Plain Space Exhibition – John Pawson – Design Museum London 2010 | The Hardt
Plain Space Exhibition – John Pawson – Design Museum London 2010. The goal here was to communicate the thinking and give a sense of the body of work, whilst also engaging the widest possible audience. Since engagement is facilitated by first-hand experience, a site-specific, 1:1 installation was conceived as a key element — the first time anyone had constructed a building inside the Design Museum. As well as the more conventional curated content of an architectural show, the design incorporated subtle changes to the gallery space itself, on the basis that the success of the exhibition would not simply be a matter of the quality of the assembled material, but of the overall atmosphere, this spatial recalibration would generate.
The team at Studio Hardie, based in Lewes, East Sussex, has a wide range of specialist expertise from cutting-edge design to age-old craft skills. In this post, Hamish Boden describes the challenges they faced when creating the ultimate modern exhibition space using traditional skills. This project was a 1:1 scale architectural installation to host the Plain Space exhibition for British architect John Pawson , described by the New York Times as “the father of modern architectural minimalism”. The installation space was both a location for the exhibition and part of the event and was based at the Design Museum, London, in September 2010. Hamish writes “This was one of Studio Hardie’s first full-scale architectural installations, essentially a building inside a building. The difficulty with achieving a crisp minimal look is that exposed fixings are not allowed so all the mechanics go on behind the scenes. Another major hurdle of the project was the timescale, achieving the level of tolerance and perfection on a really tight installation turnaround. The beauty of having such a big workshop is that you can create entire structures, test them check everything fits and make fine adjustments before leaving the workshop, this can save days of site work.
Spending time meticulously planning the install is critical; the choreography of how everything comes together quickly, accurately and beautifully. We couldn’t rely on ‘off the shelf’ being totally straight so we designed a new system for making dead flat-straight walls out of MDF torsion boxes. You often hear carpenters complaining about using MDF but for us it was a rare treat. We are used to using solid timber that shrinks cracks and moves. MDF, in contrast, is a very predictable and versatile material. It was a real challenge to create the curved ceiling. We knew that constructing the sections on the floor would mean we could make a much better quality finish than working over-head. This is where modern technology meets classic old-fashioned carpentry knowledge. To get the perfect curve we had some roof fins cut with CNC and covered them with a thin sheet of MDF.
Photos: Gilbert McCarragher and Marco Zanta
Project Team Mark Treharne, Chris Masson, Nicholas Barba, Alison Morris
Aesthetically and Geographically Related Projects:
Atelier Hermann Rosa, located in Munich, Germany | The Hardt
Atelier Hermann Rosa, located in Munich, Germany. Atelierhaus Hermann Rosa is a daylight studio built as a big sculpture by hand without any machines by sculptor Hermann Rosa (1911-1981) in Munich between 1960 and 1968.An elemental concrete stair leads one up to a vaulted hall. A simple round skylight recalls the moon. Modest pavers lead the eye and the inhabitant deeper into the forest glade. The sculptor Hermann Rosa personally built his ateliers in Munich like larger-than-life concrete sculptures. Due to the manual, up and dismantling way of working as well as the choice of fewer base materials his architectural work differs from the modern one and refers in its design language clearly to these. Sunlight was both tectonic and mass for Rosa. As in his late work, two portrait heads, he sought in the architecture of the enclosed space stormy and purist at the same time.
“The studio building Rosas is a radiant solitaire in the German architectural landscape. It is a spatial work of art that can hardly be compared to architectural radicalism throughout Germany in the decades between 1950 and 1980. Decades before the so celebrated concrete minimalism of Luigi Snozzi, Peter Märkli or Peter Zumthor, Rosa created a masterpiece whose impressive and moving spatial asceticism will outlive many fashions of architecture and which deserves a place of honor in post-war German architectural history. “
The interiors are denuded of all save the absolute minimum. A single material (concrete) is deployed throughout with tremendous effect. Silver birches soften tough exteriors. Boarded formwork joints part and make way for inset plumbing pipes, which become sculptural – a bas-relief of utility. An elemental concrete stair leads one up to a vaulted hall. A simple round skylight recalls the moon. Modest pavers lead the eye and the inhabitant deeper into the forest glade.
Photography by Jürg Zimmermann. Images courtesy of Atelier Rosa.
