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Transcript from meeting Thursday 05 October, 2017 11am - 12pm IW MW MM TF AL


Ilze Wolff Maria Wolff Mpho Matsipa Teresa Fankhänel Andres Lepik

IW: Hello everyone! I’m going to present the work that we have done up to date in the following sections together with sketches, models and diagrams that you see on the board behind us. The first section has to do with our interpretation of the curatorial statement, I would then like to move to how we propose to arrange the themes and the content in the various rooms. Then we will look at the various studies we have done regarding the form and scenography of the exhibition; we will then move into a discussion around the technical aspects of the materials and ideas around lighting and scale and then lastly we will open a discussion around future questions and invite feedback on the way forward. Does that sound good? ALL - yes, sounds good.

1. Interpreting the curatorial statement Firstly what is very important for us to state from the beginning is that we see this exhibition as already in motion. From following Mpho’s work in organising the city exchanges and various dialogues it is clear that this exhibition has already begun. For that reason we have subtitled the exhibition African Mobilities: this is not a refugee camp exhibition 2017/2018. This consideration helped us consider the Munich staging as a moment along many moments for the exhibition and also to keep it open for more exchanges and iterations that would follow. We take seriously the concern in the curatorial statement which says: ‘The exhibition is conceptualised as a space, a conference, a digital publication / website and a mobile pedagogical platform that connects 14 different diverse locations through workshops and master classes: Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Munich, Luanda, Abidjan, Lagos, New York, Dakar, Nairobi, London, Lubumbashi, and Praia. African Mobilities proposes a trans-national and interdisciplinary approach to architectural research and design, showing both current work and creative research-driven work that offer future possible urban scenarios and architectural prototypes, brought about by a world in motion.’


Themes and content arrangement

It is from here that we take our cue in terms of how we think that the content and themes should be arranged. Our three themes are: Theme 1: Cartographies of Migration and Extraction Theme 2: Architectural and Infrastructure Prototypes Theme 3: Possible Futures Dystopia/Utopia The entry hallway will have a summary of all the different aspects of the exhibition and its themes. Then we would move into the room where there is content relating very strongly — to both themes of prototype and cartographies. Cartographies will begin to be introduced into a kind of intermediate zone (here). Cartographies could also be split into extraction and migration. In the middle room - cartographies of migration Harare exchange, Kampala exchange and Chimurenga fits neatly into that space, and bleeding into other cartographies that the speculative content refers to in the last room. So even though, the space dictates a separation into very distinct three themes, there are very important overlaps that we need to think about as a way of not necessarily splitting up the content into these three themes but that they actually begin to have conversations with each other and highlight other aspects of the content just by merely putting it adjacent to each other.


intro extraction

In a sense what this drawing is saying that the themes are very discrete but there are very important overlaps that we need to think about as well. MM: I love this diagram!


Olalekan Jeyifous JHB Exchange (film, models)

Chimurenga (books, library) HARARE Exchange (sound, music)

KAMPALA Exchange (trade, market)

Miriam Kamara Issa Diabate Sammy Baloji LAGOS Exchange (



DAKAR Exchange (



landscape photography prototypes(models)

TF: just as a note - I am not entirely sure if we can put it at the entrance. That really depends on how big it is and what exactly it is but it sounds like a very interesting idea. Something that we will have to find out. MM: I mean there are possible prototypes we are exploring. We have just concluded a discussion with Paula about their project with bamboo, which Ilze is obsessed with. Plants! We need plants man! With Issa I have no idea how big — will have a better idea later this month. IW: That is actually bringing me to the third part which is ‘lets look at the space and what the space needs’. Mpho keeps teasing me about this plants idea but I feel like the space, its a beautiful space, its a very rational space, and we’ve had many discussions about the museum as a kind of holder of this amazing content, but i feel like we need to scale it down, and I want to use the word deform… but.. want to break down the very hectic rationality of the space and I think that internal landscape is going to be a key feature in producing that playful deformity of the space, scaling it and making it other worldly. That is why I’m obsessed with the plants, basically.

