Aleatory Colour Concept in the Goethe-Institut London
Text: Christian Brensing
"I Can’t Stop the Dancing Chicken" is a temporary installation composed of three parts. The project by the German artist Gloria Zein, is in honour of the re-opening and 50th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut in London.
Architects: Blauel Architects, London
Art/Colour concept: Gloria Zein, Berlin/London
Location: Goethe-Institut London, 50 Princes Gate, London SW7 2PH
The British head office of the Goethe-Institut has been accommodated in two Victorian town houses, not far from the Victoria & Albert Museum, since 1975. Under the architectural direction of Dr Walther Marmorek, both of the neoclassical buildings were completely gutted, except for a historical stairwell. A massive reinforced concrete construction was built inside the structure, still evident in features such as the generously dimensioned beams and supports in the ground floor café. Correction and concealment of the associated structural as well as functional disadvantages was entrusted to Bernhard Blauel, a German architect based in London. The work was carried out in three phases (1997, 2000, 2001) and completed in July 2012, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut. Blauel Architects developed a new functional model for the public and administrative areas. With a floor space of over 3,000 m² and a total budget of EUR 8.5 million, the layouts of all the storeys were completely changed and restructured. Throughout the three reconstruction phases, the core work of the Goethe-Institut continued uninterrupted on site.
The outcome of a collaboration with the artist Gloria Zein is the obvious highlight of decades of building measures: the striking aleatory colour concept of the stairwell. Walls and ceilings are resplendent in bright colours, the composition of which involved elements of random choice. The delicate natural stone stairs, winding all five storeys upwards and mounted on a firewall, are the eye-catcher in the Goethe-Institut, both in terms of colour and spatial design. Sculptures and objects made of a variety of materials, located in the outside area as well as the individual work places of the institute, connect with the playful colour scheme of the main stairwell. Visitors experience this space as a walk-through installation that offers new and surprising perspectives throughout the building.