The Architects of Kunsthaus Graz

A total of 102 projects were submitted to the international competition for the construction of the Kunsthaus. Nine of these were deemed worthy of award and one prizewinning project was finally chosen. On April 7th 2000, the jury voted unanimously for Peter Cook and Colin Fournier’s design. In February 2001 financing was approved in the Styrian Landtag and in the Graz municipal council.

Architektur Consult (Hermann Eisenköck und Herfried Peyker) became the Austrian partner office for the British architects. Together with Spacelab (Peter Cook and Colin Fournier) and Bollinger + Grohmann Ingenieure they formed ARGE Kunsthaus, which realised the Kunsthaus.

 

The call for tenders


The object of the competition was ‘the construction of the Kunsthaus, a museum gallery with the incorporation of the listed Iron House.’ It was to accommodate ‘exhibition, media centre, a forum for photography, gastronomy, commercial amenities and the necessary side rooms.’ The intention at that time was even to give the "Eiserne Haus" (Iron House) 'a flat-roof terrace with a penthouse.' 

The size of the construction site was given as 3,441 m2 and 1,950 m2 (at that time still with a superstructure above Lendkai and Murufer). Attached to the call was a spatial and functional programme for the Kunsthaus Graz developed by Dieter Bogner in September 1999, commissioned by the City of Graz.

 

The jury and their reasons


The jury consisted of Odile Decq, Dietmar Feichtinger, Kasper König, Harald Szeemann, Thorsen Kjetil, Dieter Bogner, Wolfgang Lorenz, Klaus Gartler, Gerfried Sperl and Rudolf Schilcher; the chairperson was Volker Giencke. Peter Cook and Colin Fournier’s proposal was chosen because ‘the Kunsthaus is not a conventional building, not a building that should or could be compared with existing buildings. It evades current architectural interpretations with bravura, in that it does not follow any prevailing trends, but rather sets them. Its function as a magnet for distinctiveness shows itself in the playful lightness of artistic creativity.’

 

Sir Peter Cook

 

Born in 1936, studied at the Bournemouth College of Art and the Architectural Association, London.
Professor Sir Peter Cook RA, founder of Archigram, former Director of the Institute for Contemporary Art, London (the ICA) and Bartlett School of Architecture at University College, London has been a pivotal figure within the global architectural world for over half a century. Cook’s achievements with radical experimentalist group Archigram have been the subject of numerous publications and public exhibitions. In 2007, Peter Cook was knighted by the Queen for his services to architecture. He is also a Royal Academician and a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres of the French Republic. He is currently a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, London. His professorships include those of the Royal Academy, University College London and the Hochschule für Bildende Kunste (Staedelschule) in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Cook has from the very beginning made waves in architectural circles, however, it is since the construction of the Kunsthaus Graz that his work has been brought to a wider public, a process continuing with the completion of the Vienna Business and Economics University’s Departments of Law and Central Administration Buildings and Bond University in Australia’s Abedian School of Architecture. Peter Cook has also built in Osaka, Nagoya, Berlin, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Statements by Sir Peter Cook


Skin
There is this bubble and then there are these people standing there, by the Mur, and they look and they see there is something happening; let us see what it is, let us go and have a look. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 19.01.2017)

Nozzles
I call it the "naughty nozzle". This nozzle is to look at the silly old castle. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 19.01.2017)

High/Low Tech
There is a craft tradition in Styria based on timber that has affected the form. The building is a mix of highly sophisticated work, low budget and under pressure improvisation. It is "crap-tech." (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 19.01.2017)

Chocolate Cake
The chocolate cake was key. There was a baker on that side of town, near the station. He was so excited and made a chocolate cake, a big cake. It was the size of a table. And then a television crew was visiting us, we had all these drawings on the wall, but the television crew wasn't interested at all in our drawings, they went to see the cake. And Colin and I had to explain the whole project using this chocolate cake. Then we ate it. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 19.01.2017)

Imperfection
We are not conditioned (in polite circles/committees/architectural procedures) to consider extras. Everything must be budgeted therefore everything must be 'just so'. But life isn't like that. Moreover, the memorable film is the one where the unexpected happens. The memorable city is the one where it suddenly changes mood or character. Why not buildings as well? If the Kunsthaus succeeds, it may well generate special things happening in the 'nooks and crannies', on the small platforms under things...as well as just outside. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/ Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p . 103)

We maybe fucked up the concrete but instead looked into the handrail. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 21.01.2017)

Success
There was a survey twice. 70 % hated it before the Kunsthaus opened, and after it was the reverse. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 21.01.2017)

Austrians
Austrians are eccentric and perverse. I look at this as being a quality. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 21.01.2017)

Graz Architects
The Kunsthaus speaks to the 'Grazer Schule' buildings of the late 20th century: 'I am your cousin, but I am less spiky and less local than you.' But in a way it speaks more intimately with the Baroque churches and the castle walls: as if part of the same conspiracy to ingratiate aspects of its exuberance at close quarters. (Peter Cook, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/ Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p. 96)

 

Colin Fournier

 

Born in 1944, studied at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London.
Fournier is Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL), where he was, over a period of 18 years, Director of the Master of Architecture course in Urban Design, as well as Director of one of the Diploma Units. He recently completed a four year Visiting Professorship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He was an associate member of the radical experimental design group Archigram and Planning Director of the Ralph Parsons Company (now Parsons Corporation) in Pasadena, California, implementing several Urban Design projects in the Middle East, in particular the new town of Yanbu in Saudi Arabia. He was Bernard Tschumi’s partner for the design of the Parc de la Villette in Paris and co-author, with Sir Peter Cook, of the Graz Kunsthaus. His ‘Open Cinema’ project, developed in collaboration with artist Marysia Lewandowska, was realised in Guimarães, Portugal, one of the two European Cultural Capitals of 2012; a second edition was produced in Lisbon, as part of the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale and a third one in Hong Kong, in the K11 Art Space, in 2016. Fournier is the chairman of Tetra X, an architecture and urbanism practice based in Hong Kong.

