Hensel was born in Celle, Germany in 1965, and lived during his early years in Cologne. He gained his diploma in architecture from Cologne University of Applied Sciences in 1992, his graduate diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1993, and his PhD from the University of Reading School of Construction Management and Engineering in 2012.
Hensel has developed a theoretical and methodological approach to architectural design entitled "Performance-oriented Architecture" that incorporates notions such as non-discrete architecture, non-anthropocentric architecture and intensely local architecture and urbanism.
Hensel taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (1993 to 2009), where was Unit Master of Diploma Unit 4 and where he co-directed the Emergent Technologies and Design Program (EmTech) and developed the curriculum for the EmTech Studio (2001 to 2009). In this context he directed experimental design and construction of projects in an environmentally sensitive site in Chilean Patagonia.
Hensel is currently Professor for Architecture at AHO, the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway. Since 2011 he is director of the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Together with Prof. Christian Hermansen he initiated a design and build studio with focus on experimental design and construction. The studio has realized projects in challenging contexts in Chile and in Norway.
He has held numerous visiting professorships and innovation fellowships and has taught and lectured in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
In 1994 he co-founded OCEAN, an international and interdisciplinary collaborative network that investigates a diverse scope of themes related to the human environment. Hensel served as founding and current chairman of the OCEAN Design Research Association OCEAN which was registered in 2008 registered as a not-for-profit association in Norway.
He also serves as founding and current chairman of SEA – Sustainable Environment Association founded and registered in 2011 as a not-for-profit association in Norway. SEA is an international and interdisciplinary expertise network that pursues systematic, integrative and interdisciplinary inquiry into the human-influenced and built environment and its interaction with the natural environment and local ecosystems with the aim to develop alternative approaches to architectural design and sustainability.
From 2007 to 2011 Hensel served as board member of BIONIS, the Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability. The mission of BIONIS was to promote the application of Biomimetics in products and services and its use in education and training.
From 2007 to 2009 Hensel was editorial board member of JBE – Journal for Bionic Engineering, Elsevier Scientific Press, and of AD Wiley from 2007 to 2014. Since 2011 he is editorial board member of the peer-reviewed online journal FORMakademisk, and since 2013 of IJDST – the International Journal of Design Sciences and Technology.
Hensel is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.
Hensel's wife and one of his key collaborators is Turkish-born progressive architect and researcher Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel.
Michael U. Hensel's writings have been published in Chinese, Czech, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Spanish, and Turkish. He has authored, co-authored and edited numerous books and journals.
2013. Hensel, M. Performance-oriented Architecture – Rethinking Architectural Design and the Built Environment. London: AD Wiley. ISBN 978-0470973318
1999. Hensel, M. and Verebes, T. Urbanisations. London: Serial Books Architecture & Urbanism 3.
2010. Hensel, M., Menges, A. and Weinstock, M. Emergent Technologies and Design: A Biological Paradigm for Architecture. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415493444
2015. Hensel, M. and Turko, J. Grounds and Envelopes - Reshaping Architecture and the Built Environment. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415639170
2006. Hensel, M. and Menges, A. Eds. Morpho-Ecologies. London: AA Publications. ISBN 978-1902902531 2009. Hensel, M., Hight, C. and Menges, A. Eds. Space Reader – Heterogeneous Space in Architecture. London: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0470519431 2012. Hensel, M. Ed. Design Innovation for the Built Environment – Research by Design and the Renovation of Practice. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415596657
2004. Hensel, M., Menges, A. and Weinstock, M. Eds. Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies. AD Architectural Design Vol. 74, 3. ISBN 978-0470866887
2006. Hensel, M., Menges, A. and Weinstock, M. Eds. Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design. AD Architectural Design Vol. 76, 2. ISBN 978-0470015292
2008. Hensel, M., Kamvari, O., Menges, A. Eds. Performance-Oriented Design: Morpho-Ecological Design, Research and Practice in Architecture. Iranian Architecture Quarterly Vol. 8 No. 31 & 32.
