deutsches architekturmuseum

In September 1984, the International Confederation of Architectural Museums held its 3rd annual conference (ICAM3) in Amsterdam at the Academy of Architecture. ICAM invited me to speak about the language of audiovisual media, specifically their use in architecture exhibitions. In the audience, Heinrich Klotz (director) and Hans Peter Schwarz (curator) of the new German Museum of Architecture, which had just opened its doors with the exhibition Die Revision der Moderne, were there. After my talk, Klotz invited me to come to Frankfurt am Main and visit his museum. Lenneke Büller and I, who had just started an association for audiovisual design, traveled to Frankfurt the same year where Klotz granted us the assignment for an audiovisual which should tell the story of the building of the museum, a villa that had been transformed by the architect Oswald Matthias Ungers (1926-2007) and was already famous for its house in a house concept. Ungers published his vision of architecture in a book called Architecture as a Theme (1982), which became our show’s title.

exhibition catalogue "Die Revision der Moderne", 1984
o.m. ungers: architektur als thema

The aim of Die Revision der Moderne exhibition was to test the dogmas of classical modernism. When we arrived in Frankfurt, the exhibition was already closed, but it was clear that O.M. Ungers dominated the show. His design for the museum was printed on the cover of the catalog. Moreover, the museum presented the works of his postmodern colleagues in his modified villa, which breathed the revisionist spirit in every respect. This villa and its historical references would be central to the audiovisual program assigned to us. Technically, O.M. Ungers, Architektur als Thema was a straightforward 3-projector slide show released in German and English versions. Both versions were transcribed to video and introduced the museum’s architecture. So, we interviewed Ungers in his Cologne studio and used fragments of it in the soundtrack. We photographed the Frankfurt villa and also the neo-classic Schloss Glienicke in Berlin. The ensemble got an atmosphere thanks to Mahler’s 3rd symphony, and to counter that mood, atonal and a-rhythmic noises were included, which were produced by Yens & Yens, two young composers from Amsterdam at the time. Klotz didn’t like these disturbing additions. Nevertheless, we were granted a new commission for a multi-screen audiovisual as a commentary to the museum’s next extensive exhibition. Its title: Vision der Moderne, das Prinzip Konstruktion.

the architectural model explained
the house in a house on the top floor of the museum
vision der moderne
exhibition catalogue "Vision der Moderne", 1986

The German Museum of Architecture drew considerable criticism with its first exhibition: it was seen as a statement and a stigma. Klotz feared a postmodernist bias and planned for a major exhibition that would have to correct such an impression: “Vision der Moderne, das Prinzip Konstruktion.” This exhibition was a research project in a way. It had to investigate how and to what extent classical modernism’s parameters (dogmas in terms of the first exhibition) influenced the architecture of the late 20th century. This was a profound question. The museum staff of director Klotz and the curators Hans Peter Schwarz, Andrea Gleiniger, and Volker Fischer struggled to find common ground. We decided to take these diverging opinions as the basis for our script and held interviews with each of them separately, asking the same questions. This approach proved a novelty in the museum practice, which usually speaks with one voice. It offered our multi-screen audiovisual a vibrant structure for the abundant visuals and graphics underpinned with explosive fragments of jazz from Charles Mingus and others. The program is lost, unfortunately, but I recall it as one of my favorites. We also showed it in Holland in several places, earning me a scholarship from the Dutch Ministry of Culture.

audiovisual environment, drawing Tjaarda Mees
1m3 projection cubes attached to each of the 16 windows
two slide projectors and two optical mirrors pro cube
orthogonal panorama of 4x4 elements A, B, C and D

The whole project started with a different design that profoundly impacted the villa of O.M. Ungers. If the postmodern bias is in need of a correction, why not put the house in a house in scaffolding and present a series of modernist panoramas in the interior on the top floor? We worked together with the architect Tjaarda Mees for the construction, and I prepared a particular tripod head for a panorama camera to do the shooting. However, Klotz rejected the plan. We made the 9-projector multi-screen audiovisual instead.

selected projects
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