Whither Architecture? – This is one of the central questions underlying this issue of Texte zur Kunst. We situate architecture in the forcefields of art and aesthetics; the economy of the market and configurations of power; between social processes of displacement and collective political projects; between the materially articulated volumes of buildings and their implication in technological mediatization. Architecture has its time and place. It intervenes in historically built conditions, and thus newly defines, in each instance, the relationship between the present and the past. In this sense, architecture is a built politics of history. By materially pre-forming the way in which a society lives together, it also models the future. Accordingly, the point in time and the specific place at which this issue of Texte zur Kunst was produced – Berlin in the fall of 2013 – necessarily affect its content. Yet, a number of articles also start out from other locations; the references to Berlin, in turn, are obliged to the logic of exemplariness. They also speak about a general state of affairs. An alternative motto could have been “Architecture today – as seen from Berlin”.
We put a special focus on the question of how to live together, of a communally shared existence, which here and now particularly implies addressing questions of property. In the interplay of art and architecture, ownership has always played a crucial role. Yet we are also concerned with how the analysis of various forms of building, in the sense of a critical aesthetics of architecture, can do justice to such political issues.
Niklas Maak’s contribution describes the burgeoning genre of developers’ architecture in New York and Berlin: An architectural practice that has interiorized the general imperative of an economy geared toward the form of the “project”. To such an extent that buildings are always already conceived as contributions to the economic “development” of the surrounding urban territories. In this rationale, alleged references to art, or the actual spatial proximity to museums and galleries, render such “developments” more attractive.
In the past years, new forms of private building contracting have also emerged that confront the economic effects of real estate speculation with initiatives of their own. Baugruppen – building communities – are enjoying increasing popularity. These groups do not reject the real estate market, but add a new form to it through the proactive communalization of building, dwelling, and ownership, thus at least partially alleviating the renewed pressure to own. In a conversation with four residents of the building at Ritterstrasse 50 in Berlin, which was jointly planned and is jointly inhabited by the R 50 building community, Hila Peleg introduces this model. Within the building, but also within urban space, the central question is – how do we live together?
While Dieter Detzner’s call for retaining the Marx-Engels-Forum in Berlin takes a position in regard to the city’s current architectural policy, Carson Chan’s essay contributes to a more differentiated historical perspective, by establishing a link to the teachings of Oswald Mathias Ungers, who worked in West-Berlin. Ungers left his chair at the Technische Universität in the late 1960s, when students criticized the architecture he had designed for the large-scale residential complex Märkisches Viertel. Ungers accepted a professorship at Cornell University, where his seminars and those of Colin Rowe became important training grounds for a generation of architects whose works are still highly influential today. Rem Koolhaas worked there and took part in Ungers’s summer schools in West Berlin in 1976/77, which in retrospect now appear as two primal scenes of our contemporary architecture. Here, proposals and promises for the city and for construction were formulated that still remain unfulfilled – like those of the urban archipelago and the urban villa.
The interplay of art and architecture is directly addressed in the interview that Axel Wieder conducted with the New York-based architect Annabelle Selldorf, who designed galleries for David Zwirner or Hauser & Wirth in Chelsea, as well as the exhibition architecture for Massimiliano Gioni’s The Encyclopedic Palace at this year’s Venice Biennale. Wieder asks about the function of her high-quality, reduced looks, and the role that art and cultural buildings acquire as image values in current capitalism.
Hal Foster recently termed this fatal mélange the Art-Architecture Complex. As early as the 1990s Rosalind Krauss began analyzing and criticizing the role of these types of museums in the age of late capitalism. Engaging with Krauss, Beatriz Colomina now calls for a differentiated recalibration of the concepts of space, aesthetics, architecture, and exhibition. In a brief history of the architecture pavilion, from Mies to the Storefront for Art and Architecture, she argues that since modernism, there have been a number of successful attempts to generate exhibition spaces independently of references to concrete artworks, without resorting to an aestheticizing celebration of spatial experience as such.
Finally, Felicity Scott provides a perspective that strategically leaves the aesthetic dimension aside. Her essay on the Habitat Conference organized by the United Nations in Vancouver in 1976 does not focus on questions of form, but rather turns to the interconnection in which architectural production was directly accessed by media technologies and governmental dispositifs. In this case, architecture implies a dimension in which form becomes effective by serving as an articulation of power. The conference also marked the point at which emancipative media concepts à la Marshall McLuhan and models of self-organized building proved to be smoothly compatible with administrative apparatuses and their architectures. Habitat also introduced the world to the format of the audiovisual, i.e., filmic (architecture) statement, the basis of the very clips with which developers’ architecture is still advertised today.
For this issue we had also planned an interview with Hans Kollhoff, a further Ungers-student. Kollhoff, whose architecture has taken an openly conservative turn, exerts considerable influence on the built shape of contemporary Berlin, as it is taking form at the moment. After a controversial, but objective and friendly conversation he insisted on an edited version in which the positions, in our opinion, no longer truly stood in dialogue with each other. Unfortunately, an agreement in this matter could not be reached.
And this issue of Texte zur Kunst is experimenting with a new visual language. We collaborated with fashion photographer Markus Jans, who lent the main section a consistent and more independent look. It is an attempt at an overarching visual signature that we’re very happy with, and may or may not repeat, depending on the situation.
(Translation: Karl Hoffmann)