2008. Hensel, M. and Menges, A. Eds. Versatility and Vicissitude – Performance in Morpho-Ecological Design. AD Architectural Design Vol. 78, 2. ISBN 978-0470516874
2008. Hensel, M. and Menges, A. Eds. Form Follows Performance – Zur Wechselwirkung von Material, Struktur, Umwelt. Arch+ 188. ISSN 0587-3452
2010. Ertas, H., Hensel, M. and Sunguroğlu Hensel, D. Eds. Turkey: At the Threshold. AD Architectural Design Vol. 80, 1. ISBN 978-0470743195
2012. Hensel, M. and Gharleghi, M. Eds. Iran – Past, Present and Futures. London: AD Wiley. ISBN 978-1119974505
2015. Hensel, M. and Hermansen Cordua, C. Eds. Constructions - An Experimental Approach to Intensely Local Architectures. ISBN 978-1118700570
2000. Hensel, M. 'Ruptures, Fluctuations and Exchange: Speculations on Gradient Threshold Models'. In Strategic Space - Urbanity in the twenty-first Century. Frankfurt: Anabas Verlag. 157-161.
2003. Hensel, M. 'Re:Cognition – Approaching the Generative Function of the Unfamiliar'. In: Communication & Cognition 36 (3&4): 243–261.
2010. Hensel, M. 'Material Systems and Environmental Feedback Dynamics'. In: Emergent Technologies and Design: A Biological Paradigm for Architecture (Hensel, M., Menges, A., Weinstock, M.). London: Routledge. 63–81.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Modeling Modeling – Trajectories in Developing Instrumental Design Processes'. In: Persistent Modeling (Ed. P. Ayres). London: Routledge.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Design from a Material Perspective – Domains of Agency and the Spatial and Material Organization Complex'. In: Performalism (Eds. E. Neuman and Y. Grobman). London: Routledge. 43–48.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Design as a Framework for Renovating Architectural Practice and Innovating Research by Design'. In: Design Innovation for the Built Environment – Research by Design and the Renovation of Practice (Ed. M. Hensel). London: Routledge. 121-143.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Unforeseen Trajectories - The Architectural Journey's of Helen & Hard'. In: Helen & Hard. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.
Papers and Articles:
2008. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Design: Precursors and Potentials. In: Versatility and Vicissitude, AD Architectural Design 78(2): 48–53.
2009. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Design'. In: Arquitecturas Geneticas III (Ed. Alberto Estevez). Santa Fe NM: Sites Books. 136–149.
2009. Hensel, M. 'Wikinger Langschiffe: elastische Holzkonstruktionen für die Seefahrt'. In: Holz, Arch+ 193: 104–105.
2010. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Architecture – Towards a Biological Paradigm for Architectural Design and the Built Environment'. In: FORMakademisk 3 (1): 36–56.
2011. Hensel, M. 'Type? What Type? Further Reflections on the Extended Threshold'. In: Typological Urbanism – Projective Cities. AD Architectural Design 81(1): 56–65.
2011. Hensel, M. 'Performance-oriented Architecture and the Spatial and Material Organization Complex – Rethinking the Definition, Role and Performative Capacity of the Spatial and Material Boundaries of the Built Environment'. In: FORMakademisk 4 (1): 3–23.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Sustainability from a Performance-oriented Architecture Perspective – Alternative Approaches to Questions regarding the Sustainability of the Built Environment'. In: Sustainable Development 20 (3): 146–154.
2012. Hensel, M. 'Confronting the Crisis of Architectural Education'. In: Nordic Journal of Architecture 1(2): 85–89.
2013. Hensel, M. and Sørensen, S. 'En Route to Performance-oriented Architecture - The Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics: Integrating Architectural Education with Research by Design along a Practice-oriented Perspective'. In: SAJ Serbian Architectural Journal 5(2): 106-131.
2014. Hensel, M. and Sørensen, S. 'Intersecting Knowledge Fields and Integrating Data-driven Computational Design en Route to Performance-oriented and intensely Local Architectures'. In: Bier, H. and Knight, T. Eds. Dynamics of Data-driven Design Footprint 15 Autumn 2014: 59-74.