Thoughts towards a Relationship between Art and Architecture

Since I am not able to meet with all of you personally I would like to share with you some of the thoughts I have developed this week.  What follows is the beginning stage of a proposal for an Art Concept to work in collaboration with the architects Büttner, Braun and Newmann on the Neubau St. Canisius.

I am a painter.  I depend on the wall to hang my paintings.  The question of this interrelationship can be seen from two distinct points.  How does the wall itself and by extension the room effect the perception of my work?  What is the wall alone, without my work?  And without the world I can open up to it through my painting?

Hegel put forth the idea that Architecture is the Mother of the Arts, a thought which gives rise to an image of all the visual arts being born of architecture - an architecture which is at the same time not separate from Art.  In order to shed some light on the beautiful, complex and yet sometimes stormy nature of the interrelationship between Painting and Architecture, let me remind you now that there have also been times in which painting was viewed as the queen of the arts.

Whereas the specific dialogue between the wall and the painting is a concern for our time, this project demands a new manifestation of the traditional relationship between Art and Architecture.  What I am interested in pursuing is a way of working that locates itself in the process of building which I will call Kunst im Bau, rather that one which adds on to an already existing structure, as Kunst am Bau has come to be known in our time.

It will be through intensive dialogue and participation with the architects as they move through their own working process that a project can be developed which makes visible the origin of the relationship between art and architecture as revealed in Hegel’s thought.  This might mean that at first sight the work itself is not visible as ART AS WE KNOW IT. 

The first stage of my participation is to study the plans of the architects who have proposed this collaboration; to understand the specific architectural issues that concern this church and how they will be translated into the materials in the building process. 

The second step is for me to make a harmonic analysis of the geometry of the church.  This aspect of the work is visible to you in the 5 geometric drawings presented in the proposal.  Through this analysis I have discovered how I could continue working.

The first examination of how the churches facades would be translated into concrete revealed to me that there would be a system of lines and holes left on the facade as visible remains of the pouring of the concrete.  This is called the Fugenbild.  Soon I realized that one way or another I would engage with the Fugenbild as a given condition.

During the concrete pour, there are ties that hold the formwork together from side to side during the pouring.  The positions of these ties are then visible in the facades through the appearance the tie rod holes.  Consider for example if the tie rod holes were in the form of a cross instead of a circle.  The result would be a pattern of cruciforms as an impression in the facade.

This very simple idea can be expanded by considering the function of the tie rod holes throughout the process of  finishing the concrete.  My proposal is to develop a way to work with the process of filling in the tie rod holes that involves the community that is building the church.

Polished stainless steel will be used to fill in the void  cruciforms in the facades.  This will give the facades an ever-changing irregular pattern depending on the light and your particular position in relationship to the facade.  Not only would the cruciform become visible and disappear according to the time of day, but also as you approach the church, light reflecting off the tiny crosses would shift, creating a living moving image.

In thinking about traditional relationships of the community to the church, I have been seeking a way for the community to participate in the construction of the Art Concept.  I would like to open the possibility for the members of the community to each contribute a cruciform, to be engraved with their own names or dedicated to the memory of a special person or event in the life of the community.  I would like to allow for the natural progression of the community towards this idea to determine how the facades become filled.

In making this proposal to the community of the Neubau St. Canisius I want to emphasize at this point that what I have described is an ideal condition.  This ideal must be confronted with the building process to determine what can be built.  The confrontation of the real and the ideal would then be the next phase of work necessary to realize the Art Concept.

Joan Waltemath

July 26, 1999  

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