sehbild

exploring architecture and landscape through photographs


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Mines, histories, mountains

SANAA, Zollverein, Essen.

SANAA, Zollverein, Essen.

This SANAA (Kazuye Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) building lies on the edge of the post-industrial site of Zollverein in the Ruhr. Zollverein is a former coal washing plant now become Museum. Rem Koolhaas’s long escalator transports you from the ground to the upper storeys like a lump of carbon on a conveyor belt. The building retains its machinery, its dark structures and cavernous interiors, an ambient coal black. Descending through the museum is an archaeological journey. Each floor introduces earlier historical times; the visitor passes through contemporary photographs of new communities, factories at work, factories during wartime, Third Reich propaganda, flora and fauna, stone heads. If you wish, you can descend further into the old mine, once progressively modern.
SANAA’s contribution to this re-industrialized World Heritage site is, by contrast, a pale concrete cube. Its bold square windows cut through walls and roof to flood the interior with light and bounce it back on the surroundings. The architecture has a simplicity and rawness that seem to project a perpetual newness, one of the aspirations of Modernism. The building’s relatively recent history is that the SANAA design won the commission for the Zollverein School of Management and Design, construction starting in March 2005, the completion date June 2006.
Trying to compose a photograph: the scale of the building is monumental in comparison to neighbouring domestic architecture yet indistinct against the changing winter sky, sometimes blending into light grey clouds.
SANAA designs have a correspondence with the qualities of mountains. (See the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.) http://www.dezeen.com/2007/12/04/new-museum-by-sanaa-opens-in-new-york/. This analogical, possibly allegorical, connection points up their collaboration with the photographer Walter Niedermayr whose work explores alpine landscape, its dynamic of light, space, the effect of human interaction. His photographs of the Zollvereinschule assimilate its lightness, emphasizing a play between appearance, visibility and disappearance.
Cover of 2007 Hatje Cantz publication, unfortunately out of print at the moment.

Cover of 2007 Hatje Cantz publication, unfortunately out of print at the moment


© Walter Niedermayr. Recent work, The Aspen Series, 2013

© Walter Niedermayr. Recent work, The Aspen Series, 2013

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RGB in Leòn

Mansilla and Tuñon borrowed colours from stained-glass images in the cathedral Santa Maria de León to anoint the façade of MUSAC. Graphic, rather than hagiographic like the figurative images delineated so clearly in the windows of the cathedral, a digitalized scheme of abstract rectangles exiles panegyrized figures and their moral lessons. RGB (red,green,blue) is an additive colour model that applies to computer screens and to stained-glass.

MUSAC. Mansilla & Tuñon.

The interior space, I usually try to go inside buildings, seems to expand and contract and there is a noticeable tactility in the surface of the walls. I think it is concrete but I experience the interior in a state of distraction, perhaps it is stone. Inside there are lessons, not moral guidance, but art that asks questions – flickering images by an East European video artist that tell three stories, mothers who assume different roles and attitudes. At times a group of relatives form a choir and sing about the mother, voicing their demands, needs and expectations. What is a mother these images ask the viewer. All of a sudden I don’t know. Yet I am one.
Sunlight shining through La Madona in the Cathedral’s rose window oscillates across faces and pools colour on stone. Holding her bolt upright child, she is a model of beauty and motherly good, and she wears blue as an insignia of divinity. I am not like her.
In MUSAC a secular red light falls through the cafetería windows and stains my fleshly face as I stuff it with cake. Back outside, Mansilla and Tuñon’s colour model seems, like the interior, to fuse polarities. At once vibrant yet contemplative, something spiritual seems to linger in an image that is non-prescriptive.