Kajskjul 113 – A House of Art for the regeneration of Göteborg’s Frihamnen
Nicholas Dellai & Marco Pallaoro @ Dipartimento di Architettura – Università degli Studi di Ferrara.
“Kajskjul 113 – a House of Art for the regeneration of Göteborg’s Frihamnen” is the title of our Master thesis project developed during the Academic Year 2016/2017. “Kajksjul 113” comes from the idea of recovering a warehouse building through a cultural project in the Göteborg’s Frihamnen area, Sweden. Nevertheless, as today, it is crucial to establish a discussion on the reuse and revitalization of dismantled industrial areas which are currently undeveloped or abandoned. Art and culture can create new stimulus in neglected neighborghoods affected by gentrification or where industry and infrustructure have been abandoned. Frihamnen is a complex area that has suffered for the partial segregation of the past years, as the city had always to deal with the Göta river. Thanks to Alvstaden, the largest urban development in the whole Scandinavia, Göteborg aims to develop the city in a strong relationship with the water, that has always been a limit. Nowadays the harbor is a transition area within the city which is gradually losing its industrial character but it will be the heart of the new Goteborg, due to its proximity to the historical city center, the openness to the sea and its unique atmosphere. Our intention is to renovate the area through a participative cultural center, where people gather and get involved in different artistic and cultural activities. We strongly believe that art, in all its shapes, can be an activator of the area. Cultural projects lead cities regeneration. Our proposal aims to recover the warehouse with a clear respect for its history and its main characteristics, as is a unique building in the city.
A planned openness interrupted by flexible elements that generates dynamic and interactive spaces on different levels, that could be enjoyable through a direct experience of continous movement.
The lower part of the building functions as a workshop, while on top of it we added an alabaster volume that contains the exhibit areas. With its magical light, Kajskjul 113 is not an ordinary museum but an inspiring place for people and the symbol of the new Frihamnen’s area.
Who influences you graphically?
In the last twenty years the representation of architecture has gone through a varied form of perceptions and tastes, from the attempt to realising photorealistic renders, to the return in the last few years to the “old-school look” of traditional mediums, such as pencil, charcoal and pen drawing, and watercolours and collages. We have also changed our ways of representing architecture over time, abandoning the photorealism for a more evocative approach. In particular, we find inspiration in the drawings of Peter Zumthor, in his capacity of communicating the atmosphere of a project through rough sketches and models. Moreover, we find the paintings of Pezo von Ellrichshausen to be beautifully eloquent. In addition, the collages made by studios such as OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen or Fala Atelier.
Photorealistic renders are very difficult to complete and as such, if unsuccessful in their full realization, can look unaccomplished. Images are metaphors, what Werner Herzog would call “ecstatic truth”. Whilst real photography can be poetic, a digitally created example would look insufficient. Do we really need realistic representation? The resemblance of a painting can render a picture more personal, more interesting, and more engaging. It also gives a certain warmth to the image, comparable to when one studies old technical handmade drawings. The subtle beauty of handmade effects, the aesthetics of these items made with time and care rather than the rush of the computer era.
Architectural drawings are fictional images of an idea that is still unbuilt, something unreal. The focus, as Zumthor ensures, must be on communicating the atmosphere, setting the tone of space. The real building, once built, should be the only “photorealistic” image of itself.
What case studies did you look to when developing the project?
The movement inside the building was a main issue during the development of the project. We wanted a building with a “planned indeterminacy” obtained through flexible spaces and movable elements that could respond to the changing inputs of the visitors.
Peter Zumthor was a main reference in the design process, for the atmospheric quality of his projects, to his capacity to suggest the movement inside a building through a measured composition of elements (materials, light, sound) in non-obvious ways. In particular, we analyzed the project of the Werkraum in Bregenzerwald, where an open space is defined through few volumes and the use of light. The space is wide open, but still it is legible and clear the intention of movement, the spaces of rest, and the invisible paths running throughout the building. We also found inspiration in the playfulness and radicalism of Cedric Price’s projects like the Fun Palace or the Inter-Action Centre. Moreover, we took reference from the Triptyque’s Red Bull Station in São Paulo and the Matadero Madrid, for the architectural quality of intervention, and for their ability to respectfully insert new elements that valorize and renovate an existing building, respecting its characteristics and peculiar imperfections, witnesses of the passing time. Reuse, recycle, renovate: more than types of intervention, became ethical issues in the architectural panorama.
What is your take on the Bilbao Effect?
The construction of iconic landmarks is an attempt to reposition cities into the contemporary global scene. Over the last twenty years, various cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Taipei, Dallas, Doha (to name but a few) have tried to imitate the so called “Bilbao effect”, using the “architecture of the spectacular” to construct an image of themselves as cities of culture. Spectacular “secular cathedral” or flashy “white elephants” are being built all over the world, without the clarification of how these enormous buildings are intended to fill their vast spaces over time. A key point is that a beautifully designed building in not enough to ensure success. The lack of content and planned activities, or in the contrary a huge collection, but without clear explanation, with a very low consideration for participative engagement, experience of the place and culture enjoyment, can lead to a lack of interest by the visitors.
In the design process, we reviewed from a critical angle the so called “Bilbao effect”, recognizing its positive and negative aspects. A case in point, we tried to create a luminous landmark that could someway attract people to the surrounding area, leading to a renovation of the whole neighbourhood. At the same time, we tried not to create a simple showcase, resulting in a beautiful but albeit empty box. Moreover, we focused on the various aspects of the project that could make it an interesting and ever changing experience, ultimately responding to changing needs, users, inputs, events.
