Ornament & Concealment

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    ORNAMENT &
    CONCEALMENT
     
    On
    preservation
    and
    preventive
    construction
    as
    constants
    in modern
    environments
     
     
     
    Footnotes
     
     
     
    → fast track
    slow track
     
     
     
     
    INTRODUCTION
     
     
        When traveling to Leipzig in 2011 and exploring the streets of Plagwitz we got
          stuck by a building which was entirely veiled in a blue construction netting. →
     
    Its sculptrual quality and the accuracy the netting was attached with, strongly reminded us of Cristo’s and Jean-Claude’s wrapped Reichstag and what David Bourdon described as “revelation through concealment“ 1. While the building’s facade was crumbling, its cover held an aura of strong presence and persistency.
    We had some difficulty to imagine this not to be an intentioned piece of art but instead to be set up for safety and preservation reasons by a construction company. As we soon found out, there were many of such buildings in Leipzig but hardly anyone we spoke to seemed to pay attention to them.
     
        This initial discovery made us explore another kind of cityscape, one held together
        by transparent and elusive structures, built by unknown architects. It initiated a
        process of investigation and thoughts on scaffolding, preservation and loss-
        prevention. A →
     
  •  
    PRESERVATION AND LOSS-PREVENTION
     
     
           Architecture is often used and invoked as the central hallmark of modernization.
         Cities around the world are rapidly redefining themselves through their 
         architecture in a bid to capture some part of that elusive essence that is “the 
         modern city”. Simultaneously, the attempt to define a local identity in the midst of 
         an international architectural identity leads to a strange emphasis on
         conservation. Despite this, the materials and tools used to construct and
         preserve them mainly stay the same. Physically and symbolically they make up    
         one of the most constant elements to our time. Ironically it is structures, ones
         that were, in and of themselves, intended as a transitional state, who act as
         relics of a perpetual present within the constantly shifting modern urban  
         environment. →
     
    Scaffolding and construction nettings ghostly move through the cities streets, like veils blown by the wind of progress and hauled by its decay. What shimmers through, seems like a fading memory or a future not yet entirely shaped. From a further distance in time, their constant erratic movement of mounting and demounting, reminds of the mechanics of a clockwork, hidden behind the clocks shiny surface and ensuring the forward moving of its hands. While constantly conceal those mysterious buildings – ones riddled with crumbling facades or ones existing only as skeleton of a new construction – the ethereal and shifting structure of the nets themselves, their materiality, consistency, symbolic and sculptural quality remain unseen to the pedestrian’s selectively blind eye. They are symbols of our constant hustle, preserving progress and preventing both accidents, collapse through standstill and loss of the momentary.
     
         At no point in past history has any societal system been so obsessed with 
        recording itself and all its movements. The touristic view has extended to all areas 
        of life. Big Data, social networks, the uninterrupted presence of cameras on a 
        private level and the Potemkin façadism of Eastern-European cities with its 
        culmination in the reconstruction of Berlin City Palace, countless new museums, 
        private collections and world-heritage sites on the public level are just few 
        examples. →
     
    By 1800 it was mainly monuments that were preserved, by 1850 historic town centers and by 1900 houses. Today “we literally preserve anything, from concentration camps to amusement parks” 2 as Rem Koolhaas was summing up when holding a lecture on this subject at Strelka in 2012. Further he pointed out, that already 4% of the worlds surface has been declared a World Heritage site, making up twice the size of India. By giving an example of the abandonment of a town in Libya after it had been declared a historic monument, he criticized the overall sacrifice of a place’s liveliness for its longevity. When planning a new building nowadays, the architect and probably soon any other creator of virtual content, has the option to automatically save each change he does to the design as a single entity in the cloud. The virtual or physical capture of everything, be it houses, cities, moments, ideas and each of its states, act as contradictory loss-preventive backups.
     
        Preservation today is not anymore bound to the past, but literally encases the 
        present and for the case of Google, Facebook & Co as well as for most highly 
        developed countries in general, it is the very forefront of modernity which
        preserves the most. →
     
    While there’s a strong discourse on how to securely preserve all this content and how to overcome technical limitations of traditional and digital archiving, it is missed out to be asked how all this influences the way we live and work, how we perceive and define the present. Further it comes to question what we will actually remember in a future day, in case preservation and loss-prevention are both, main activity and environment we live in. Remembering might become the act of a self-historian, crawling through his or her own data in order to either naively believe what he sees, or to understand the found pieces as relics, shedding light on the intention of its creator and the overall mindset of the time he lived in.
     
