domusweb AllesWirdGut: Looking away, looking at the way
Hosted in a monumental and yet sober-looking building on the Karl-Marx-Allee, one of the most prestigious addresses in Berlin’s Mitte, the Architektur Galerie Berlin was conceived from its very beginning as a forum for contemporary architecture which intended to go beyond the most traditional exhibition-praxis. During the last twelve years Ulrich Müller, the gallery’s founder and owner, has made a point in developing a series of “conceptual exhibitions” which have explored the challenges of showing architecture within a space which is inevitably limited. To use Müller’s own words, this has been possible thanks to the “mini-marriages” which he contracted with a number of architectural offices from the international scene, focusing on Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. These offices stand out for working in a very interesting way both on a practical and on a conceptual level: having developed a close relationship with each of them, Müller was able to commission a series of exhibits, requiring that these would be conceived specifically for his gallery in Berlin, and that they would have a strong experimental character. In short, his ultimate goal has always been to present projects carrying an intellectual message which could go beyond the gallery’s walls.
It is difficult to imagine a more perfect example, as well as a more successful result, of Ulrich Müller’s exhibit politics than the newly opened exhibition Weg schauen by AllesWirdGut, an architectural office based in Wien. AllesWirdGut — a programmatic name which can be translated as “Everything is going to be fine” — is constituted by four architects (Andreas Marth, Christian Waldner, Friedrich Passler, and Herwig Spiegl) who met at the Technische Universität in Wien in the nineties, and joined officially in 1999.
Since then, the group has participated to a number of competitions and has worked on projects of various size and nature: to mention just a few among the most recent ones, AllesWirdGut built the Civic Protection Center in Innichen/San Candido (2007), reorganized the open-air theatre at Römersteinbruch in St. Margarethen thanks to a fascinating sequence of new structures (2008), redesigned the walking area of the Maria-Theresien-Strasse in downtown Innsbruck (2009/2011), and erected Austria’s largest low-energy office building, namely the Niederösterreichhaus in Krems (together with Feld72, 2010). Each of these projects has an individual character which strongly reflects the unique relationship existing between any building and its context, namely its site and function; however, all the projects by AllesWirdGut emanate the same kind of positive energy and ingenious wit which recall the ironic optimism of the office’s programmatic name. These qualities are best represented by the buildings’ solid shapes and gleaming surfaces, which are always friendly and never banal. Furthermore, the projects reveal a general fascination for the relationship resulting from the new buildings and the areas accessible to the public which surround them, namely for the concept of “Weg” (“way”, or “path”).
The concept of “Weg” is precisely the theme which the group of AllesWirdGut has decided to investigate on occasion of its exhibition for Ulrich Müller’s gallery in Berlin. The exhibit’s title, Weg schauen, is a telling wordplay, meaning both “looking away” and “looking at the way”. Indeed, by focusing on the sequence of spaces which connect the buildings, rather than on the buildings themselves, AllesWird Gut invites us to think about the (un-built) spaces which are generally ignored in the architectural discourse. According to the four architects, the coexistence of built and un-built spaces, namely the alternating of inside and outside, creates a powerful dramaturgy which they like to call “Raum-Partitur” (“Space-score”), and which they want us to become more aware of. In order to do so, they confront us with two projects of theirs where the concept of “way/path” plays a major role, so that such projects can be considered “open space-scores”. The first project concerns the above mentioned Niederösterreichhaus in Krems, built in 2010, while the second one was conceived for a new building for the Wimmer Media in Linz, but did not win the recent competition.
Each project is presented thanks to three architectural models made of white Staron, a lightly translucent and beautifully smooth material produced by Samsung. The first model presents the “positive” dimension of the project, namely its architectural structures or, in other words, its built parts. The second model visualizes the project’s “negative” dimension, namely its sequence of paths or, in other word, its un-built parts: in this model, the concept of the “way/path” is transformed in a snake-like sequence of tangible shapes which stand out above the flat surface corresponding to the site’s constructed parts. The third model isolates the “way/path” from its original context by suspending its snake-like structure above thin iron-bars, as if the site’s paths were floating in the air, and the site itself did not exist at all. The same motifs of “positive”, “negative”, as well as of the way’s isolation from its context, recur in the black-and-white diagrams which decorate the gallery’s walls like a multitude of mysterious hieroglyphs. This is the final touch in an exhibition which can be considered an intellectual game: both amusing and stimulating, and certainly puzzling.