Saturday, June 23, 2012

The magic of weird angles

Since the Schaulager building is closed for the rest of the year due to enhancement work, the institution decided to put up a “Schaulager Satellite” right in the middle of Messeplatz to keep its presence during Art Basel.

The overall form of the HdM-design “Satellite” makes obvious geometric references to the main Schaulager building. The distorted triangle is composed of two indentations similar to the one on the Schaulager facade, acting as two welcoming sides facing the two main access directions of Messeplatz. These two sides are combined in a very smart way to form a distinct gesture that looks as if it comes out from the Messe Hall 2, and diminishes at one sharp corner pointing into Messeplatz. Underneath the big triangle are several little houses with gable roofs – obvious instances of the Schaulager gatehouse. But compared to the ingenious recreation of the indentation, these scattered volumes seem a bit like just kitschy mimicry.

The datum between the two parts introduces a clear dichotomy. Structurally, it’s supporting vs. supported; and programmatically, it’s public functions (reception, bookstore, food stand) vs. core exhibition. The material choice follows the division: soft perforated PVC foil above and rough OSB below. But the white paint on the outside of the OSB houses seems to take a step back and undermine the otherwise sharper contrast. There is also one exceptional small house: the video room. One may argue that it’s a black box so it’s different from the display above. But I still think it goes against the conceptual clarity.

After several visits, I decided that this pavilion is one of the most difficult-to-photograph buildings I’ve seen in recent years. In the camera viewfinder, you see lines flying around in different angles. You can’t judge what’s perpendicular and what’s vertical any more. The strange form is completely anti-compositional. It’s not meant to create beautiful pictures. But all the funny angles work together magically and make the space very interesting.

Following the stair/auditorium that flips down like a spaceship, one arrives at the upper galleries around a triangular opening. There are several videos playing at the same time. In order to balance the acoustic environment, the walls are made of molton fabric – a material often used for theatre curtains. This smart material choice also results in a soft and monolithic interior surface. Very cozy.

In terms of exhibition, I found the “sourcebook” curation concept very interesting. Instead of featuring “real art,” the galleries show the making of art in a series of “shop windows.” The objects on display include the four red balls John Baldessari tossed in his pictures, the shoes Matthew Barney used to stamp the petroleum-jelly footsteps onto the floor, a rare leftover from the paper model Thomas Demand built for his photographs, plaster models and negative moulds from Katharina Fritsch, props and costumes from Cindy Sherman, a model of Monika Sosnowska’s monumental sculpture 1:1, and of course, a wooden model of the Schaulager building by HdM.
Thomas Ruff’s 3D photographs
Clockwise from top left: Herzog & de Meuron, Peter Fischli & David Weiss; Katharina Fritsch; Matthew Barney, Paul Chan; Cindy Sherman, Thomas Demand, John Baldessari


starbob said...

Have a look at the Vitra Haus design, very well documented on german-french Arte TV channel here :

starbob said...

or here