        While the recorded content is continuously growing, the movement and very form 
        of progress and growth itself is attempted to be preserved through preventative 
        measures. The goal of preservation through prevention might seem clear, but the 
        act itself often stays hidden and takes on the opposite form of its aspired outcome. 
        →
     
    Rather than striving for a preventive intelligence as the philosopher Paul Virilio suggested while contemplating about the predictability of accidents 3, we fall for preventive over-indebtedness against financial collapse, preventive wars to preserve freedom, preventive control to preserve free society, preventive scrappage programs and overproduction of goods to maintain growth and its supposed counterpart, the preventive industrialization of landscape to preserve our very concept of nature. Enormous structures, entire ghost-towns like Zhengdong in China, Valdeluz in Spain and the many Sunbelt towns in the US 4 countless empty malls, hotels, same-looking office towers with unclear concept of use, unused and unfinished bridges and motorways all around the world were and are being built to ensure the forward moving of what is – before and after the subprime crisis – perceived as progress.
     
        While recordings, backups and reconstructions clearly follow their own materiality, 
        somewhat different to what they were when present, both, the preserved and the 
        prevented seem to change their form through the performance of their 
        corresponding action, creating a new and self-sustaining environment, much 
        different to the one initially aimed for. It seems as if modern society would take 
        refuge in ignoring the gravity of time as an act of solidification of a world which is 
        continuously gaining speed at its morphic oscillation between reshape and     
        collapse. →
     
    Preservation and prevention tactics seem to carry the persuasive potential to act as constructions, preventing the psychological harm of individual and collective loss. Just as humans build houses in order to protect from environmental threats, preservation and loss-prevention offer private and public shelter from harsh reality. In his famous lecture “Ornament and Crime” (1910), the architect Adolf Loos gave base to modernism by criticizing nostalgic recreations of the past. He called Vienna and its historistic architecture a Potemkin City, a forgery, pretending to be something it was not 5 and spoke out against what he described “the epidemic of the ornament” 6. In retrospect, he couldn’t have known how accurate and yet to a certain degree self-fulfilling his words were. Not only literally, as for Leipzig, where entire streets of decaying historistic and Wilhelminian buildings are permanently scaffolded, the overall ornament has become heavier than it ever was and its crumbling became an actual physical threat to the pedestrian.
     
        In the midst of modernization, taking the risk of letting go appears to be an almost 
        radical act. Ornament and Concealment aims to lead the viewer into the very 
        nature of this contradiction, creating an atmosphere of shelter and 
        defenselessness B. Instead of a backup preventing a possible future blackout, we 
        want to direct the gaze to a black box of an accident which never happened, but 
        continuously happens C. With this exhibition, we kindly invite to take refuge 
        between the impossible preservation of a beloved condition and its exposed dead 
        body in the future, an endless decay, an endless collapse without death. →
     
     
     
     
    LUISENSTADT
     
     
    This exhibition took place in the cooperative Luisenstadt, which is itself a contradictory product of a modernist attempt to turn Berlin into a mobility focused car-friendly city. 

        Development plans of 1955/56 envisaged a highway construction leading through 
        the southern district of Kreuzberg SO 36, including a motorway junction at 
        Oranienplatz. All streets between Wassertorplatz and Oranienplatz, including 
        Manteuffelstraße 42, were planned to be demolished.→
     
    Although Berlin Wall, yet another preventive construction, was built few years later, plans were continued and first houses torn down. Overnight Kreuzberg was pushed from the center of the city to the utmost border of West-Berlin. As an effect, any investments in the maintenance of remaining buildings affected by the plan were stopped. They became abandoned and were exposed to decay. By the 1970s a new redevelopment concept stipulated to largely modernize the city and to demolish run-down streets only as a whole for cost-effectiveness. In order to do so, entire buildings had to be vacated, leading to years-long processes with its remaining and new inhabitants. All this gave room for a growing subculture and newly forming squatting scene to unfold and slowly institutionalize. Objecting all plans by the senate and proving to local authorities the reparability of these buildings and the effectiveness of self-government, self made repair of decayed buildings was used as tactic to prevent the inhabitants new habitat and way of life from demolition.
     
