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Haus-Rucker-Co were a Viennese group founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner. Their work explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings using pneumatic structures or prosthetic devices that altered perceptions of space. Such concerns fit with the utopian architectural experiments of the 1960 s by groups such as Superstudio, Archizoom, Ant Farm and Coop Himmelblau. Alongside these groups, Haus-Rucker-Co were exploring on the one hand, the potential of architecture as a form of critique, and on the other the possibility of creating designs for technically mediated experimental environments and utopian cities. Taking their cue from the Situationist’s ideas of play as a means of engaging citizens, Haus-Rucker-Co created performances where viewers became participants and could influence their own environments, becoming more than just passive onlookers. These installations were usually made from pneumatic structures such as Oase No. 7 (1972 ) , which was created for Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany. An inflatable structure emerged from the façade of an existing building creating a space for relaxation and play, of which contemporary echoes can be found in the ‘urban reserves’ of Santiago Cirugeda. The different versions of the Mind Expander series, consisted of various helmets that could alter the perceptions of those wearing them, for example the ‘Fly Head’ disoriented the sight and hearing of the wearer to create an entirely new apprehension of reality; it also produced one of their most memorable images. Haus-Rucker-Co’s installations served as a critique of the confined spaces of bourgeois life creating temporary, disposable architecture, whilst their prosthetic devices were designed to enhance sensory experience and highlight the taken-for-granted nature of our senses, seen also in the contemporaneous work of the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. Contemporary versions of such work can be found in the pneumatic structures.



YELLOW HEART 1968, Vienna The idea that a concentrated experience of space could offer a direct approach to changes in consciousness led to the construction of a pneumatic space capsule, called the ‘Yellow Heart’. Through a lock made of three air rings one arrived at a transparent plastic mattress. Offering just enough space for two people it projected into the centre of a spherical space that was made up of soft, air-filled chambers. Lying there one could perceive that the air-filled “pillows”, whose swelling sides almost touched one, slowly withdrew, that is to say the surrounding space appeared to expand, finally forming a translucent sphere and then, in a reverse motion, flowed out again. Large dots arranged in a grid on the outer and inner surfaces of the air-shells changed in rhythmic waves from milky patches to a clear pattern. The space pulsated at extended intervals.


“The idea that a concentrated experience of space could offer a direct approach to changes in consciousness led to the construction of a pneumatic space capsule, called the ‘Yellow Heart.’ Through a lock made of three air rings, one arrived at a transparent plastic mattress. Offering just enough space for two people, it projected into the centre of a spherical space that was made up of soft, air-filled chambers. Lying there one could perceive that the airfilled “pillows,” whose swelling sides almost touched one, slowly withdrew, that is to say the surrounding space appeared to expand, finally forming a translucent sphere and then, in a reverse motion, flowed out again. Large dots arranged in a grid on the outer and inner surfaces of the air-shells changed in rhythmic waves from milky patches to a clear pattern. The space pulsated at extended intervals.”

The considerations that through concentrated experience of space is a direct approach to consciousness changes were possible, led to the construction of a pneumatic space capsule, which was called ‘Yellow Heart’. Through a lock of three air rings was reached on a clear plastic chair. Barely enough for two people, they kragte in the middle of a tight ball room, which was made up completely of soft air chambers. Was one here, could perceive it that the air-filled cushions, their bellies. One just yet almost touching, retreating slowly, and the surrounding area seemed to grow, eventually to a translucent ball shaped, then heranzufließen in soft backlash again almost Large dot pattern on the inside of the air u.Außenseiten shells were transformed into rhythmic waves of milky spots to clear patterns. The room pulsated in extended intervals.

YELLOW HEART 1968, Vienna


TEMPORARY EXHIBITION BUILDING 1980, Linz A building that could be erected quickly was required for the duration of the ‘Forum Design’ event initiated by Helmuth Gsöllpointer. The building has certain similarities with a train. The individual barrel-vaulted halls are arranged like train carriages linked by a connecting bridge route extending on either side from a broader central space. The semi-circular steel structure of the halls is spanned with a white skin made of a synthetic material. Externally the shell forms a protective coat; internally there is a generous amount of brightly lit space with no shadows. A naturally coloured wood floor takes away the blue intensity of the light entering from all sides through the shell.




ENVIRONMENT TRANFORMER 1968 Environment Tranformer are appliances that change sensory impressions for a limited time in a visual and acoustic way. The processes of seeing and hearing are drawn out of their habitual apathy, separated into their individual functions and put together again as special experiences.







MIND-EXPANDER 1967, Vienna The seat shell fixed two persons in a certain position. Over the heads of seat ends can be tilted one helmet-like Balloon, which is connected to the seat shell. The heads are then in one narrow cylindrical space which is covered by a clear transparent plastic dome, above the bulges out a transparent balloon. On the dome and to the sheath of the balloon one series of lines and punched surfaces made reflective color foils are each other so assigned to that these elements by superposing form new pattern, depending on whether one tries to fix the front or the rear plane.


