Spatial Design

Copying Is Not a Crime

Katinka van Berlo
Practice Commercial Practices
Project New Frontiers
Major Spatial Design
Year Fourth Year

Nominee: Bachelor Research Award & Drempelprijs 2020

Imitating in architecture is not something new. We have always been building on what we created in earlier times. However, when I saw replicas of iconic architecture, I was surprised to see this happening. Because I always thought and was taught that architecture should be authentic and that identically reproducing a material structure is taboo in the profession. I started to wonder if architecture could find a productive relationship with the act of copying and if this could change my mind about it being a taboo.

I asked myself the question: How can the deliberate act of copying buildings in the architectural profession be considered valuable?

I asked myself the question: How can the deliberate act of copying buildings in the architectural profession be considered valuable?

To no longer see copying as a lack of creativity, I delved into what motivates people to recreate iconic buildings elsewhere. By looking at how our perspective on copying has changed over time, I realized that the negative image of copying has to do with the value we attach to the authenticity and authorship of a designed building. I believe when authorship is considered too important, it slows down the process of innovation. The focus, for the creator, should be more on the design goal for the common good instead of protecting it from getting copied. In fact, by stimulating copying with an open-source system, it can be used as a tool to achieve design goals faster because it can spread easier around the globe. By spreading ideas freely, not only does it allow people to use it, it can provide new insights for bringing the design to the next level.

Copying Isn't a Crime

This is a manifest calling for more transparency in architecture. It illustrates how setting aside the importance of authorship can positively change the way we think about the value of copying. It is a call to see copying as building on each other’s ideas and to start embracing it as a usual and accepted method for bringing architectural designs faster to a new generation. It is a call to stop considering copying as stealing other people’s ideas and start seeing it as an accelerator of innovation. The purpose of the animation is not so much to provide answers, but to make ‘copying as taboo’ negotiable and to revive the use of it in the architectural profession.

The X, like the variable in mathematics, is a symbol for the first building, which completely opens itself up to the world, so everyone is allowed to use it for creating something new. The X represents what doing this could bring us and is, therefore, the precursor that should inspire others to follow.