        ‘Instandbesetzung’, the restoration of buildings through squatting became a 
        preservation policy for a lifestyle which didn’t exist to the buildings prior decay. In 
        other words, the past was used as a kind of material to construct a new way of life. 
        →
     
    By 1980/81 more than 160 houses were occupied. In the early 1980s, the Senate of West Berlin went to a policy of so-called “gentle urban renewal” and “critical reconstruction” which envisaged the development of a rehabilitation concept in consultation with the affected residents. Some of the squatters wanted to secure their new living conditions and way of life, while the others tried to maintain the status of squatters and their associated political goals. Through negotiations between home owners and the Senate, about 80 houses were legalized. Most of them were self-help projects, funded by the Senate. Luisenstadt which holds 20 buildings, including Manteuffelstraße 42, is one of these projects. Since then all remaining houses were cleared by the police while Oranienplatz was registered as a monument of the city.
     
        By today a new generation of architects and contractors, who are used to the 
        aesthetics of appropriation as part of their biography, started to build . What could 
        be described as ‘minimal invasive architecture’ found its way into clubs, galleries 
        and event locations all over the city. “We don’t want to judge the present …
        for us it is about making useful what’s given.” Nils Buschmann, one of the
        partners of Robertneun states . While this tactic is quite limited to an aesthetic  
        discourse and though the ideals of the raw, rough and incomplete have attracted
        the fast rise of a creative class, which must understand itself as the major
        environmental threat to the cities beloved condition D, it still might give a hint 
        towards a third path. Opposing both, nostalgia and the preservation of endless
        growth, the appropriation of found conditions, indispensable reuse and
        improvisation may be read as guidelines, suggesting a fragile path for a truly  
        avantgardistic venture. →
  •  
     
     
     
     
     
    PROJECT ELEMENTS

  • A) THE INITIAL DISCOVER – ARCHIVE OF A CONDITION IN FLUX

    This archive encases our initial discovery of the concealed buildings. The images were taken in Leipzig between 2011 and 2012. Contrasting an anachronistic museum presentation with the ever changing digital time collage of Google Streetview, QR Codes next to image descriptions enable to perceive a gap in time and a direct confrontation of two competing archivation attempts. →
  •  
     
     
     
    B) THE NEW ENVIRONMENT
     
    According to the preservational covering of buildings, square timbers and the same construction nettings as found in Leipzig in 2011, were used to construct this house which aims to lead its visitors into a conflicting environment of shelter and defenselessness. Over the time of this exhibition several events will take place inside, including regular events, weekly held at Kleiner Salon, eg. concerts, a kindergarden, several body preservation activities and proposals taken into account, following an open call for other sociocultural activities. →
  •  
     
     
     
     
    C)  BLACKBOX 102 – CRITICAL RECONSTRUCTION 
         OF A PAST WHICH NEVER EXISTED
     
    The sound humming out of this box was recorded next to the motorway A100 in Alt-Tempelhof, Berlin, at the exact spot where the planned but never constructed motorway junction Kreuz-Tempelhof was supposed to interconnect the federal motorway A102 to the motorway ring A100. It brings back and forth the cars which would rush through the south of Kreuzberg today, in case A102 and the motorway junction at Oranienplatz would have been built. The cooperative Luisenstadt, including the venue of this exhibition wouldn’t exist in this case, but neither would it exist without the initial planning of the junction. By sort of bending the time and history of Luisenstadt and Kreuzberg SO 36, we want to interconnect the overcome development strategical threat and the parts of it which have been realized with its contradictory outcome, Luisenstadt itself. →
  •  
     
     
     
    D)
  • OPEN CALL


    Together with Kleiner Salon we invited anyone to propose projects, activites or gatherings to be held inside of this new environment. During the time of the exhibition, readings, concerts, performances and lectures took place and were self-organized by visitors and friends of Kleiner Salon.  
     