THE IDEAL MUSEUM 1987, Kassel This building was designed in response to an invitation to Documenta 8 and was built as a model at a scale of 1:5. The museum consists of a number of concrete containers that can be increased as required. They are connected to each other by a bridge route. Each container measures 21 x 19 x 17 metres and consists of four concrete walls without any special characteristics, either inside or outside. The bridge element penetrates the space at a height of 3.50 metres. Light enters from above through the bays of the beamed ceiling.



COVER COVER 1971, Krefeld The Lange House, designed in 1921 by Mies van der Rohe as a spacious single-family home, was roofed over with an air-supported hall made of a white-coated material. In response to the “L�-shaped plan of the house the barrel-vaulted hall with its rounded ends had a heart-shaped plan and also roofed a part of the terraced garden. In the interior the light, evenly filtered through the shell from all sides, created a pallid hothouse atmosphere in which not only the garden plants started to change but also the proportions of the house itself.


COVER 1971, Krefeld


NIKE 1977, Linz The ‘Nike’ was planned for the building of Linz Art University; a building that faces the Baroque main square and the Danube and helps form the image of the city. On the roof of the building 7-metre long steel truss carries an unfolded two-part photographic image of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The photograph is 7,5 metres high and is made of aluminium panels that form a shiny silver background for the grey-brown anodised grid of dots making up the image.

NIKE 23/24


INCLINED PLANE 1976, Vienna The Inclined Plane stood at the upper end of the Naschmarkt food market in Vienna, where there are no market stalls. Close to the old Stadtbahn (now U4 subway) station ‘Kettenbrückengasse’, designed by Otto Wagner, and also near Wagner’s two tenement buildings on the Linke Wienzeile, it visually separated the long open space into two halves. The half towards the inner city was bordered by the black surface of the plane, the other half, facing away from the city, by the plane’s other, white surface.






This contribution was made for the Documenta 6: A frame measuring 13 x 13 m and 1.6 m wide was made of two planes of flat steel bands laid on the diagonal, the bands in one plane running at right angles to those in the other. The structure was tilted somewhat to frame the view of the landscape behind. A 22-metre long steel arm tied back by steel cables to the inside of the frame projects from the visual field. A similar, but far smaller, frame is fixed to the end of this arm, much like the sight on a rifle. By walking along a catwalk that roughly forms an “ L� in plan the viewer first arrives at the narrow side of the large frame, then comes back onto its main axis ending at a lookout position that cantilevers beyond the terrace parapet. The small gun-sight frame in front of the viewer functions like an optical device and focuses a smaller section of the larger image.




OASE NO.7 OASE NO.7 1972, Kassel This contribution was produced to the Documenta 5 in Kassel: a transparent sphere with a diameter of 8 metres was placed in front of the main facade of the Friedericianum. A catwalk made of standard tubular steel sections projected through a window from the interior of the building. A tubular steel ring was fixed to this footbridge, at a slight distance from the faรงade. This ring formed the external support for a PVC foil shell that formed a sphere when inflated into shape by an air pump.


OASE NO.7 1972, Kassel


ARCHITECTURE OR REVOLUTION? – VIENNA’S 1968 Architectural thinking in Austria in the 1960s was marked by conservativism, inhibited by’the notorious time lag’,1 as historian and architectural critic Friedrich Achleitner once described it. With regard to architecture, he continued:’... the international reaction to modern academicism (for example, the successors of Mies van der Rohe) coincided with the first efforts of Austrian Constructivism, the first wave of New Brutalism with the beginning of interest in urbanism.’2 Individuals like Hollein and Pichler were rare when they mounted their’Architektur’ exhibition. But 1963 was also the year when Professor Karl Schwanzer and his assistant Günther Feuerstein started their highly praised teaching programme at the Technische Hochschule (TH) in Vienna, giving a central space to fantasy in the design process and opening discussion of the international architectural scene. Characterized by a ‘strong feeling of cynicism’, the young generation of architects – some still students – were, in the course of the next few years, to imagine’some of the most advanced environmental idea... which explode into fascinating dissertations on pneumatics, plastic structures, flexible structures and the most curious formal combinations’.3 Graduates of Vienna and Graz, they key figures of the Austrian architectural avant grade of the 1960s were Raimund Abraham, Friedrich St Florian, Günther Domenig, Eilfried Huth, Peter Noever and Gernot Nalback, amoung others.4 Collaboration was a striking feature of their activities, prompted in part by the intertwining of the architectural scene with the art world. It was also stimulated by the exciting mass-media phenomenon of the age, the pop group. The engagement with popular culture signalled antagonism with the technocratic figure of the specialist:’They all declared that they wanted to explore entirely new constructs and communication forms for architectural imagination, keeping well away from social and specialist constraints.’5 The names selected by groups signalled their interest in critique and transformation. Zünd-Up (foundd by Michael Pühringer, Timo Huber,

