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Valerie Hoberg


Art in Architecture.
Eduardo Chillida and Aires Mateus, Ensamble Studio, Smiljan Radic

The relationship between art and architecture has occupied theorists and practitioners of both and other disciplines for centuries, and especially since the avant-garde of the 20th century, blurring of borders has been present. The doctoral project ‘Art in Architecture’ is interested in the productive moments of their interfaces.

In architecture, which is essentially related to everyday life and is shaped by conventions and norms, the built is fundamentally prevailing in practice. Therefore, too often it primarily satisfies economic or ecological requirements. Qualities related to design or perception, as well as visionary-conceptual, experimental or research approaches are often neglected in everyday practice. There is a risk that under such contemporary conditions architecture is degraded to a merely function-fulfilling shell and its potential for an intensified experience of self and the world, as well as for framing an understanding for it, will not be stimulated
Art, as a mindset and practice of interpreting the world and its experience, often generally aims for transferring questions, methods or forms of knowledge from other disciplines, and uses them as an elementary repertoire. In relation to architecture, artistic discussions with the built environment and body- or space-related issues have a tradition in painting and graphics, as well as in sculpture and installation. In their works and concepts are strategies or parameters embodied as a potential kind of implicit knowledge.

The doctoral project is based on the assumption that art, as a discipline specialized in the articulation and sensual experience of the relationship of people to the world, can provide impulses for architecture that promote its potential; it is a search for various manifestations of the artistic in contemporary architecture work. Not only realized buildings and design parameters are considered, but also concepts, methods and the associated media. Approaches of artistic research as well as different artistic works, which are produced by architects and which extend the term 'architectural practice' beyond to what is built, also play a significant role.

The research is guided by the search for the unfamiliar in various forms as well as the transformation of conventions which are associated with art and its thinking. How and for which aspects of contemporary and future architecture does the artistic offer potential for improvement?

The research follows a phenomenological-hermeneutic method and is divided into several parts that build on each other. To begin with, the topic is theoretically narrowed down in the broad research field of the relations between art and architecture using literature research.

The main part of the work is formed by three case studies on contemporary architectural offices, which serve for analyzing forms of the artistic. They will be described as design- and perception-related concepts and strategies and investigated for possibly existing artistic research.

The case studies are contextualized by their respective referencing to the thinking and work of the sculptor and graphic artist Eduardo Chillida. Using this reference point, a common basis is created for the case studies, which enables comparability and, at the same time, makes the differentiated spectrum of possible impulse effects describable through an artistic position.

Chillida's extensive work has a distinctive personnel style and is therefore suitable for referencing within other disciplines. Chillida, as a self-proclaimed 'architect of the void', deals with space-related phenomena using a specific material spectrum in a wide range of work categories and in his extensively written thinking. The interdisciplinary approach, which is of overriding interest in the doctoral project, can also be found in Chillida's artistic processes, which can be characterized in part as research.

From this relation to architecture-related questions, analysis criteria are developed for the following three case studies. They consist of the Portuguese office Aires Mateus, the Spanish office Ensamble Studio and the office of the Chilean architect Smiljan Radić. Departing from an introductory characterization of the work, a classification of the various relationships to art, starting with Chillida's work, leads to an analysis of the manifestations of the artistic in the oeuvre. These contain parallels to his work, but also point beyond them.

All three case studies as well as the analyzes of Chillida's work are methodically conducted on the basis of literature studies and on-site visits.

The concluding findings are divided into two parts: First, the strategies and qualities, which can arise from a reference to Chillida for contemporary architectural practice, resulting from the case studies are crystallized out. In this way, a perspective on Chillida's œuvre that has so far been little researched is highlighted. The second part concretizes the overarching findings on artistic concepts for contemporary and future architecture, thereby related conditions, borders and potentials.

The work strives to characterize the different forms and effects of the artistic in architecture. Art-specific strategies and practices as well as work qualities are carved out, which propose new ways of fulfilling both: functional needs and increasing the potential of architecture for an intensive experience and knowledge of the self and the world. This enables creative concepts for contemporary problems in the various areas of the discipline’s activities, which focus productively and experimentally on the unusual or the unknown.

The explication of the associated design-related and artistic knowledge makes this accessible and transferable to practitioners of the disciplines.