     
  • 1) David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970 ↩
    2) Rem Koolhaas in “Strelka Research Themes” accessed April 10 2013, http://vimeo.com/22666704# ↩
    3) Paul Virilio, “Der eigentliche Unfall”, trans. Paul Maercker (Passagen Verlag Ges.M.B.H 2009), p.21 ↩
    4) Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy “Land Lines – The New American Ghost Towns (Land Lines Article)” accessed April 18 2013, fromhttps://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1897&URL=The-New-American-Ghost-Towns&Page=1 ↩
    5) Adolf Loos (1897–1933), “Die Potemkin‘sche Stadt”, Verschollene Schriften, Hrsg. Adolf Opel. Prachner, Wien 1983. ↩
    6) Adolf Loos; Adolf Opel (1997-11-15). “Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays”, Ariadne Press (CA). p. 204. ↩
    7) The history of Luisenstadt can be read in detail athttp://luisenstadteg.de (German) ↩
    8) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.126 ↩
    9) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.128 (trans.) ↩
    1) David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970 ↩
    2) Rem Koolhaas in “Strelka Research Themes” accessed April 10 2013, http://vimeo.com/22666704# ↩
    3) Paul Virilio, “Der eigentliche Unfall”, trans. Paul Maercker (Passagen Verlag Ges.M.B.H 2009), p.21 ↩
    4) Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy “Land Lines – The New American Ghost Towns (Land Lines Article)” accessed April 18 2013, fromhttps://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1897&URL=The-New-American-Ghost-Towns&Page=1 ↩
    5) Adolf Loos (1897–1933), “Die Potemkin‘sche Stadt”, Verschollene Schriften, Hrsg. Adolf Opel. Prachner, Wien 1983. ↩
    6) Adolf Loos; Adolf Opel (1997-11-15). “Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays”, Ariadne Press (CA). p. 204. ↩
    7) The history of Luisenstadt can be read in detail athttp://luisenstadteg.de (German) ↩
    8) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.126 ↩
    9) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.128 (trans.) ↩
    1) David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970 ↩
    2) Rem Koolhaas in “Strelka Research Themes” accessed April 10 2013, http://vimeo.com/22666704# ↩
    3) Paul Virilio, “Der eigentliche Unfall”, trans. Paul Maercker (Passagen Verlag Ges.M.B.H 2009), p.21 ↩
    4) Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy “Land Lines – The New American Ghost Towns (Land Lines Article)” accessed April 18 2013, fromhttps://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1897&URL=The-New-American-Ghost-Towns&Page=1 ↩
    5) Adolf Loos (1897–1933), “Die Potemkin‘sche Stadt”, Verschollene Schriften, Hrsg. Adolf Opel. Prachner, Wien 1983. ↩
    6) Adolf Loos; Adolf Opel (1997-11-15). “Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays”, Ariadne Press (CA). p. 204. ↩
    7) The history of Luisenstadt can be read in detail athttp://luisenstadteg.de (German) ↩
    8) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.126 ↩
    9) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.128 (trans.) ↩
  • 1) David Bourdon, “Christo”, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, Inc., New York City, 1970
    2) Rem Koolhaas in “Strelka Research Themes” accessed April 10 2013, http://vimeo.com/22666704#
    3) Paul Virilio, “Der eigentliche Unfall”, trans. Paul Maercker (Passagen Verlag Ges.M.B.H 2009), p.21
    4) Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy “Land Lines – The New American Ghost Towns (Land Lines Article)” accessed April 18 2013, fromhttps://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1897&URL=The-New-American-Ghost-Towns&Page=1
    5) Adolf Loos (1897–1933), “Die Potemkin‘sche Stadt”, Verschollene Schriften, Hrsg. Adolf Opel. Prachner, Wien 1983.
    6) Adolf Loos; Adolf Opel (1997-11-15). “Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays”, Ariadne Press (CA). p. 204.
    7) The history of Luisenstadt can be read in detail athttp://luisenstadteg.de (German)
    8) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.126
    9) Florian Heilmeyer, “Architektur der Aneignung” ARCH+, March 2011, p.128 (trans.)
     
     
     
     
     
    Concept and Design:
    Christian Juan Page 
    christianjuanpage.com
    Felix von der Weppen
    felixvonderweppen.com
     
    Text by Felix von der Weppen 
    Edited by Yulia Startsev & Christian Juan Page 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
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