Bertram Mayer and Hermann Simböck in spring 1969) translates as ‘lighting up and setting fire’, but also refers to a famous brand of German motorbike’Zünd-app’, ‘Hausruch’,the root of Haus -Rucker-Co (founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter), is the name of a mountain range in upper Austria and describes the act of shifting houses; and ‘Coop-Himmeblau’(formed by Wolff D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michael Holzer in 1968) means literally ‘Coop-Skyblue’, stressing the idea of the cooperative, collective endeavour towards and ‘architecture with fantasy, as variable as clouds’.6 ARCHITECTURE IN AN EXPANDED FIELD The main characteristic that connects most of Austrian projects of the 1960s is the manipulation of perception. One of the leading terms employed by Haus-Rucker-Co in this period was ‘mind expanding’.7 Their aim was... the creation of visual principles and the design of environments, which function as breeding ground of those developments at the same time. It starts with a mini-environment, worn on the human body, and ending with the all-encompassing, all-formative: the city.8 Such interventions within the existing environment were either physical, in the form of performance, or material, emplying different kinds of construction. The latter were often temporary spaces or covers for the body including, most famously, helmet-type objects designed to produce powerful effects by interfering with the receptive functions of the eye, ear and nose.9 Coop Himmelblau, for example, designed the ‘Face Space’(also known as ‘Soul Flipper’) in 1969 in which facial emotions and tactile qualities are transmitted, that is, translated into colours and sounds. Their subsequent projects,’Hard Space’ and ‘Soft Space’ (both 1970), extended the zone of interference to the whole body. Both projects transformed an environment iwthin minutes, ‘Hard Space’ (both 1970), extended the zone of interference to the whole body. Both projects transformed an environment within minutes, ‘Hard Space’ by creating a space through a series of explosions triggered

by the heartbeats of the artists, and ‘Soft Space’ by covering a Viennese street in foam in tem minutes. The mostly unprepared anddisgruntled public reacted with surprise if not shock at the new spatial experience within a familiar environment. These experiments extended the boundaies of common spatial perception and defined architecture in the widest sense. Similar experiments by colleagues like Hans Hollein10 and friedrich St Florian11 followed, all of them attempts at imaginary, ephemeral and immaterial architecture anticipating virtual reality.

balloons. Our heartbeat becomes space;our face is the facade.15 The inhabitant of these environments was to be the urban nomad. Pneumatic architecture offered a light, portable and provisional home that could bequipped with a complex system of responsive technologies. Furthermore, such projects clearly show the influence of the space age, with capsules designed for space travel or as life-support systems which act as extensions of the body. In fact, in order to emphasize its futurism, Coop Himmelblau promoted its ideas for’Billa Rosa’ to NASA for use as virtual environments for astronauts.16

Somewhat closer to built structures were Coop Himmelblau’s pheumatic prototypes, which were presented by the group as archetypes for architecture beyond rationalism, a material critique aimed at commercial grid-architecture and consumerist industrial design. Their approach centred on the human scale and body and its ways of communicating with the environment. Air – reinterpreted as a new building material in the 1960s – enabled them to materialize their dream of a ‘design for an architecture that is as variable as a cloud’.12 One of the first key projects was ‘Villa Rosa’, a prototype for a pneumatic living unit.13 Here, pneumatic architecture conveyed an impression of a dream, flotation and illusion, while at the same time demonstrated mobility as well as ephemerality. ‘Villa Rosa’ was composed of three spaces for an inflatable travelling habitat. Its core was a load-bearing structure accompanied by a mixture of tubes onto which ballons were fastened.

TECHNO-FRICTIONS A second characteristic shared by these groups was a common enthusiasm for technology, although it must be stressed that their early fascination for the possibilities

offered by the new communication and construction technologies soon gave way to a more complex view of progress laced with a dystopian sensibility. The project that best conveys this ambiguous fascination with technology is ‘The Great Vienna Auto-Expander’ by Zünd-Up. This was Zünd-Up’s provocative response to a design brief issued at the Technische Hochschule that asked for a solution to traffic congestion in the centre of Vienna.17 Their ‘solution’ was a gigamtic monument on Karlsplatz, in the centre of the city, in the shape of a transformed pinball machine. In the design a machine was to be made from pipes that would break through the city’s buildings from Karlsplatz to Stephansplatz and its famous Stephansdom forming a kind of drag-racing course. The cars traveling along this fantastic track would be beautified

The’Villa Rosa’ anticipates projects for flexible constructions like Hollein’s Mobile Office’,14 which was a response to what the architect saw as society’s new flexibility and mobility. Mobile and portable architectural environments were among the key ideas of the 1960s. Permanently changing society should, it was claimed, be reflected in space and building, city and landscape.

