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Snohetta, Ausstellung, München

Snøhetta in Munich: Shaping – Interaction

"For us, architecture does not just mean beautiful forms as aesthetic objects. Rather, we rework and revise our designs in an intensive shaping process until we are sure people will enjoy using and experiencing the buildings, and ideally come to love them. What matters to us is human interaction with our structures", stated Snøhetta founding partner Kjetil Trædal Thorsen at the opening of the event. Shaping – Interaction is thus the title of the exhibition divided up between two locations.

Snøhetta's form-finding process, which involves repeated reworking and refining of designs on physical models, is the subject of the exhibition in the rooms of the Architekturgalerie in the Kunstareal, a Munich cultural hub. Here the architects have dispensed with staging a comprehensive show on their work or providing detailed building documentation; rather than presenting concrete projects, their main concern is to depict the reasoning behind their approach, design methods and structures. This is elucidated using the expansion of the Crystal Worlds visitors park at Swarovski's created diamond plant in Wattens, Tyrol. As Patrick Lüth, head of Snøhetta's Innsbruck office and responsible for projects throughout German-speaking countries, explains, "Swarowski's existing exhibition rooms  consist of darkened underground passages in which visitors from all over the world are borne off into the artificial sphere of an extravagantly elegant dream world. We wanted the opposite: light-filled spaces that put the young and old population of Wattens in the mood for movement against the backdrop of the magnificent mountain scenery ".  As in all of Snøhetta's projects, landscape design played an integral role in their Wattens concept, with the outdoor area articulated not by architectural elements or created diamonds but by sensitively positioned old varieties of fruit trees. Here neighbours can pick apples and pears themselves.

The themes of shaping and interaction also determine the Munich exhibition. The so simple yet extremely effective installation of wooden flooring over the existing floor transforms the topography of the individual rooms, with slanting planes concealing not only the narrow, steep steps between the Werner bookshop and the gallery but also the differences in level between the exhibition rooms. The result is a spatial continuum that visitors physically experience.

"We were not primarily concerned with evoking associations, even if the rooms might recall a ship or landscape in cross-section. We led the wooden flooring over into the wood-panelled exhibition walls as this helps reduce visitors' feeling of distance to the exhibits. The experience of proximity and immediacy are what count", states Kjetil Torsen in answer to the question about Snøhetta's motivation in the shaping of the interior. "Good architecture always has something dangerous about it", he adds ironically, pointing out the deep step that leads down to the gallery garden, calling for close attention – another form of interaction between a building and its users.

In contrast to the tactile world of the Architekturgalerie, the large lightboxes reaching up to the ceiling in the dark rooms of the former bomb bunker at Viktualienmarkt seem almost surreal. Here the formal freedom and spaciousness expressed in such designs as the National Opera in Oslo, Times Square (seen as a night-time scene) and the extensive viewing pavilions in the midst of a glacial Greenland landscape stand in contrast with the oppressive sense of constriction that pervades the hermetic exhibition rooms. Yet it is precisely this interaction between displayed landscape and bunker that demonstrates Snøhetta's philosophy: Shaping –Interaction. This is particularly evident at a wall-sized lightbox that depicts "Under", Europe's first underwater restaurant, providing bunker visitors the feeling of being in a submarine with views onto the underwater landscape of the North Sea off the coast of southern Norway.

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