From orchids and bears
The first thing we saw when entering Haus der Kulturen der Welt was Angela Merkel. For his installation This is me, this is my country (2012), architect Arno Brandlhuber has replaced the torn down box office in the entrance by terrariums with hybridized orchids. Each variety is dedicated to political dignitaries or heads of state. Brandlhuber got inspired by the veneration North Koreans pay to their “Kimilsungia”, an orchid originally bred by Indonesia on the occasion of a state visit of Kim Il-Sung in 1965. The symbolically charged orchid garden is a beautiful start into the exhibition Between Walls and Windows. Architecture and Ideology entirely dedicated to the conference hall and its historical legacy.
Curator Valerie Smith has liberated the building from installations that did not belong to the original design, such as the box office or projection walls. Even the guidance system has been taken down. She insisted on restoring the original state in order to emphasize the sculptural quality of the building. The conference hall with its audacious roof dates from 1958 and is based on the design by Hugh A. Stubbins. Other than the architectural icons of post-war modernity in residential Hansa-Viertel, the conference hall is openly ideologically charged: a small hill had been erected to make sure the building would be visible in former East Berlin. A symbol of freedom, optimism and progress, the conference hall was a present of the USA.
10 artists and architects have been invited to question the rhetoric of the building – and the various manifestions of ideology. Some of the projects thus deal with the history of HKW. Marko Sancanin presents Pieces in the Crypt (2012), i.e. sculptures and archival photographs related to the roof architecture but also its collapse – based on an architectural drawing on an until date hidden wall of HKW.
Other contributions such as You rate it! Neither poor, nor standard anchor the house in a global context. Architectural group Supersudaca occupied the cloakroom for their parody of credit rating agencies and their influence on the economy of the rated countries. Even the roof is being turned into a stage for various projects: 19 hours for the kiosk by Studio Miessen turns the rooftop café in a walk-in vitrine and centre of their event program. Amateur Architecture Studio (Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu), critics of a globalized architectural practice errect their own Tile Theatre, an inhabitable pavillion built with traditionally manufactured Chinese roof tiles and bamboo sticks.
Then the Initiative Weltkulturerbe Doppeltes Berlin takes the opportunity of presenting their undertaking of having the insignia of an architectural competition between East and West listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage with various works and a Congress – happening today. Their flag with two bears will then be raised and visible from afar.
In short: We loved the show – as any of the site-specific installations is critical, yet amusing and the architecture of HKW is a simply amazing.
The show Between Walls and Windows is on view throughout September. Admission is free. AND we will be giving a tour through the building on September 16th!