Zünd-Up (Bertram Mayer, Michael Pühringer, Hermann Simböck and Timo Huber) photomontage of installation ‘The Great Vienna Auto-Expander. Standort Karlsplatz, Vienna, 1969


In this spirit, Coop Himmelblau claimed in 1968:’Our architecutre has no physical ground plan, but a psychic one. Walls no longer exist. Our spaces are pulsating

with decoration, becoming racing cars, and then be pulverized in a’destruction-game’. Compressed into small parcels, they would then be taken home and buried. This project was an unmistakable confrontation with the myths of car-owning democracy: it spoke to the social and cultural impact of consumer and, more specifically, car culture on daily life and city architecture in particular.18 Dennis Hopper’s film Easy Rider, released in 1969, seems to have served as a s ource of inspiration, not only in terms of its theme but also in the way in which the scheme was promoted. When it was presented as a multimedia performace in the appropriate location of an undergorudn car park, a group of forty Harley-Davidson and Norton Motorbike club mebers were invited to watch the event. The fascination generated by their powerful American and British motorcycles could easily

have been mistaken for the central message of the project, which focused in fact on evaluating and critiquing the effects of car culture on society. In the minds of Zünd-Up, aggression was necessary and the act of destruction at the heart of the project was in the end aimed at the relationship between confrontational architecture and conventional society. As Zünd-Up made clear in the texts and manifestos accompanying the project, destruction was seen as a positive process in which new freedoms could be secured to encourage innovation.19After 1970 the techno-futurism of schemes produced by Haus-Rucker-Co was increasingly underscored by a growing sense of anxiety over the effects of modern technology on the environment. The symbolically named’Oasis No. 7’,for instance was an inflatable structure realized by the group at documenta V in

1972. A transparent ballon 8m in diameter emerged from a second-floor window of the Fridericianum, stabilized by a standard steel tube armature which also provided a tunnel enterance. Inside the balloon were two palm trees, a hammock, some artificial ferns and a little red flag with the number ‘7’ written on it. Selected visitors were invited inside to enjoy a transformed view of the familiar world, albeit rendered strange by the immediate surrounding of an artificial beach. With the balloon Haus-Rucker-Co intended to enhance and increase awareness and alter perception of a familiar public space, thereby suggesting the possibility of experimentation and change. It is difficult to describe the effects of a mini-environment like ‘Oasis No. 7’, as one has to engage with the space physically and psychically in order to experience the intended effect. As Dieter Bogner once said:’The sctual work is defined neither through the outer structure nor the coloured space but its constituted only when used through expanding into the space of a user’s consciousness.’20 ‘Oasis No. 7’ was the last pneumatic architectural work realized by Haus-Rucker-Co. It marks the turning point from the group’s experimental and playful attitude towards a more critical approach; HausRucker-Co became the only group in Austria to raise environmental concerns in the early 1970s. One of its most successful and widely discussed projects was an exhibition in the Museum Haus Lange in the German city of Krefeld in 1971, entitled ‘Cover: Überleben in verschmutzter Umwelt’. The location was well selected, as it was in the Ruhr area, famous for coal mining. A giant air-inflated tent covered the museum that had been designed by Mies van der Rohe as a family house for the director of the silk weaving mill, Hermann Lange, and built between 1928 and 1930. The exhibition’s subtitle, ‘Survival in a Polluted Environment’, revealed its focal point: the relationship between the natural landscape and artificial environments, disturbing the conventional perception of inside and outside; interior and exterior; and landscape and architec-

Haus-Rucker-Co (Laurids Ortner, Günter Zamp Kelp, Manfred Ortner and Klaus Pinter), photograph of installation ‘Oasis No. 7’ at documenta V in Kassel, 1972.

ture. Haus-Rucker-Co’s ‘Cover’ was not only protection and shelter for the house, but also for nature itself in the sense that it defined it as an area for special sttention. This new environment – a space capsule with its own microclimate – was to be self-sustaining, albeit only with the help of essential technology. Quartz iodine lamps, provided ‘sunlight’,and optical and acoustic landscape and weather. Illusion substituted forgotten or unfamiliar experiences, as if they could only be felt within the restricted space of this synthetic microcosm. Haus-Rucker-Co seemed to point to a situation where the polluted environment had become a threat to the survival of humanity. ‘Despite massive campaigns against pollution’, they wrote, ‘the continuity of the process and the permanent assimilation with the progressively bad conditions evade an intuitive awareness of the extent of the threat. One does not die from environment as fast as from an h-bomb but with the same efficiency’.21 The exhibition inside the house showed predominantly large scale installations as mini-residences dealing with the artificial recovery of natural elements such as air and water, which had thus far been seen as unlimited natural resources. However, nowhere in the exhibition were direct links to or illustrations of the polluted environment displayed. Only a display of the effects of pneumoconiosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling coal dust, pointed towards the real danger. Everywhere else, visitors were allowed to playfully experience the alternative spaces of the numerous installations in clean and colourful PVC materials. As irony was always a crucial component of Haus-Rucker-Co’s work, the exhibition did not aim to provide ‘solutions’ but rather to raise questions and encourage discussion. In contrast to positive utopias of the age, this was a negative one, reminiscent of Noah’s Ark, the last retreat in a contaminated environment. The aestheticized vision of an imminent synthetic environment brought upon us by global ecological devastation provoked not only headlines in contemporary newspapers, but debates on the reality of man-made urban landscapes and the effects of unlimited development and extreme industrialization on the environment.

