Architectural concepts straddling history and performance art

07.02.2017 | by Wilkhahn Germany

The event’s theme was the much-quoted genius loci, or architecture’s adaption to the context in which it’s located. The speakers were asked to provide responses to three key questions: How do we approach the location encountered? How does the design adapt to the location already there? And how does the built-on location relate to the new design? In other words, speakers were primarily requested to provide solutions.


Christian Roth presents residential buildings: Christinenstraße 39 in Berlin / zanderroth architekten

To match the exceptional symbolic nature of the places and public interest in the design and construction, over half of the projects shown involved museums, exhibition spaces, archives, religious buildings, libraries and educational facilities. Six examples covered private and public commercial and office buildings and a mere four residential buildings – actually the most common type of construction project. Nevertheless, the projects demonstrated a range of different methods to adapt the identity of the architecture to the place in which it was located. The example of a new substation in Munich was taken, where considerations were given to legal and local government aspects, good neighbourliness, as well as a changed, reflexive and vanished place, all of which had a major impact on the final build.


Prof. Hans Kollhoff, Christoph Mäckler, Paul Böhm, Jasper Cepl

The One Man Sauna project by Modulorbeat stood for itself and was part of a piece of work commissioned by Urbane Künste Ruhr entitled This is not Detroit. The overgrown tracks on a former industrial site provided the spatial context, the end of the mining industry and the closure of the Opel factory the societal-social backdrop and the “homage to doing nothing” the response to the structural changes in the Ruhr area. And all of that was condensed into a temporary architectural structure of a vertical one-man sauna. Sweating in the shaft-like sauna became performance art in order to enhance the discourse about space, work and leisure time…


Markus Peter about the Sprengel Museum / Meili, Peter Architekten

The methods applied were diverse and the buildings designed equally so: they ranged from a declaration of the universality of style elements and historical reconstructions to careful transformations and abstractions to radical disruptions, whereby the latter tended to be the exceptions. With expert moderation by Ursula Baus and Ulrich Brinkmann on the first day and Jasper Cepl and Joerg Himmelreich on the second, some issues were the subject of debate towards the end.



In other words, the two days produced a multifaceted overview of how the identity of contemporary architecture is adapted to its local context. It wasn’t an all-encompassing synopsis by any stretch of the imagination and definitely not relevant to day-to-day construction projects, but it was an informative and important one nevertheless. The fact that the 31 presentations mostly kept to the time allotted deserves applause, as well as the fact that the faculty chiefly completed the project under its own steam and with sponsors it had acquired itself. We were one of them and look forward to the next chapter.

For detailed information about the conference go to: RWTH Aachen

Photo credits: RWTH, Aachen. Jonathan Schmalöer

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