3. Formal studies: Geometry, colour, layers of space, movement through the space and light exploration deforming the space. IW: What something like landscape also does is that it breaks down geometry, it layers the space and it layers colour which will bring me to the other exploration which we’ve done with all these models which we’ve made which is really around how to think of planes, about walls, think about light conditions. And in the beginning we were just thinking about how does one fold a wall so that it produces these different layers, and sometimes it could literally just be a new paint colour, a layer of paint, it could be very thin, it doesn’t have to be hectic construction, it could literally just be the idea of layering. And when were making these models this was the kind of photograph that really jumped out me at least around that idea of layering. Because you have geometry, you have pure geometry but you have this circle which suddenly deformed as well simply because of a simple fold and then you have this idea of light that comes through a solid surface, theres an idea of light that comes through a more transparent surface and then you’ve suddenly got this …. have this kind of depth to the space as well that existed purely because of this different wall systems and content and light and colour. so that is a very key conceptual idea for us and the reason we went on this very hectic explorative model making. But I think its going to be a technical feature on how to manipulate the light so that it actually produces this layering systems in the space. I will send everybody some photographs of that exploration and that exploration was extremely productive in order to come up with a scenography and a kind of a setting of the scene for the exhibition. MM: Its very interesting that this idea of layering, models - there was a lot of discussion on folded planes but what is also emerging in these different models is the difference between shadow and light. Because we are dealing with a lot of digital media, so I spoke to Patti and she’s been working on a multi media project with her partner Cesar for a while, and that’s what she is going to be presenting as her own individual research. I think thinking about the relationships between where the discreet contributions are and the need for projection is a very interesting one because I don’t know what the ideal lighting conditions are, is it a gradual change in light, or very dramatic shifts, from natural light, to very dark spaces. I think there is something very interesting with playing with planes. TF: I mean, Ilze what are you thinking - are your windows going to be open or closed?

IW: - I agree with everybody that the lighting is one of the key generative aspects of these models. When we get to the actual plan of it I think that for me the first room would be kind of a very light room like it needs to be I think lots of natural light in one part of the room and on the other side where the photographs are could be little more layered light, contrast light and dramatic light, I haven’t really come to any conclusion around that but I also feel like there could be a process a bigger kind of explorative exercise when you move through the space where the first room connects you to the outside and slowly, slowly a kind of immersive experience when you get to the end where

there is no natural light, which is also practical because there is a lot of video, as I understand there is one big video projection, so moving from the space where the natural light becomes more and more less:) until you come into this immersive environment, where the light is completely manipulated to highlight particular aspects in the space which goes very well with this idea of speculation and possible futures i think. TF: I like that idea - it sounds very interesting. IW: That is how I have dealt with the kind of bigger light structure and the concept around that. and then there was a lot of talk around - how do we delay the experience? How do we make people hang out? How do people engage, not as a kind of foot note ‘ok now we must interact’! how do we get people to engage/interact very naturally from the get go. Either a visual connection or a tactile connection, sound or scent. Engagement is not always you have to do something, its a literal embodied engagement with something, and that is where the Chimurenga commission becomes very important, and we have had lots of discussions around the idea of hanging out. So these ideas around light becomes a way of scaling the space down. What I thought about in terms of Chimurenga’s commission is that instead

of allowing people to just have a huge landscape and view if the garden as an overpowering feature in the room, we can actually kind of manipulate it so that if you are reading a book you have a discreet view of the garden so that it becomes a very individualistic of a small group experience rather than those windows just lighting up the whole space. There is a sketch of that idea in this model where for instance we could block out most of the windows but some parts of it will be opened up again to allow people to view out while they are reading or browsing or listening/experiencing a sound piece so this is the kind of way of moving from one room where most of the space is lit up (and using the natural light) and then to pull that back in this room and to introduce this idea of a manipulated natural light system. MM: So that circle is that a space that you can look out of or a space that you can inhabit? IW: Its a space that you can inhabit.

MM: It really makes a kind of threshold, right? And also you talking about layered space so each space is not necessarily the same kind of depth. and I think that could feed quite interestingly into your idea of delay, where some thresholds are thin and other thresholds are quite thick and can be inhabited. cos you talking about circles for a long time, the tea tray from the factories as a way of thinking through some of these things and I’m wondering if on the one hand the discussion is about scenography within the exhibition space and maybe i m jumping ahead cos you talked about a couch as well and the idea of inhabiting a threshold and thickening it out is interesting to explore. IW: I mean exactly that is the direction that I got from you as well in terms of how can we not just make a couch but the couch becomes a room becomes an inhabited space, actually multifaceted in that so…some of these models were thinking around that as an issue. Which actually takes me to this other …. place around furniture with one of the key things that I am yet to find which is “what is the overall structure?” So we’ve got an idea for an overall lighting structure which is movement into a darker, more artificial space, but I really want to find an overall structure of the space and some of the elements that I have identified is: furniture has been circled/highlighted as a potential overall structure for the exhibition so not in a way of designing discrete furniture objects but furniture as in how do we furnish the space? in a way in that furniture becomes the library, the actual display area, becomes the room, essentially. There are also other types of furniture other than the couch, such as the coffee table, something Chimurenga