REVOLUTION WITHDRAWN? In the context of conservative Vienna of 1968, the performances and happenings conducted by radical architects were not understood by the public as experiments with space and perception, or even as architectural projects, but simply as provocations. This response was, however, welcomed by the architects. Indeed, Coop Himmelblau designed’shock therapies’ to revolt against the conservative and constrained approach to architecture in relation to the individual and to society.22 Like their friends the Zünd-Up group, Coop Himmelblau made aggressive interventions into urban space in the late 1960s and early 1970s: ‘we decided to have our actions in the street in order to avoid being urged into a museum. At first our actions in Basel and Vienna were friendly. But surprisingly they caused such strong aggression from the public that our actions became more aggressive.23 Antagonism did not equate with agonism. In fact, Zünd-Up, despite being the youngest of the various radical design groups in Austria, was the most politically engaged. Many of the group’s architectural projects were presented as angry happenings and pointed at the deepseated crisis of a comfortable and mute society and its consumerist culture. Without following a clearly defined ideology, all Zünd-Up works nevertheless display a rigorous social critique. However, not being affiliated with the international political student movement or radical group, their work always remained within the parameters of architecture and art.24 Despite sharing inspiration from rock music, especially the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, and a common fascination with performance, the members of Zünd-Up distanced themselves from HausRucker-Co and Coop Himmelblau, criticizing their work as too aesthetic, apolitical and not provocative enough. Sensing the moment, and with a desire to articulate its unrestricted thinking, Hans Hollein wrote an architectural manifesto in April 1968, which he titled ‘Alles ist Architektur’(Everything is Architecture’)25. He published the manifesto in the seminal Austrian magazine Bau, an advocate of new trends in architecture, art

and society. Follwing in the footsteps of his predecessor Le Corbusier with his Tout est Architecture (1931) and anticipating Joseph Beuys’ claim at documenta V in 1972 that ‘Everything is Art and Everyone is an Artist’, in ‘Alles ist Architektur’ Hollein presented a radical redefinition of architecture, removing all boundaries to connect it with other art disciplines, but above all revealing its psychological and emotional level and linking it with diverse areas of contemporary culture. In addition, Hollein addressed the radical implications of information technology and immersiveenvironment. By including non-material architecture determined by light, smell, temperature, chemicals and drugs in his reflections, Hollein was calling for nothing less than a definition which embraced the entire environment. The purpose of architecture was no longer to shelter or symbolize, but rather to be a connective support system. Hollein presented his manifesto in the form of a collage of 27 pages of images accompanying a single page of text, supporting the character of the manifesto as an expression of a transitional moment which defined succinctly and directly the state of Austrian architecture in 1968. The years around 1968 in Austria, and especially Vienna, were a period of anger, criticism, social concern, political engagement and protest. But despite strong interest in the 1968 student movement in Paris and Berlin and events in neighbouring Prague, Viennese political activism generally did not aim at revolution. Criticism and social concerns were not articulated directly, but were themselves aesthetically transformed. Artistic public performances rather than political demonstrations triggered little more than irritation and complaint on Austrian streets. Crossovers were commonplace between the art disciplines, but unheard of outside them. Nevertheless, with regard to art and architecture, this period of protest, critique and discontent made a significant contribnution to the future of Austrian as well as international architecture. Hollein and his contemporaries chose visionary projects, performances and commentaries on architecture as the means by which their own revolutionary gesture could be made.




See Friedrich Achleitner, ‘Comments on Viennese Architectural

‘Villa Rosa’ was built on a 1:1 scale for an international

History: Motifs and Motivations, Background and Influences,

congress on architecture at the Technische Hochschule in

Therapeutic Nihilism’, in A New Wave of Austrian Arhitecture,

Vienna, and later displayed at the Museum für Angewandte

published by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies,

Kunst in 1968.

Catalogue 13 (New York 1980). 14. 2.

‘Mobile Office’ or ‘In the suitcase transportable atelier’ was


constructed by Hans Hollein on the occasion of filming Das österreichische Portrait (The Austrian Portrait), screened by ORF


(Österreichischer rundfunk) on 7 December 1969.

Cook 1970. 15. 4.

See Kandeler-Fritsche et al. 2005.

The most important schools were the Technische Hochschule (Technical University) and the Akademie der Bildenden Künste


(Academy of Applied Arts), in Vienna, and the Technische

See Marie-Ange Brayer, Frédéric Migayrou and Fumio Nan-

Universität (Technical University), in Graz.

jo(eds), Archilab’s Urban Experi-ments: Radical Architecture, Art and the City (London 2005).

5. See Frank Werner, Covering + Exposing, the Architecture of


Coop Himmelb(l)au (Basel/Berlin/Boston 2000).

The project emerged in the context of the exercise’Design 2’ at the Institut für Gebäudelehre und Entwerfen, Technische


Hochschule, taught by Karl Schwanzer. Zamp Kelp was one

See Martina Kandeler-Fritsch and Thomas Kramer, Get off my

of the tutors.

