Constantly Changing Geometric Structures

Düsseldorf is just about to open a new subway line. No ads, just art. The Guardian is impressed:

Fifteen years in the making, the Wehrhahn metro line consists of six new stations running east to west beneath the city centre, collaboratively designed by architects, artists and engineers. “Normally the construction part happens first and then the artists are commissioned. Here the architects, artists and engineers worked together from the beginning,” she says.

It started back in 2001 when a joint proposal by Klussmann and Darmstadt-basedarchitecture practice Netzwerkarchitekten won an EU-wide, two-stage competition to design the stations. They commissioned five artists to develop concepts and, €843m (£657m) and two miles of tunnel boring and excavation later, the results are surprising, outstanding and ambitious.

There have been other art on the underground projects but two factors make this one stand out: the total lack of advertising throughout, and the cohesive vision of a common architectural language….

The station designed by Ralf Brög has three atmospheric sound corridors exploring noise sculpturally and visually, while Ursula Damm’s station features aerial views of Düsseldorf in the entrance. There is also a giant LED wall overlooking the concourse displaying real-time footage of passing pedestrians overlaid with constantly changing geometric structures that respond to the movement of passengers.

At Graf-Adolf-Platz, artist Manuel Franke created an immersive journey where sweeping layers of green rock strata accompany passengers down to the concourse and combine hand-painting with laminated security glass. Klussmann’s graphic black-and-white designs for Pempelforter Straße station play with the architecture and boundaries of the space and traditional notions of perspective to a dazzling effect….

It may seem surprising that Germany’s first art on the underground project has taken place in this relatively small and well-heeled city by the Rhine – with its population of 600,000 – instead of the larger and edgier metropolises of Berlin, Hamburg or Cologne. Yet Düsseldorf is no slouch in art scene terms. All of the artists selected have links to the city’s Kunstakademie, the renowned art school founded in 1762 whose alumni include Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer. According to Gregor Jansen, director of the Kunsthalle, the city is more interesting than its expensive car and luxury-loving image would have you believe. “It has always been an art city and it still has the most famous art academy in Europe,” he says, referring to the Kunstakademie….

Perhaps surprisingly, the city agreed to the no advertising dimension immediately. Ulla Lux from the city’s cultural department explains their rationale: “It’s so rare to have the opportunity to create an art project of this scale in public space that in the end it was a conscious decision to allow this to be a pure art and architecture experience.”

What is perhaps most inspiring about the project is how the lack of adverts means people can be people, and not consumers. Klussmann says: “Art is often used to attract people to buy things.” But here it is just about the art and the space, and wherever your imagination takes you. How many public spaces can say the same? 

I haven't seen the finished stations yet, but I did take some photos during a 'day of the open tunnel' a few years ago:

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One thought on “Constantly Changing Geometric Structures

  1. Judging by the Guardian’s photos I’m not impressed–the emperor is stark naked, again. I’ll have to tolerate conspicuous consumption by private parties, whether it’s Jeff Koon’s genitalia in closeup for six figure sums or scritchy-scratchy artwork in public spaces. Shibboleths tell in-group and out-group apart, any rotten filth or artsy pretension will do. But spitting in the taxpayers’ face, and then making him pay for it, too, because that’s an even more exquisite delight, pisses me off to no end. It’s the same mindset that castigates the plebs with migrant borne dragonnades. They do it because it’s profitable, but they’d do it merely out of spite, too, so I’m becoming allergic to any and all of their mannerisms.

    When visiting the Bonn Bundeskunsthalle years ago, I marched straight to a recreation of V. Tatlin’s flying machine, as I knew I would like it. On the way out I gave the other exhibits* a chance to impress me at first sight,** only one did. A drab wooden standard-lamp of the 40ies, with a desklet attached, maybe for a telephone. Instead of a phone there was some rusty cutlery, old and bent. Next to the lamp stood a shopping cart, cut and bent to form a rather uneasy easy chair. In it a sack of cement, upright. It didn’t really look like a torso, but you knew right away that that was what it stood for. Where you would presume the private parts there was a vertical slit, wet cement protruding a little, hardened by now. It was the scene of an illegal, possibly botched abortion, that was clear on first sight. Howsoever he did it, the artist had a knack for choosing and assembling just the right objects just the right way. Think of pornography–you know art when you see it. I wouldn’t buy this for my living room, rather depressing, but it was art, or at least something extraordinary, I knew right away that I’d never forget it.

    Nothing of that sort among the Guardian’s photos–a place for marketing bozos, artists & architects on public gravy trains, and higher-up public servants to marvel at a place that’s free of marketing but full of, uh, art. Come on, you’re thinking that too–but being too vocal about it makes for a funny smell in polite company (shibboleth, anyone?). We do think they’re arseholes yet we don’t want them to perceive of us as losers.

    * an eclectic assembly of mostly contemporary conceptual art

    ** my pro tip for any exhibition or museum, saves time and prevents a stiff neck (curse you, Ufficies!), unless you’re there for cheese cubes and a glass of bubbly

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