highlighted in their brief as a requirement but what is a coffee table in a exhibition scale sense? Is it a big sort of browsing area that can accommodate a collective rather than just two people? Shelving could similarly also become this structuring element not only for books but for other material like posters and vinyls. and other things that begin to furnish the space are ideas around rugs and fabric. so there is a strong structuring element that we are thinking of in terms of using rugs and carpets and soft material for floors and potentially for walls. because of its absorptive quality, but it also has a way of domesticating that space in the big exhibition scale sense. We have one wall that is fabric, there could be reflective material woven into the fabric … it could move into the speculative space where the fabric could also have information. and could also be the device that begins to like and bridge the themes of speculation and cartographies in this room. The idea of fabric is key - and I was glad to have the discussion with Doreen, and perhaps you could nudge her more into a discussion of using fabric as a way of display of information and content on congolese tailors. And then also fabric as a kind of transparent material of controlling the light. There is an image that we took of the last room, where we are really thinking about the kind of quality that is produced when you take the canvas kind of material and layer it over a more solid material and be surprised by the kind of light quality. If you look at that image that is the kind of quality I would like from a more transparent fabric.

MM: - thats a beautiful image IW: The last room is one of the key moments in the exhibition. The idea is that this big light speculate light is visible from the entrance but as a glimpse. And we worked out that it is visible in the right corner of the last room. So this is if you look at from the entrance down the corridor and when you enter the big circle presents itself in that space. TF: Thats very nice because it draws your attention inwards. IW: Yes exactly! so in terms of that last space I have spent a lot of time thinking about how do we break down the dead ended ness of that but also make the end open ended, right? I think that element is key in saying that ‘ok this exhibition is complete in this space but there is another open-endedness of this exhibition that continues beyond this space. and I think that something like this big geometric circle that is curved is important. Also it could have a conversation with the Lagos exchange in there, this idea of how do we think about Lagos and water and moon and. Not everything is completely clear but I feel like we need something in that space that is going to at the same time conclude it but also leaves things open ended. So in the last space we have that rounded element, which is over here - a very big scale light installation and then have this very big scale disk that I

think we can use to hold a big landscape model that is available as a display element. So it s a kind of a circular disc wall that is slanted against the wall and it has a direct conversation with the light void composition. The last room for me is a very dark space with particular moments of light and I want to propose that the video projection takes up the one corner and I would like ( and I don’t know if we can get this right) the video projection to be visible as you enter the space rather than normally you have a separate room for the video projection that you go into but I feel like the whole room could be that room video room. and the room is about a video in the corner and that you sit and relax and view. and the video projection, as I understand it is a video on Lagos and thinking around water and the speculative nature that it affords you when dealing with a water city, it could actually have some element that reflects water, maybe the video projection could be reflected onto a pool of water that one experiences and that one has a very direct conversation around a body of water. and maybe the couch is linked to the this water element that you go and see and experience. I would love to have the video actually projected onto the water but as another idea, we could actually have the video reflected onto the water. It could potentially be more subtle but its something that we would like to explore

quite quickly and distinctly. The rest of the room is quite still with the video projection, the light element which you see as you enter but experience fully when you in that space at the end.

We will send a plan and a technical exploration of what that could be. It seems very straight forward but there is very intense lighting exploration that we need to get into to get that subtle, moody light that we want from the back of that circle. TF: The idea around structuring the exhibition around light is a very nice idea, I really like it. So I would be interested to see it in plan and to also see it in a spatial sense. TF: I have another question about light and colours IW: We think that overall the content should provide the colour and the exhibition design has three colours: or maybe even two. MM: - For website design and visual design we took direction from your proposed colour palette. IW: AMO is a constellation of things from which I have taken my cue, paint colours this colour palette on the wall is actually quite nice, yellow, white and timber and ply wood. 3. Technical exploration - materials IW: We have found that the technical aspects and the thinness of the vomo wall system - it’s pretty straight forward. We think it can absorb the potential slanted nature of the exhibition, but we could hybridise it with upholstery.