Cloud, Wolff D. Prix, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Texts 1968-2005 (Ostfildern-Ruit 2005).

18. For a detailed description of the project, see’The Great


Vienna Auto-Expander’, in Martina Kandeler-Fritsche (ed.),

For a detailed discussion of the term in the work of Haus-

Zünd-Up Acme Hot Tar and Level, Dokumentation eines

Rucker-Co, see Dieter Bogner, Haus-Rucker-Co, Denkräume,

Architektur-experiments an der Wende der Sechziger Jahre

Stadträume 1967-1992. (Klagenfurt 1992)

(Vienna/New York 2001).



Haus-Rucker-Co, Phy-Psy, Typscript, HRC-Archive Düsseldorf,

Author’s interview with Timo Huber on 17 July 2007 in

undated. See Bogner 1992.




Headsets by Haus-Rucker-Co and a helmet by Walter Pichler

See Bogner 1992.

are described. 22. 10.


Hollein presented a series of simulated spaces:a television set as extension of the university(1966), the ‘non-physical’


enbironments, an architecture pill (1967) and ‘Svobodair’,


and environmental spray (1968). 24. 11.

See Werner 2000. The foundation of the group itself gives

In the project ‘Imaginary Space’ (1968), Friedrich St Florian

an indication of the rebellious and uncompromising character

designed transient spaces with light and laser beams.

of its members, as it was preceded by the interruption of their architectural studies (which they never finished).

12. See Coop Himmelblau, Architecture is now. Projects, (Un)


Buildings, Actions, Statements, Sketches, Commentaries.

See Coop Himmelblau 1984. The actions referred to are

1968-1983 (London 1984).

‘Restless Sphere’ (Basel 1971) and ‘City Soccer’ (Vienna 1971).

HAUS-RUCKER-CO. - THE EPOCH OF SPACE Organic shapes, synthetic materials, sensual futures, pea coats and mustaches: what Haus-Rucker-Co, has been know for on the blogosphere is well represented but are also treated to a unique insight in the theory and the concepts that sustained their projects.

“ Within urban areas ‘naturally grown’ provisional structures have already shaped the general appearance to a large degree: the ‘every day’ architecture of traffic lights, add-paintings, traffic signs, masts and wiring has long since overcome classical architecture.”

The Space Age was not all Sputnik and The Jetsons: it also brought more theoritical investigation of space. Not, this time, as a liminal world where the grown man’s impatient imagination could roam free, but the ambiguous environement where physicality meets cultures and practices - the space of Fontana’s actions, of Foucault’s geography and of Lefebvre’s justice.

“ The great obcession of the nineteenth century was, as we know, history (...) The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space.” - Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces, 1967

The epoch of the Space Age future was to be an epoch of space; Freed from the contingency of history, freed from the guilt and the responsabilities, the architect was at last allowed to experiment for experimentation’s sake: “Its design is free from local politics and utilitarian pressure because provisional architecture is not burdened with the mortgage of having to sustain the next hundred years” says Laurids Ortner, one of the founding members of the collective. And indeed, the idea of provisional structures, constructions that are designed and produce to last a limited period, addresses directly this primacy of space over time: whereas architecture until then, more openly than any other field of design, seemed to be concerned with history or it’s rejection, here it may have found in ephemerality it’s full avant-garde realization. On the contrary, interrogations about space become central, and of public space in particular. Spaces of interaction, of exchange, where social life potentially enters the realm of the experimental:

- Laurids Ortner

Indeed a lot of the Austrians work is concerned with urban, common space, it’s use and it’s appropriation - certainly the most obviously political element in their practice. Many of their works, treading the thin line between public and private spheres, would address in Jurgen Habermas words, our relationship to the other, but also to the sphere of public authority. The experiments of the group in soft structures, modular architecture and transparent surfaces are indicative enough of their expectations, whereas later works like Insel Hamburg, Schrage Ebene or Wellenweise hint at their oblique strategies, and interrogations concerning the inclusiveness and the delimination role of architecture. Space Age has pretty much disappeared, relegated to the backlands of quirky furniture and retro hype - every once in a while we see it resurfacing in a film or collection, recently in it’s soviet flavour in particular conceptions of the future have evolved a lot throughout history and often provide quite peculiar evocations of the zeitgeist: Futurism, we will see, was an obvious forerunner, and if it’s fanatical devotion to mass media brings it closer to the Space Age populist strategy, it’s brutal avant-gardism still leaves it miles away from Twiggy and Mary Quant’s child-like optimism: The 1960s Space Age was rooted not, as for the Italian Futurists, in that metaphysical experience of the mechanized war machine, but in an other type of machine: one pointed to the stars, in a collective effort to propulsing the human body beyond the sky, into this abstract and minimalism empyrean kingdom were life was so alien that functionalism itself could

look exotic, reconciling in the process pop culture’s demand for spectacular with high-modernism. The conquest of space certainly brought about the near mystique optimism in the potency of human thought, but in parallel the western world’s economy was settling into a new paradigm, seeing the parallel rise of youth culture and leisure society: the complex interactions between these two concepts will determine large chunks of both the mainstream to come, and the vociferous Marxist counter-culture:

