Going to a Town
“I pursue no objectives, no system, no tendency; I have no programme, no style, no direction. I have no time for specialised concerns, working themes or variations that lead to mastery”
Gerhard Richter, Notes, 1966
This year, students of Unit 7 have pursued the design of a museum dedicated to the work of Gerhard Richter in Berlin. They began the year by making comprehensive surveys of Gerhard Richter’s Catalogue Raisonné and Atlas and other literature in order to develop an understanding of some of the consequences of his compelling oeuvre. Scaled representations of Richter’s works and data related to their production were re-ordered in precisely configured printed arrays, pamphlets and booklets. Specific criteria were developed for both the selection and ordering of images.
After an intensive study trip in Berlin, the history, structure, form, typologies, programmes and atmospheres of the city were represented in drawings, photography and group models. Alongside this, parallel studies were made of typologically derived forms that might accommodate the extensive cultural – industrial programme of the museum.
The design projects were developed to a detailed scale, embracing curatorial, programming, spatial, constructional and servicing issues. Paramount to this endeavour was the development of an understanding of the requirements of contemporary art space and a consideration of how these requirements might be refined or modified to enable the appropriate display of Richter’s paintings.
Fundamental questions were asked about the presence the building should have in the city - it might be understood as one of the city’s cultural monuments, a potential urban artefact, feel part of a district, rise just above its context in terms of its scale, composition and articulation or, like Richter himself, have a confident yet modest demeanour.
Above all, the museum should serve the needs of display. Extensive consideration was given to the paintings’ relationship to the scale of the walls on which they were hung. Thought was also given to the proportion and material character of the galleries, the quality and quantity of daylight that might enter them (acknowledging internationally recognised conservation standards for works of art) and the impact of services on their surfaces (particularly humidity control and lighting). Many of the projects exhibited a tectonic ambition and rigour appropriate to this level of study.
The design of this important cultural institution was a significant undertaking, both in terms of ordering the complex foreground and background requirements of the programme and, more pertinently, designing a building that lived up to the rigour, consistency and content of Richter’s output.
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