Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Transparency vs. Obscurity in Berlin

Heavy title, I know.  This is a duplicate of a post that I just put up on the studioBERLIN blogsite, ruminations on some things that we've seen in the past week while touring Berlin and Copenhagen, thoughts that might contribute to the pavilion we will be designing in the next few weeks.  Please check out the website to see what my classmates are writing about.

On the first day that we toured Berlin, we saw the Holocaust Memorial, designed in the early 2000’s by Peter Eisenman.  I found this memorial, considering its subject, to be surprisingly calming and pleasant (although I’m not sure if Eisenman would appreciate either of those adjectives).  
What I liked about it was the play between visibility and obscurity.  When we first walked out into the field, people became lost, to a certain extent.  But each “aisle” is a straight shot from one side of the memorial to the other.  So that, in a way, things are all very visible.  Like looking through venetian blinds, things can go from being obscured to almost fully visible if you only change the angle that you’re looking through, or the point that you’re looking from.  So that, yes, you can hide here, but you can easily be found when you would need to be.  From one direction everything is a jumble, and from another it is all organized and clear.
walking into obscurity at the Holocaust Memorial

but paths are clear from end to end
We’ve actually been seeing a lot of buildings that look completely different, depending on which angle you look from.  And most of them are made of glass.  Glass is such an interesting material because it is technically, physically, transparent.  However, in certain light, at certain angles, it is nearly impossible to see through it, and you end up seeing only what is outside the building again.  A building surface that is constantly changing and never committing to being one thing.  So many pictures I took throughout our tours are of glass buildings, but I took the picture because it was showing me something other than the building itself.  
Helmut Jahn in Berlin: now you see it . . . 
now you don't
A sculpture by the DR Byen complex in Copenhagen (yes, very much like our Chicago bean), which exists as an object, but, like a mirror in a room, can be a sort of negative-object, which is there only to not-be-there, and give the illusion of extra space instead.
Copenhagen's version of Chicago's Cloud Gate

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