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The Deconstructivists: Giving a Wide Horizon

Frank O. Gehry and Coop Himmelb(lau): Wolfgang Höhl on the last generation to successfully implement experimental, theoretical and artistic approaches in their architecture.

published in: Deutsches Architektenblatt 06/22, May 30th, 2022

What fascinates you about your favorite house?

It’s a thing with favorite houses. Let’s say it was a special event for me to visit Frank O. Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao for the first time on March 30, 2019. It was like meeting an old acquaintance after a very long time.

I took photographs there that address the irretrievable moment, chance in art and the possibilities and impossibilities of spatial projection: each moment is unique, it is defined by a particular place, the time of day and the unmistakable daylight. Each of the photographs thereby reproduces only a very limited section of this unique moment. The entire abstract composition of the images remains open to meaning.

Who do you particularly appreciate and why? Do you have a favorite style?

In addition to Classical Modernism, I have always been very fascinated by the Deconstructivists. But that was probably due to the time when I was allowed to study at the Vienna University of Technology. I got to know Coop Himmelb(l)au personally after they left my university early. Unforgettable for me is a long evening with final projects of their master class at the University of Applied Arts at that time. We often visited the TU Graz and were guests at Günther Domenig’s institute. Exactly 30 years ago, at the end of March, beginning of April 1992, I was one of the participants in a wonderful architectural excursion to sunny California as a young student assistant at the Institute for Interior Design at the TU Vienna. Among many other fascinating projects, we visited the Gehry Residence, the home of Frank O. Gehry, in Santa Monica on April 1, 1992.

Why are you attracted to the Deconstructivists’ approach?

From my point of view, until now it was the last generation of architects who were able to successfully implement experimental, theoretical and artistic approaches in their architecture. After that, the environment and the requirements changed. When I was a student, I very much enjoyed and intensively studied the theoretical background of deconstructivist architecture. That was very appealing to me then and still is today. I enjoyed reading the positions of Jacques Derrida, Aura and Excess by Peter Eisenman, and The Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

What do you love most about your job – and why?

Being a generalist and experimental scientist. I don’t know nothing about anything. But that gives me a broad horizon and a deep understanding of processes and structures. And every day I can learn something new.

Wolfgang Höhl, architect, Munich

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