Am Anfang war der Pneu – first there was air – so hypothesised the German architect and master of lightweight construction Frei Otto: a conviction which led him to spend a large part of his career attempting to reduce architecture back to its natural origins and build a permanent structure “constructed” solely from air. And although he never realised his dream of material-less construction Frei Otto did develop a couple of very interesting studies, including the 1971 Arctic City project which envisaged a controlled climate city in the Arctic housed underneath a synthetic outer shell supported by air pressure alone. Similar in many ways to the glass dome the US government placed over Springfield, just more benevolent.
Proof however that air can be used as the basis for a construction, if on a small-scale, temporary basis, is currently being provided at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin via the so-called Küchenmonument project by Berlin based creative collective raumlabor.
Much like cars, power drills or suits, the majority of event spaces are only needed on an ad-hoc, occasional basis. Yet are permanently there. Taking up space rather than providing it.
Premièred in 2006 Küchenmonument – Kitchen Monument – is raumlabor’s solution to such situations. In essence a terrestrially-bound hot air balloon Küchenmonument was conceived as a temporary location for collective events, and in the past eight years has been used for concerts, conferences, parties and theatre events in cities as diverse as Duisburg, Hamburg, Liverpool or Warsaw. In 2009 raumlabor developed the concept further, or perhaps better put, took the concept to its logical next step, and packed the inflatable skin inside a van thus creating Spacebuster, a mobile temporary space. A mobile temporary space which they subsequently inflated at numerous locations around New York.
From within Küchenmonument one can see the outside world, just not in all its glorious detail. Similarly those outwith can follow what is happening inside as if watching an out of focus film. Thus a distinct, defined space is created, yet one which adapts to, respects and becomes part of the space it has invaded. Before vanishing again when no longer required.
And no, one can’t just pitch a tent. And in any case such is not always practical nor desirable.
In Berlin Küchenmonument will host a series of events over the coming weeks including discussions on possible future uses of the River Spree in Berlin and the future of experimental architecture in addition to a presentation by Atelier Le Balto on the urban garden they have created for the Berlinische Galerie. The start however was made on Thursday August 28th with a furniture workshop. By way of a “getting to know you” event the Berlinische Galerie issued a open invitation to the institute’s neighbours, and indeed all in Berlin interested in learning more about Küchenmonument, to a workshop in which objects from raumlabor’s furniture collection could be built before being used as the seating and tables for a communal evening meal. And then taken home by the proud makers.
Full details on the events programme in Küchenmonument at the Berlinische Galerie can be found at www.berlinischegalerie.de and more details on Küchenmonument itself at http://raumlabor.net/