“ Should a man wander through the city and see through the busy but aimless throngs, consuming themselves, he would be amazed” - Robert Chasse, Hall of Mirrors, Council for the Liberation of Daily Life, 1967

A number of pieces of Haus-Rucker-Co. presented in the exhibition address questions of environmentalism (like “Grune Lunge” or “Natur Inszenierung”) and the space occupied by nature in the city: the entire “Berg in der Stadt” proposal (1973-74) suggest the construction of large facades of fake mountainous surfaces, mounted on a metallic skeleton, simulating from one side a slice of raw, natural landscape, and displaying on the other the full artificiality of it’s construction. Here there is a clear departure from the polished and industrialized aesthetics of the Space Age: in exposing the underlying structure, architecture is changed from a commodity to a process. William Kent, who is credited for inventing the English garden, created vast enclaves of tightly controlled nature, paradoxically mimicking the natural landscape as it can be found outside of gardens. Yet throughout his pastures one can find ruins, fake obviously, but as carefully aged and deconstructed as his garden were skillfully overgrown. The ruins, he said, were a pivotal element, as they were to be the sole indicator of the presence of man, stressing how much work and thought went in the


design of those modern arcadias. Maybe it is under this light that one should see the structures proposed by Haus-Rucker-Co. : as many displays of artifical nature, be it an oasis or a mountain, to remind the city-dweller of the skills and perfection of nature that went into the creation of our cities.

“ provisional architecture is agressive. It breaks up burnt-in habits of seeing.”

- Laurids Ortner

Many of their projects address classical tropes of the modernist to post-modernist turning point: the hidden is made apparent, the structure become external and the artifice, the technicality becomes part of the overall aesthetics. There is little doubt that their work has had a decisive influence on further architecture, not on only their fellow paper architects but also on the deconstructivist “movement” for example: the own “Uberbauung” project of hanging gardens on the roofs of Vienna partly prefigured Coop Himmelb(l)au’s iconic Falkestrasse rooftop structure.

“ As if we who are accumulators and generators of movement, with all our added mechanical limbs,

Not withstanding their shared fascination for the machine, one key difference between the Space Age aesthetics and Italian Futurism is their respective relationship to the body: the fifty years that separate the two movements left their mark on the new conception of the future. Whereas Marinetti was vehemently calling for the renunciation of the physical, for a transformation of the body into a machine, the 60’ and Haus-Rucker-Co. in particular, on the other hand, work towards a transformation of the machine into a body. Of course organic shapes (Gaudi, Hundertwasser, their contemporary Werner Panton) and concepts (Kisho Kurokawa) had been in use long before: at the beginning of the XXth century, the rise of concrete had meant as much the liberation from straight lines and right angles as it had heralded the modernist rationalization. Similarly the speedy development of plastic and it’s easy shaping, by way of injection or void pump, allowed further transgression of the angular and asexual models of yesteryear. Gelbes Herz, an blow-up structure designed for two, inflate and deflate rhythmically, imitating maybe the respiration of a living body, coming, we are told, to press it’s soft synthetic interior onto the visitors at each pulsation.

with all the noise and speed of our life, could live in the streets built for the needs of men four, five or six centuries ago.” - Antonio Sant’Ellia, The Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, 1917

Just like googie, borax and streamline moderne, or the Italian Futurists before any of them, it seems that the eference to the future, an essentially imagined space, place them at the edge of modernity: planning and optimism, central to modernist urbanism and superstructures, retain it’s pragmatic credentials as long as projection in the future is presented as idealism - when the artist is perceived to take a step into fiction or speculation, he suddenly becomes guilty of arbitrary indulgence.

The evocative experience tell probably as much about our longings as to those of it’s inventors - Whether the throbbing alcove seems like a squeaky sexual playground, like a maternal safe-space or like an isolation tank for oceanic consciousness, it is the tension between those options, placing the work miles away from the hyper-virile and brutal sexuality invoked by the Futurists and Marinetti in particular, that situate it in an ambiguous and therefore perverse sexuality.

“ Perverse as well as impersonal” - Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

Many of the group’s structures (Balloon for Two, Oase no7, Gelbes Herz...) are designed to offer a sense of intimacy inside the public space: the plastic membrane isolate the visitor from the world around them, participating one can imagine, in re-appropriating the public sphere - but paradoxically, all those modules, all the spaces seemingly designed to restore human interactions in their perfected, edenic sense, are formed of mostly transparent membranes. This might hold one of the paradoxes of Haus-Rucker-Co. and one that spreads over the sixties and their uneasy relationship to political radicalism and utopia: their reforming ideals are unabashedly a form of spectacle. Militants are media-conscious, spirituality is communal, sexual liberation brings about commodification. Of course Haus-Rucker-Co. is not Amon Duul II - but in crystallizing the typical tension of the age between radicalism and commodification (generally justified as a strategy of efficiency), they seem to exemplify what Eisenmann’s catchy saying, “The Rococo of Modernism”, always brings to my mind: a society, to use Situationist terminology, where détournement and récupération have become so deeply embedded into each other that deciding whether radicalism uses spectacle or spectacle uses radicalism is virtually impossible.

