The Kunsthaus en Graz, by Peter Cook | Halldóra Arnardóttir – Javier Sánchez Merina

From beginning of the sixties, Peter Cook (n. 1936) has shaken constant the architectural culture with his fantastic drawings, as Ambulant City, City Enchufable and Instantaneous City.

“Of all the buildings that surround us in the city, are counted those that are called us the attention and, literally, they answer to our look.”

The Kunsthaus takes as a surprise the viandante of the baroque center of Graz.

The new Kunsthaus of Graz is a museum of art that one communicates with the viandantes across the front, in wait of his answers. His architects, the Britishers Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, projected it to spread the work of contemporary artists and to be, in yes same, a point of meeting to listen, to answer and to exchange ideas. His image already is a new symbol of Graz: a spongy navy blue volume that floats on a historical building of the illustrious Austrian city, which was the “European Capital of the Culture” during the year 2003, beside having been, in September, 2000, first “City of Human rights” declared in Europe.

Ground floor of the Kunsthaus of Graz (2003)

The city of Graz

Being the second city of the country, with a population of 270.000 inhabitants and great reputation in scientific investigation, Graz has proved to be historically opened towards the new ideas and has been brave on having juxtaposed ancient and modern buildings in his urban tracing.

In spite of it, not always a balance has existed in his social structure. The modern history of Austria Nazi reports his incorporation to the Germany in 1938 and, more recently, to re-arise from the xenophobic ones during the nineties. The social balance is a political aim of the contemporary company of Graz, commitment that already remained explicit on having requested to there be proclaimed ” City of Human rights “. With this appointment the city invoked the flow of information, the freedom of opinion and an improvement in the relation with the immigrants. For it, the Municipal Advice of Graz has started diverse initiatives, for example, organizing activities of training as for human rights for local civil servants or, in the colleges, activities of education against the racism.

The blue skin of the Kunsthaus is a screen of low resolution, but of the size of the whole building, which reproduces texts and images in movement.

The House of the Arts

Also in 2000, and as part of the program preparation to be Graz the “European Capital of the Culture”, organized an international contest to design the new Kunsthaus in a lot of the rivera of the river Mur. The group Spacelab, directed by Cook and Fournier, won with an offer that was taking the viandante as a surprise. Once constructed the building, they are still great those who question if this one is out of context and even if it is not rather arrogant opposite to the dense neighborhood. In spite of it, and still admitting the powerful presence of his lucernarios, which they appear as rashes in his blue skin, it would be precipitated to establish conclusions without realizing a deeper analysis.

Sight from the street, the Kunsthaus flies on the historical Eisernes (1847), the first building of metallic structure constructed in Europe. He is connected delicately by means of a platform of so called observation “the needle”, which offers conference panoramic of the city and his surrounding mountains. Compared with the historical neighboring building, which has fronts and plants perfectly rectangular, one cannot refer really to the Kunsthaus as building of have a front or an absolutely certain roof. It is rather a skin composed by a thousand of plates of fiber of acrylic glass, which is pierced by sixteen tewels to stop to enter the light and the fresh air. These lucernarios are, in addition, perforations that frame conference specific of the landscape and even, from one of them, the visitors can contemplate the picturesque tower of the Clock, emblem of the city.

Under this blue bubble there is a simple triangulation of steel, re-dressed in a sheet of the same material, that geometriza the double curvature, and, between both, a total of 925 fluorescent rings of 40 watios. Every ring of light works as a pixel since it is controlled by an IT system; a simple ingenuity that turns the blue skin on a great screen, of the size of the whole building, where texts and images can be reproduced in movement.

From the foyer, a mechanical stairs introduces the visitor in the rooms of exhibitions of the museum, which occupy both top floors.

Reporting with the city

Due to the international recognition that Peter Cook reached in the sixties as member of the mythical group Archigram, authors of incredible drawings of architecture who were uniting the culture Pop and the belief in technology to generate possibilities and alternatives to our way of life; not few ones have been the critics who catalogue the Kunsthaus as the accomplishment of the old dream of constructing a building from those drawings. Some of them have managed to affirm even that this work belongs to last century

The Kunsthaus or “the friendly extraterrestrial being”, since his authors call it, goes beyond being merely an ironic gesture tied to a new symbol of Graz. This work offers as a place of meeting to perceive different voices in company. Artists and commissioners of exhibitions can communicate his beliefs, desires and emotions, to the city across the gathering, and this way the building in his set turns into a contemporary icon of communication. In this respect, the Kunsthaus reflects an attitude, a freedom of word, which is a basic question in the “City of Human rights”. His gathering is not a mere message but it provokes a dialog with the city itself.

Apart from satisfying the functional requirements of any museum, this building gives the city new form of communication that encourages to radical groups to question his behavior: the front reescribible of ideas, the different lucernarios pointing at different points of view and the flexibility of the building being molded to the historical neighboring building. The Kunsthaus in Graz produces effects that can manage to change mentalities.

Halldóra Arnardóttir + Javier Sánchez Merina

doctor in history of the art. doctor architect

Murcia. october 2014

Halldóra Arnardóttir – Javier Sánchez Merina

Javier Sánchez Merina es Profesor Titular en la Universidad de Alicante. Anteriormente enseñó en Kingston University London y Carleton University en Ottawa. Sus clases, textos y obra construida buscan establecer relaciones entre la docencia, la investigación y la profesión. En la actualidad participa en el Proyecto de Investigación Europeo sobre Arquitectura Terapéutica.

Halldóra Arnardóttir. Doctora, (The Bartlett, UC London 1999 – homologación UMU 2007), Colaboradora con el Observatorio de Diseño y Arquitectura de Murcia (2008-10), acreditación de la ANECA como Ayudante Doctor (2012) y en la actualidad Coordinadora de Arte y Cultura como Terapia (HUVA) en colaboración con UMU, Profesora Ayudante Doctor (UCAM) y Azrieli Visiting Critic en Carleton University (Ottawa 2012).

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