Check some more surreal interior vibes with the minimalist projects below:
Thomas Hirschhorn Swiss, b. 1957, Bern, Switzerland, based in Paris, France
Using his signature materials of plywood, cardboard, aluminum foil, packing tape, and copious photocopies, Thomas Hirschhorn makes installations that advance pointed critiques of the global military-industrial complex. Hirschhorn’s works overflow with imagery and text, created with a deliberately slap-dash DIY aesthetic and often incorporating the writings of such Leftist philosophers as Antonio Gramsci and Georges Bataille. The over-abundance of ideas and images in Hirschhorn’s installations mimics the media saturation of contemporary life and highlights the desensitization that consumers experience as a result. For Laundrette (2001), the artist transformed the gallery space into a facsimile of a typical Laundromat, complete with drab linoleum floor, garbage bins, and chained up plastic chairs, juxtaposed with the phrases from Marxist writings adorning the walls.
Situated in Denver, Colorado, United States, Clyfford Still Museum (2011) by Allied Works Architecture | The Hardt
Situated in Denver, Colorado, United States, Clyfford Still Museum (2011) by Allied Works Architecture. One first encounters the museum through a grove of trees and landscaped forecourt, which provides a place of contemplation, decompression, and transition from the museum’s surrounding urban context. Through the trees, the structure of the building is visible, consisting of cast-in-place architectural concrete walls with a variety of surface relief and texture. The façade features thin, vertical lines of concrete that project from the building’s surface in a fractured, organic, and random pattern, creating a rich surface that changes in the intense Denver sunlight and forms varied shadows across the building.
The entry is revealed beneath a canopy of trees, and visitors are welcomed into the museum by a low, long reception lobby. Visitors rise from the lobby and reception area toward the natural light falling from the galleries on the second floor. The museum’s second level features nine light-filled galleries, totaling approximately 10,000 square feet. Each gallery is distinctly defined and proportioned to respond to specific aspects and needs of the collection and helps trace the different phases of Still’s career in chronological sequence.
Gallery heights vary to accommodate changes in scale and media; those with 17-foot, 6-inch-high ceilings showcase Still’s monumental Abstract Expressionist canvases, some of which extend to over 12 feet tall and 16 feet long, while smaller galleries with 12-foot ceilings create a more intimate viewing environment for the presentation of smaller-scale paintings and works on paper. Two outdoor terraces and an education gallery offer visitors a moment of reflection and investigation during the gallery sequence and allow them to re-orient themselves with the surrounding and distant landscape. Moving between galleries, visitors are provided glimpses down into the collection storage and interpretive galleries on the first level. The visitor’s experience of the collection is enlivened by natural light that enters the galleries through a series of skylights over a cast-in-place, perforated concrete ceiling. The geometry of openings in the ceiling creates an even field of soft and changing daylight in the galleries. Diffusing glass, motorized shades, and electric light give curatorial flexibility to the gallery spaces, helping to support different gallery configurations and the museum’s rotating exhibition program.
Upon completing the primary gallery sequence, visitors may descend back to the museum’s first level to explore the painting storage, archive, and exhibition spaces viewable from above. An open double-high corridor connects these facilities and serves as an exhibition hall allowing visitors to further their learning of the history and life of Clyfford Still. A “timeline” section of the corridor places the artist’s work in context with historical events and other artistic movements, and an “archive” hallway presents the everyday artifacts of the artist’s life and information about his painting technique and media. From this corridor, visitors are also able to view the collection storage rooms and assess the number of paintings produced during the artist’s prolific career. A visible conservation lab and a research center offer visitors additional resources for furthering their knowledge of Still’s career. This open corridor speaks to the institution’s founding principle of unveiling this once-private and very personal collection to the public, as it invites a gradual immersion in the works of Still.
Pamela Ruiz and Damian Aquiles Havana House located in Havana, Cuba | The Hardt
Pamela Ruiz and Damian Aquiles Havana House located in Havana, Cuba. About once a month, the Havana villa that Pamela Ruiz and Damian Aquiles brought back to life amid obstacles that only a Cuban could appreciate becomes electric. Massive chandeliers cast dancing shadows on the tile floors, the saffron perfume of paella fills the air and guests like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Anne Bass and the Proenza Schouler designers mix with local artists and cultural figures.
