A retrospective with interventions by Caruso St. John Architects, Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse, Liam Gillick and Karl Holmqvist
Curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen, gta Exhibitions, ETH Zurich, with a contribution by Sabine Sträuli (gta Archives, ETH Zurich). A collaboration with the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and with the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), ETH Zurich.
Nottingham Contemporary and gta Exhibitions are pleased to present the first survey of the work of Trix and Robert Haussmann in the UK, showcasing an array of projects that span over half a century of production and research. The architect and designer duo can be counted among the most important Swiss architects of the twentieth century. Their multifaceted practice ranges from architecture to product design, furniture, and textiles – each of which make use of creative plays on form, function, and language.
Since founding their studio in 1967, which they later called “Allgemeine Entwurfsanstalt Zürich” (General Design Institute Zurich), Trix and Robert Haussmann were amongst the first to break with the premises of modern canonical orders and concepts, playfully reinterpreting the linguistic dogmas of architecture theories. In the intervention Chair Fun, an exhibition initiated by the Swiss Werkbund, they pursued the principles of functionalism ad absurdum. For the exhibition – a variety of stool-objects made by a diverse array of artists and designers – they designed a luminous “Anti-Chair” made of neon lights, which threatens to collapse with the addition of the slightest weight. In the following years, they developed numerous interior designs reflecting their unique flair, informed by citations from architecture history and the use of illusionist techniques. These techniques were consolidated in their 1981 exhibition Trix and Robert Haussmann: Manierismo critico at Studio Marconi in Milan, where they presented their concept of critical Mannerism, directed against architecture’s stiff classicism. To that end, Trix and Robert Haussmann designed a series of so-called “Lehrstücke” (Didactics). To combat the conformist impoverishment of expression in their time, the duo developed an experimental design instrument called The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule. Like a slide-ruler, this “concept-slider” makes use of the combinatorial potential of moving two scales against one another. In Trix and Robert Haussmann’s adaptation of the instrument, however, words – predominately adjectives used in architectural discourse – replace numerals, which, through endless combinations, produce imaginative architectures, languages, and images. The Oulipo-inspired concept-slider was intended to expand on prevailing notions of stylistic diversity with the use of randomly combined pairs of words.
For Trix and Robert Haussmann conceptual works are always tools in the design process for concrete projects. Therefore, in addition to architectural designs and models, the exhibition also presents realized projects like the arcades of Boutique Weinberg, sculptural objects that find themselves between art and design, as well as mirror-objects, that confound one’s perception of the exhibition space through illusionistic distortions.
The exhibition design has been conceived by Caruso St John Architects – architects of Nottingham Contemporary’s RIBA Award-winning building – and includes interventions by artists Liam Gillick and Karl Holmqvist, and design studio Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse.
The exhibition is supported by Caruso St John Architects, Tisca and Peter Röthlisberger.
In autumn 2018 the retrospective will travel to gta Exhibitions, ETH Zurich.