A Promiscuous Museum Space
Riccardo Guglielmi, Cosimo Marchiori & Alex Recaldin
Knowledge has spread and the number of those who have access to it has grown significantly while their origin is more and more varied. This has happened in ways and by means, which increasingly depend on the Web. The latter, in fact, has gradually replaced all those physical spaces and tools, which were traditionally dedicated to the gathering and conservation of knowledge. However, while huge encyclopedia hardcopies are no longer the answer, a different old space has evolved and acquired new meanings and functions: the Museum. The term “encyclopedia”– a legacy of the age of the Enlightenment – refers to a cultural model which aimed at being unfailingly complete and that, in doing so, reflected an “asymptotic” approach: It was soon understood that human knowledge cannot be gathered in one single place and, more importantly, that it cannot be presented once and for all because of its ineluctable, never-ending evolution.
The encyclopedia has therefore always represented a goal. A final destination, which is impossible to reach, but for which, nevertheless, one never stops striving. An aspiration towards Infinity, a Utopia. To the contrary, the new role assigned to museums as renovated “premises” of knowledge grounds its roots in the acknowledgement of their own limits, of their own partial and incomplete nature, constantly exposed to the evolution of culture. It treasures the idea that knowledge cannot be wholly grasped, but only extracted and enlightened one part at a time. It is today’s great challenge to make museums as close as possible to the dynamic dimension of knowledge. With this aim, the project is composed of a wide empty space in the middle, contained by a loop, within which the flight serves as a dynamic element organising the flows which connect the city layer at zero height and the garden layer at height +22m. The empty space, designed to host art exhibitions, becomes the utmost expression of flexibility where different needs can meet: that of the city to be shown and that of the observer to be at its centre, to act as a main character within it.
The result of this is a promiscuous – in the sense of non-discriminating – and yet controlled space where the only fixed element is the artwork, left to the observer’s personal experience and imagination.
Who influences you Graphically?
Our way of expressing and representing a project is the result of continuous research for an expressive method, which aims to a unique design identity and its conceptual synthesis.
Our graphic is a result of different academic and mainly international work experiences that allowed us to properly use the various representation techniques according to their purpose.
If we take the specific project of the new Guggenheim Museum of Helsinki, the use of the collage technique allowed us to sum up the idea, the concept and the driving force that gives birth to the entire plan, which in my opinion has a strong, clear and immediate message. The levels, the plans and especially the sections describe the project integration in the citywide, giving an image of the surrounding area and at the same time of the balance sought with the landscape. Through our graphic technique we aspire to recreate an atmosphere that expresses the project identity: an atmosphere that is strongly emphasized by the representational images; these ones look for a complete and harmonious fusion with the museum location through the representation of precise emotional moments. The graphic result is hence a consequence of a constant updating and interest in the various international communicative artistic trends rather than specific graphic influences.
To what extent do you trust in the future physicality of the museum?
Today knowledge and art are broadened, so are the number and type of people who have access to them. The means by which this expansion occurs now mainly resides in a non-physical place, namely the network that has gradually integrated, sometimes replacing the physical places such as museums, which the tradition had intended for the concentration / preservation of knowledge.
Nonetheless today a physical place, where to meet and approach the work, is and will always be necessary, but its spatial physical connotation will change. We should simply think how the early “box-container” of modern museums have switched to open-air museums, which seek the physical interaction and involvement within the city, as showed by the Expo, the biennial and triennial expositions through the dislocation of several other exhibitions spaces within the urban fabric.
Together with this mutation of an increasingly dynamic museum seeking the breath and replying to city needs, the evolution of a museum continues, as a symbol of power and wealth of countries that particularly lack of an ancient history, where the container is markedly more enhanced than the content and the radicalization of its aesthetical artwork-appeal prevails. For example, the future Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi: a not very successful reproduction of the Bilbao structure, which is primarily aiming to appear, rather than to tell something of its interior. The future outcome of the physicality and space of the museum will focus then on these two aspects, on one hand the decomposition of the museum within the city, on the other hand the creation of ever larger symbolic museums as real “Halls of power”.
Museums are nowadays sources of knowledge as much as they are of entertainment, how do you see this balance?
The term “encyclopedia”– a legacy of the age of the Enlightenment – refers to a cultural model which aimed at being unfailingly complete and that, in doing so, reflected an “asymptotic” approach: It was soon understood that human knowledge cannot be gathered in one single place and, more importantly, that it cannot be presented once and for all because of its ineluctable, never-ending evolution. The encyclopedia has therefore always represented a goal. It is a final destination, which is impossible to reach, but for which, nevertheless, one never stops striving, it is an aspiration towards Infinity, a Utopia.
To the contrary, the new role assigned to museums as renovated “premises” of knowledge grounds its roots in the acknowledgement of their own limits, of their own partial and incomplete nature, constantly exposed to the evolution of culture. It treasures the idea that knowledge cannot be wholly grasped, but only extracted and enlightened one part at a time. It is today’s great challenge to make museums as close as possible to the dynamic dimension of knowledge.
It should also be added that the artistic researches are no longer selected for the museum, but the city, the landscape and the entire living, connecting to the metropolitan flow of life in all its variations – “[…] If you listen to Beethoven or Mozart you’ll always hear the same notes, but if you listen to the traffic you’ll notice that it’s always different,” John Cage. The museum must then allow staging the representations that dominate the city, ruling his mediatic breath, also including spaces that permit to stage the most engaging social and cultural representations, shared or initiating. The museum is increasingly seeking to break free from the architectural permanence “built to last”, approaching the concept of changing the urban layout, and being dismantled as for its inside expositions. These are occasions to always create a new imagery for the audience. In short, as a true “Theater of the World. From this observation we can deduce that the relationship between knowledge and entertainment will increasingly be linked to the development of museum’s physical nature and its spatial articulation. It will be possible to mediate between these two aspects, managing them without conflict between each other and transforming them in a real dichotomy.
You seize to revel the interior of the proposal but reveal the exterior, why so?
The volume excavated by our building stands out as joint between the park level and the city level, meeting the interaction between art and urban flow in the court. The central vacuum ̶ a free space and then the best situation for an artist ̶ is thought as a system considered both as part of the museum and the urban promenade continuation, creating a controlled embrace between the museum and the city.
The heart of the project lies therefore in this internal void in which the active and vital component of the museum is also emphasized by the use of wooden material, in contrast with a mostly cold Helsinki atmosphere, mainly reflected by the outer casing, which is a silent container of an internal artistic fervor.
How important is the museum as monument, and what is your take on the Bilbao effect?
The importance of the museum as a monument is closely linked to the “content-container” dichotomy. If we just think to the evolution of the museum from the wunderkammern to the first modern museums, when the container has assumed a greater importance than its content, replying to a precise demand of the city to reveal it as a symbol.
The Bilbao museum is a clear example of a city symbol where the museum, thanks to its architectural design, becomes a masterpiece and an urban sculpture that has managed to rehabilitate and bring prestige to a whole city.
Position, planning and attractive capacity have become key elements of this cultural center, capable of hosting both social and cultural events of the city. Despite Bilbao allows us to understand how the content-container dichotomy discussed until now is indeed possible, its replication is not easy to achieve.