic Living” in 2008.

In 2009, Roventa exhibited “Elastic Living” at the MAK Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, in an exhibition curated by Heidulf Gerngross. Visitors could operate the modules and change the space in this interactive installation, as can be seen in the following video (in German):

Inventions have to be constantly tested and improved, which architect Angelo Roventa did by exhibiting at venues such as the Milan Furniture Fair. But he also built “Elastic Living” into real residential buildings, such as this social housing project in Dornbirn, Austria:

In 2019, I invited Angelo to participate in the BCN NYC Affordable Housing Challenge, and “Elastic Living” was selected one of 3 finalists. Here we are posing with dignitaries:

In our competition entry we wrote: “An elastic_LIVING® apartment of 36 m2 delivers 4 rooms that add up to more than 60 m2”.

Compare that with UNStudio’s recent post: “UNStudio designed an adaptable partition and furniture ‘plugin-based’ system, which allows homeowners to use the space in a 40m2 apartment almost as if it were a 60m2 loft.”

Now compare the designs. UNStudio’s modules are clearly a rip-off of Roventa’s, using the same mobility principle. UNS has thus plagiarized Elastic Living’s descriptive text and its design.

UNStudio does not cite Angelo Roventa’s “Elastic Living” as a precedent although they are clearly familiar with it. Their claim to have “designed” this system is now all over the internet, on sites such as Designboom, WACommunity, Archinect, etc.

If UNStudio had cited Roventa’s precedent and claimed only to be improving it, then there would be no issue here. But their false claim to have “designed” it ex nihilo needs to be denounced because it undermines the credibility of architecture and design as research.

Where is UNS’s body of research? Where have prototypes been exhibited? Where has UNStudio employed such a system before? Nowhere as far as I can see. So then why not simply acknowledge Roventa instead of stealing from him, perhaps even collaborate with him?

No wonder architecture has a credibility problem (along with low fees, etc.) if starchitects like UNStudio do not conduct research ethically, fairly or rigorously (if at all) and don’t give credit where due.

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