Critics’ Picks

Dieter Roth, Gartenskulptur (Garden Sculpture), 1968–, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Berlin

“Architektonika 2”

Hamburger Bahnhof
Invalidenstraße 50-51
April 5 - January 13

In the long warehouselike Rieckhallen extension at the Hamburger Bahnhof, curator Gabriele Knapstein’s current group show explores how architecture both structures and delimits urban life. A series of bright, high-ceilinged rooms showcase spatial experiments (such as Sol LeWitt’s Modular Cube, 1970) flanked by photographs and architectural drawings. Dan Graham’s “Homes for America” series, 1972, like LeWitt’s cube, interrogates regularity and, in a different way, whiteness. More fervent dissections of homes are undertaken by Gordon Matta-Clark, and, a little surprisingly, they hit a common chord with Thomas Struth’s large-scale ruminations on Tokyo and Paris in the turbulent 1980s, which anatomize not a facet of architectural space but its physical experience.

Along the way there are several dimmer compartments containing hopeful architectural plans. Walter Jonas’s model for funnel-shaped Intrapolis, 1960, recalls an inverted version of Bruegel’s Babel. Peter Cook, of English design group Archigram, hits upon a similar design for his drawings for Plug-In City, 1964, a complex superstructure intended to accommodate itself to any terrain. The morphological paradox of architecture—concrete, often rectilinear structures for fickle, often round inhabitants—is most spectacularly reconciled in the rangy, ongoing Gartenskulptur (Garden Sculpture), 1968–, Dieter Roth’s meditation on the conditions of life and decay—a living, breathing Gesamtkunstwerk of bric-a-brac.

The least utopian but perhaps most convincing of these visions can be found in a screening room downstairs. Anri Sala’s video Dammi i colori (Give Me the Colors), 2003, scrolls through oneiric images of spectacularly painted, primitive buildings as the voice of Edi Rama, former mayor of Tirana, floats over the darkness. The capital’s crude, brutal architecture, he explains, is balanced by a wandering, riotous palette. Indeed, the citizens have painted Tirana’s buildings without regard to property boundaries—or neighbors. This anarchic yet clearly delineated attitude—like the well-sorted chaos of Roth’s interactive garden—is most comfortable with an understanding of the built environment not as a solution to a problem, but as an ongoing process of evolution.