Statements by Colin Fournier



Travelator
It makes the exploration of the Kunsthaus an unbalanced kinetic experience, contributing to the unpredictability of the space and it luxuriously offers, as all museums should, two ways of taking in the artwork: a nonchalant one on the effortless glide up the travelators, and a more attentive one as you percolate back down to the ground. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p. 110)

The ‘friendly alien’ swallows everything with its travelator. It is like a giant Hoover, like the belly of the whale, evoking the distant memory and unconscious desire that we have, since childhood, of being swallowed by the dragon, the subtle pleasure we experience when licked by the family cat’s sandpaper tongue. It is the black hole of the whale’s stomach, where one can find all sorts of things: old boots, lost treasures, bewildered fish, Jonah himself: that’s what a museum has to be, a place that plays on our desire to find ourselves in the company of surprising and unexpected things, bizarre confrontations, things that sometimes are not yet quite fully digested. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p. 116)


At the time of our competition entry as well as later on, I wrote a number of texts about all the dreams we were seeking to explore. One of the key formative ideas we were most fond of pursuing was that the outer envelope of our building would, like the skin of a chameleon, be able to mutate, change colour, transparency, reflectivity, etc. From the emerging technology of high-performance yachting sails, we drew the inspiration that the skin could be a seamless laminated membrane within which embedded photo-voltaic cells could capture solar and wind energy as well as contain light-emitting diodes that would allow it to function as a digital electronic display screen. Several of these ambitious ideas could be implemented in the final design, while others will have to wait for state-of-the-art technologies to evolve further. Concerning the future of biomorphic architecture, I have written that the Kunsthaus stands at a turning-point: it defines only the beginning of an architecture that is analogous to nature not only in terms of form but also in terms of behaviour, an architecture that, with the aid of robotics and artificial intelligence, might one day become truly alive and responsive to environmental forces and human needs as well as desires ... (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 08.04.2017)


Monsters and other creatures
‘Interesting architectures are like monsters’, Jean Baudrillard wrote. The French philosopher was fascinated by what he referred to as ‘the monstrous architectural object’, the object that is in complete contradiction with its context, standing out like an apparition from outer space, a unique singularity. Just as his own thinking stood out as a singularity against the background of contemporary Western culture, he sought out objects that are comparable monsters, deviations from the norm, alien life forms. The invention of such monsters implies that one is capable of creating a cultural void, of suspending the omnipresent discourse
of dominant culture, in order to allow something else to emerge and take shape. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, lecture on ‘Jean Baudrillard and radical architecture’, ZKM Karlsruhe, 2004)

The Kunsthaus has been variously called a baby hippo, a sea slug, a porcupine, a whale, etc… It comes across, deliberately, as an improbable mixture of various species, an unclassifiable hybrid, a biomorphic presence that is both strange (it does not seek to make reference to any animal in particular but appears to be a creature to which evolution might have accidentally given birth, perhaps on another planet), and at the same time familiar in that it has the charm of a friendly mixed-breed stray dog, definitely highly questionable in terms of pedigree. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/ Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p. 114)


Museology
The great underlying virtue of the programme for the Kunsthaus is that it has no fixed substance: the museum does not house a permanent collection. It is very liberating not to have to tailor a building to any specific function: it potentially allows the Kunsthaus to be more a chameleon, always changing its appearance, both externally, by means of its programmable electronic façade, and internally, to fit the fresh needs and style of each ephemeral show. The challenge is for successive curators to take us by surprise and to confront the public, each time, with a new experience of the building. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, from: A Friendly Alien. Kunsthaus Graz, Peter Cook, Colin Fournier Architects, ed. Dieter Bogner/ Kunsthaus Graz AG, 2004, p.100)

Light
We were not so happy with the lighting solution in the main exhibition space. It was our decision in the end but it was a compromise. We did not really like the spiral lighting that we ended up using because we felt it had too strong an aesthetic presence and caused too many light reflections in the gallery space. Ideally, we wanted to propose a lighting system that would be embedded within the surface of the inner skin, in the form of a dense array of small LED light sources rather than individual fixtures, so that the whole surface of the skin would have become a glowing light source in itself. But this option would have cost another 500,000 euros; not much in relation to the whole construction budget for the Kunsthaus, but nevertheless too much in the eyes of our client. We were asked to keep the costs exactly within the budget. Experimental projects, especially for cultural programmes such as art museums, usually go at least twice, sometimes up to ten times over budget: we were quietly hoping that we might be allowed to exceed the budget by 10 % or maybe even 15% ... but we were heavily constrained and finally completed the Kunsthaus at just about 2 % over budget. (Colin Fournier, project author, spacelab Cook/Fournier, London, in conversation with Barbara Steiner, 08.04.2017)

 

Kunsthaus Graz

Lendkai 1
8020 Graz, Österreich
T +43-316/8017-9200
kunsthausgraz@museum-joanneum.at

 

Opening Hours
Tue-Sun, public holidays 10am - 5pm


Guided tours
Sun 2pm (EN), Sat 3:30pm (GER), Sun & public holidays 11am (GER), exceptions may apply. For specific dates, please visit our calendar. Guided tours also on advance notice.

Architecture Tour 
during exhibition free times only, Sun 2pm (EN), Tue-Sun & public holidays (GER) 11am, 2pm & 3:30pm or upon request

Kunsthauscafé
Mon-Thurs 9am-11pm
Fri-Sat 9am-1am
Sun 9am-8pm
T: +43-316/714 957

 

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