Ruiz, an American, came to the island two decades ago to scout locations for an ad campaign, then met and fell in love with Aquiles, an artist. Since then, she has become Cuba’s Peggy Guggenheim — without the inheritance and retinue of famous lovers. Against the backdrop of the couple’s magnificent house — it took them eight years to gain rights to it and another seven to renovate — Ruiz, who grew up in a middle-class household in Queens, has become an unlikely social locus as the country rejoins the West. It may seem that she is merely in the right place at just the right moment, but back in the mid-1990s when Ruiz decided to immigrate to Cuba, everyone, including Aquiles’s family, thought she was crazy. The Soviet Union had fallen and food and gas were scarce; cats became a delicacy and horse-drawn carts replaced buses. There were virtually no other Americans except for Black Panthers and fugitives; the few European expats and diplomats weren’t interested in socializing with her as she didn’t have the right sort of pedigree. But settling Aquiles and their son, Bastian, now 18, in the United States would have meant huge hurdles, and despite the privations, she loved the culture: the colors, the energy, the warmth of the people.
In 1999 she spied the villa while walking through the leafy Vedado neighborhood where she and her family were living in a two-bedroom apartment. They had always fantasized about owning one of the pre-revolution estates in that part of town, where the cratered sidewalks are speckled with bougainvillea blossoms. This once-grand house looked abandoned, its shutters closed, the paint peeling, a mountain of junk in the yard. When she knocked on the enormous door, the tiny face of an Afro-Cuban woman peered out.
“Excuse me,” Ruiz said in Spanish, “but I wanted to meet the woman who lives in my dream house.” “You have transparent eyes,” said the woman, who immediately sensed Ruiz’s sincerity and let her in. The hundred-year-old house was dark but clean; it smelled vaguely musty, like the bottom of a grandmother’s purse. Best of all, it hadn’t been subdivided into apartments for hoards of relatives as many Havana houses had. The woman, Vincenta Borges, had come there in 1950, as a housekeeper. The childless owners had died in the 1970s and left the house to her. She couldn’t read or write and lived on food vouchers. She had no money for repairs.
Ruiz desperately wanted the house, but real-estate transactions in Cuba at the time were a Kafkaesque ordeal. Buying and selling the property was illegal, but a permuta, or swap, was allowed. The houses need to be of equal value; size and land aren’t figured in, so a large villa in disrepair might be worth the same as a two-bedroom apartment with a new kitchen. But Borges didn’t want Ruiz’s place — too many stairs. A ground floor with a veranda to hang her laundry would be perfect, she said. It took Ruiz eight years to arrange a three-way swap — someone with a place Borges would want who also wanted Ruiz’s apartment.
Then came the hurricanes. In 2008, just after they moved in, three deadly storms washed away more than 100,000 homes and nearly a third of the island’s crops. The government commandeered all construction material — bricks, concrete, and wood — so the couple was left to comb the city for salvage. “Whenever we found a building that had collapsed we’d ask if there was anything for sale,” says Ruiz. The mahogany beams of their roof are from a wrecked historic site, the century-old bricks of their patio from a burned-down cigar factory. With no hardware stores in Havana, Ruiz, who retained her citizenship, made trips to the U.S. to carry back suitcases crammed with new wiring. Friends from Aquiles’s hometown moved in — for years — to help them with labor. “I called it ‘campismo con techo,’ ” she says, camping under a roof. Over the years, Ruiz collected bits and bobs of Modernist furniture on the island, a legacy of Cuba’s midcentury stylishness, pre-Castro. Rather than fill the rooms with random battered pieces, she hired a car painter to spray the lot in black lacquer. She brought the chandeliers back from the mainland and from Mexico, disassembled and stowed in luggage; one Murano masterwork weighed 150 pounds.
As the house started to come together, so did Ruiz’s influence. During her early career in New York, she had represented the photographer Juergen Teller, who was just starting out and worked with a lot of well-connected people with whom she had stayed in touch. The philanthropist and art collector Beth Rudin DeWoody, an old friend, sent an increasing number of travelers her way and Ruiz began to throw parties, a godsend in a culture that until recently has forbidden privately owned businesses and had virtually no place for creative people to mingle. Over the years, Ruiz produced shoots in Havana for Teller, William Eggleston, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and arranged for U.S. galleries to bring ambitious exhibitions to the island, including one of Louise Bourgeois’s work that was the country’s first show of a major contemporary artist.
The house was finally finished last year, and since December the flow of visitors has become a flood. Meanwhile, Ruiz recently co-founded a foundation, Cuba Untitled, to continue the cross-pollination of cultures and artistic ideas. “The house is beautiful, but it’s what goes on inside the house that’s important,” Ruiz says. “I have waited my whole life for this moment to occur.”