TF & AL: Its a chipboard core MW: We spoke to vomo - there is nothing stopping us - they gave us advice around pricing etc. TF: We do have a large amount of the panels already so this could bring the price down. AL: Our construction workers will give a list of material that is available after the show, because some of the elements were custom 80% are plain walls, very easy, was quick and cheap, and can be adjusted. TF: It means more money for other features in the exhibition. 4. Future questions and explorations IW: the next phase is a kind of a sign off on the themes and content arrangement, where the are we in agreement? Are we on the right track, things will change and we will allow for that but the overall idea/ overall theme - we need agreement on the kind of diagrams that we have made. We would also like comment on room arrangement and big structural ideas and the concepts we have explored around furnishing, fabrics, geometry, layers of space, scale, landscape, all of that and then we can get into a plan. MM: I am very happy with your interpretation of the curatorial statement and some of your initial gestures around furnishings and thresholds and layering because

it creates all kinds of possibilities around silhouette, and also textiles. the thing that I would like to see developed further, because you have mentioned these different elements like bookshelves and the library, and at the moment and its understandable because its still at sketch design phase, that its more understandable for me in words than in forms at this stage. So I think that your narrative on scale is on point, I think that I would like to see more components - like the bench and the couch - how do you interpret it at the scale of the exhibition but i am very happy with the direction that its taken. and also your exploration of light is very, very beautiful. I just like this environment that is immersive and that is attractive and that has these different gradations of light is really evocative and it works against the violent dramatic representations one is often confronted with in exhibitions about African cities. So there’s a kind of gentleness and poetry to your thinking that I think is very, very nice. And that would make people hang out in the space simple because its beautiful. So I think that that’s great! AL: Ok. Will you send us material for comment to look at more closely, first reactions, comments etc? IW: Yes. The other thing that I would like to just add as a footnote to this presentation is that when I put up all the work here, which I am going to photograph and send images to everybody, on how it looks here because it … very often we

work .. there sketches, theres models, there are notes theres visual material that you collect, and sometimes they become very discrete, and isolated and what we have done with all the information, all the work that we have done, we’ve put it up and it actually becomes one piece, and somebody said, Alex in our office said - this could actually be an idea for part of the exhibition, some of these exchanges, models do not necessarily need to sit on its own, without text, with out photographs, this becomes like a tapestry of information so the way we have installed the sketch design is actually an idea for the way information could be installed into the exhibition it self. If you think that is a way of doing so maybe its worth looking at the photographs of this. But I must say that it surprised us by how clear it became as a unit and as an unfolding of information. MM: One of the things that we discussed on the the digital platform is that there is a Munich exchange and that there is a specific tab attached to the museum, and the exhibition and its making.We had a meeting with the communications team a week ago and it would be great to include this on the digital platform to document this process. Because its not like there is a collection, it gets curated and it gets put on display but its been this very messy explorative process thats anxiety producing for everybody, but also deeply creative. and finding a space for it online only would be really really valuable. IW: I can produce the material for that anytime.

MM: The digital platform could give space to that. IW: Sometimes the process is not formatted in a way that is evocative, missed opportunity, where the process is just there for the ‘final design’. That the process is also very productive and generative that could lead to other ideas on how to make a book, how to make a couch, how to make a space, so it becomes this systems that for other creative practices leading up to the exhibition design. So I think thats the potential of the work that we are doing at the moment for the Munich exchange, it becomes a kind of encyclopedia of other ways of doing graphic design, website design, book design, furniture design, architecture, spatial design, so it doesn’t just become purely in one creative domain. MM: It might useful in early November to have another thrash-out session and a trip to Cape Town. IW: Great! The process is so amazing that it really invigorates the design process. Thank you.


African Mobilities Design Process  

The exhibition design by Wolff Architects is a playful distortion of the rational gallery space within the Architekturmuseum der TU München...

African Mobilities Design Process  

The exhibition design by Wolff Architects is a playful distortion of the rational gallery space within the Architekturmuseum der TU München...