When thinking about the interior condition of the galleries, what were your primary concerns?
Our main concerns were lighting. As Alberto Campo Baeza states in his “La idea construida”, light is considerable as a construction material itself. Using this thesis we searched to replicate this formula. Further, we coveted to creation of a very luminous space, in strong contrast with the dim, dark, and industrial feeling of the restored warehouse floors. We opted for a translucent shell made of alabaster, exploiting natural light and ensuring a diffused lighting in the inner galleries. The reference being the Louvre Lens designed by the Japanese firm SANAA and the Studio Adrien Gardère. We tried to achieve the same perfectly balanced illumination, where the artwork and the spaces are valorised by the natural light that pervades the whole museum.
In addition, we were concerned on defining the people’s movement inside the museum, which is strongly related to the morphology of the space. We identified three main typologies of exhibit spaces: the hall (free and polarized movement), the gallery (a linear movement following a prevalent direction), and the rooms (a sequence of small environments). With relation to the remainder of the project, we didn’t want to create fixed solutions. As a result, we designed a system of movable elements that aggregate the three traditional typologies, allowing to change the museum’s layout over time, creating various and different relationships between the exhibit spaces.
What did you want to achieve?
In akin to Cedric Price, Alexander Dorner would answer: “movement”. As Dorner wrote in his book “The way beyond art”, we endeavoured to realize a cultural centre as a “Kraftwerk”, an art “factory” based on a participative interaction between the artists and the visitors, a dynamic centre in permanent mutation. The idea of making, sharing and connect with each other are concepts already present in our lives, strongly influenced by the dynamics of the internet. We sought to apply the same underlying theories to the project in order to improve accessibility and participation to culture. In a more radical way, we wanted to create a similar idea to that of Andy Warhol’s “Silver Factory”: a meeting point for artists and common people with no boundaries between art production, the exchange of ideas, and ground-breaking parties.
What lead you to the white cube format?
The white cube format was enforced to enhance the light. Apart from the clichés of creating a white and pristine space that somehow could lead attention to the artworks, it served to reinforce the diffusion of light inside the building, creating a perfect condition for exposing productions. Using the context of a country such as Sweden, which is immersed in total darkness for most part of the year, and where natural light is a precious and desirable resource, we enforced the use of light, as much possible.
When articulating the interior views, what defined the art pieces you chose to feature?
The artwork featured in the views are related to our personal experiences. We chose art pieces of artists that we respect and admire, from whom we take inspiration. Moreover, as a picture is a mixture of composition and harmony, we looked for art pieces that would enhance a certain mood when viewed, which could fit well visually in the overall composition of the elements, setting a certain atmosphere, and underlining the dimensions of space inside the frame.
What lead you to use these specific figures?
The specific figures were used for their narrative quality. While composing the views, we found inspiration in the silent realism of Edward Hopper, in the eloquence and ambiguity of Jack Vettriano, and in the distended peace of David Hockney. We tried to achieve images that had these inner conflicts, whilst contacting narrative quality you can find in the photographs of William Klein or Gregory Crewdson.
What was the intention?
The intention was to tell a story, not just about the project, but about how we see things, how we perceive them, how we feel in a certain space.
During the design research process, we had the opportunity to read the memoir of Count Antonello Mascetti, a Florentine noble and fine intellectual who became famous in Italy during the 1970s for his rhetorical ability, finding a moving passage that illustrates and summaries our intentions:
- A tarapià tapiòco as if it was antàni for two.
- A premature superwilly with unhooding to the right.
(see: «dominus vobiscum blinda»)
Memoir of Antonello, 2nd book | Zingarate Edizioni | Florence 1975
What dictated the circle format?
The circle format came partially from our classes of descriptive geometry in the first year of University. While designing central perspectives, you would establish, along with the point of view, the “optical cone”, that formed a circle in the intersection with the representation plan. Beyond its border the perspective would appear distorted and unreal, with optical aberrations, while inside the circle the picture would be correctly perceived. In a certain way, it looked to us as an old fashioned way of framing a perspective.
The circle also refers to the pinhole technique of “camera obscura” used by many hyperrealist painters such as Canaletto, Rembrandt or Vermeer. A small circle hole from which the light came in…a sort of voyeurism, as we were prying the scene looking inside the shutter.
What was the effect and purpose for this?
The choice of using central perspectives took inspiration from the “pittura metafisica” movement, along with the work of directors such as Tarkovskij, Wes Anderson, and the Kino-A collective. Choosing so, the circle format would enhance the visual effect of the perspective, leading the eye to the centre of the image.
Where and how do you envision the museum of the future?
Museums are still popular education centres in the broadest sense. Nevertheless, as art and audiences change, museums must change too, in a more accessible, interactive and public way. Museums as re-activators of abandoned areas is a noble intention, but they should be more than just beautiful showcases. More than a matter of where is a matter of how. Specifically, in our opinion, museum should go back to being (if they have ever been) a public space.
A public space based on an active interaction and participation of the users, where they can construct their own meaning from cultural experiences. As Olafur Eliasson said, experience is what define the meaning of “public”, a place both respectful for individuality and collectivity.
In conclusion, as Xun Kuang suggest in the Xungi: «tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. »