“ Toys for adults simulating contact, contact between two people, a man and a woman, who experience their environement and themselves in a completely new way.” - Haus-Rucker-Co. on Vanilla Future, 1969

The very impermanence of the structures not only question their role in the urban context but also grant them a specific status: as a construct that can be removed and transported, we tend to identify the provisional structure with a tool - but in the mean time, it’s artistic ambition leave it largely deprived from a practical use. The useless tool is then

left with only two option: too tactile and eager for an audience participation to be a work of art, the structure aims at delivering an experience rather than a message: it’s a toy, a Froebel’s gift for the epoch of space. The “goals” of the Haus-Rucker-Co. structure, seems in good part to have relied on the characteristic terminology of the times: development of “psychological capacity”, “exploration of the inner world” and “concentrated experience” are ludicrous psychobabble. They share this ludicrous psychobabble with an other contemporary culture of keen experimentators, psychedelics. The goals and the medium of the “environement transformers” and, considering it was also producing sound and light effects from the inside of it’s dome, the “mind expander”, are quite reminiscent of the mind machines of the seventies and their low-fi hallucinogenic virtual reality. but unlike those, the construction of a space isolated from the quotidian, such as Nicolas Schoffer’s Cybernetic City, or the some of Warhol’s more ambitious Happenings aimed at the immersion of the audience as a group. What the sixties brought to this age-old dream of the Gesamtkunstwerk is a radical shift of focus from the demiurgic artist to the audience: the relationships within it, and their relationship with both the world inside and outside of the artwork. Quite characteristically the “Mind Expanders” are designed for two seaters, just like the Happenings or the Cybernetic City were intended as spaces of exchange not only between the artist and the audience but within the audience itself, becoming what Habermas coined Offentlichkeit. When the designer aim at creating or re-organizing the social interactions of it’s audience he becomes irremediably political. The space of the piece becomes a temporary autonomous zone, and the artwork becomes a utopia.

“ In strongly opposing the world of play to that of reality, and in stressing that play is essentially a side activity, the interference is drawn that any contamination by ordinary life runs the risk of corrupting and destroying its very nature.

“ Everything that was lived has moved away into representation.” - Guy Debord, The Society of Spectacle

Not having had the chance to try out any of the mind expanding “machinery”, I am allowed to remain skeptical as to the actual mind expansion this would provide: if one was particularly eager to link back HausRucker-Co. to situationist ideas, one could see in the presentation of normal quotidian experiences, though the absent lense of the mind expanders and environement transformers, as a form of détournement, or even maybe as over-identification with the society of spectacle it adresses: within the particular frame provided by the helmets or the dome, that provide little if any effectual transformation to the sight of the eyes, the capitalist world is framed as what it is, a spectacle. Many of the works of Haus-Rucker-Co. like a number of their contemporaries, attempt to re-asses our relationship to space and it’s purpose: a space abstracted from history and positioned in what must have seemed at the time like a timeless future. The continuous emphasis on impermanence they saw as a key to experimentation, an unstable state where architecture is freed from it’s constraints of firmness, commodity and delight. Freed from the contingencies of purpose and durability they were allowed, more than functionalist architecture and urbanism could ever dream, to re-write human relationships between themselves, but also of course, human relationship with their environment.

It seems that the timely pop aesthetics that presided over many of Haus-Rucker-Co designs emphasizes, consciously or not, the playful and inconspicuous aspects of their work - “relaxation” and “changes in consciousness”, for all their savoury meaninglessness, hint at a growing sentiment in the sixties: the prevalence of experience over ownership - happiness no longer a situation it is a state of mind. Like all narratives that attempted, throughout the twentieth century to bridge the gap between style and politics, to rationalize the utopia into a historical or post-historical situation, the Space Age was bound to end up stripped off from it’s militant substance and relegated to the quirky and the inconsequent. But in the case of Haus-Rucker-Co. it seems that the collective moved away from away from the kitsch early enough and stuck instead to it’s Utopian ideals.

“ The architecture of pleasure lies where concept and experience of space abruptly coincide.” - Bernard Tschumi, The Pleasure of Architecture


-Roger Caillois, Men, Play and Games

If, as Caillois argues, reality is likely to corrupt the world of the game, then the game itself might be, in return, able to corrupt the game of life: The experience of the game, and it’s collective experience even more, constitutes the essence of the situationist alternative life experience. A self contained world, with it’s own rules and it’s own goals (if any) - both a prophetic vision of what the future could be, and an experiment on how to build it.

Haus Rucker Co  

a brochure to showcase the famous Vienna architectural group Haus-Rucker-Co