status: contribution to the exhibition “Alternative Histories”
team: Anne-Julchen Bernhardt, Jörg Leeser,
Mariel Kaiser-Crompton, Alina Uhlenbrock, Laura Fuchs
client: Drawing Matter, The Architecture Foundation,
Marius Grootveld, Jantje Engels
date: March 2019
BeL (*2000), Anne-Julchen Bernhardt (*1971) and Jörg Leeser (*1967): On Walter Pichler's Sketch for the Underground City, 1960-64, Model, 2019, metal, concrete, plaster, paint, foam, wood, pastel calk, wood glue, paper, coal, styrofoam, plastic, play dough, sandpaper and plasticine.
The selected drawing – a light-hearted but somewhat nervous sketch bearing the title “Sketch for the Underground City” – belongs to an early body of work by Walter Pichler.
Working on abstract, hypothetical cities and buildings, Pichler questions the relationship of oppositional systems and investigates into positive and negative space, the designed and the found object, movement in space and movement of space. He is fascinated with infrastructure, spatial networks and the architecture of transition.
Over the course of four years he produced several series of drawings and objects, as the first seem to be mostly investigative and only occasionally presentation drawings, the latter are artifacts of meticulous craftsmanship in metal, concrete and plaster. Resting in time as singular entities, they obtain an almost transcendental aura; their painstakingly precise and slow process of making is inscribed into their abstract yet detailed manifestation. Form, space, light, material and surface are taken into the realm of fetish objects, the Sublime hovers within and around them.
The enigmatic objects are called Compact Building, Underground Building, Mouth of an Underground City, Core of an Underground City, Building over Infrastructure and Underground Building with extendable core. There is no record of an object titled the Underground City, the selected drawing solemnly bears that name.
Our model is neither abstract nor enigmatic but concrete. It is a model not an object. Its simple stereometric volumes are directly taken from Pichler's sketch. As a feasibility study it explores possible levels of detail Pichler's sublime objects would have faced, if they had been taken as representative model in an architectural process. The model is in search of the inherent beauty of the ordinary, it emphatically embraces the everyday, where the Sublime is just around the corner. Still, the Underground City remains the Other Space, pink cavities crouch underneath the surface.
pictures 11–17: Walter Pichler: “Skulpturen, Gebäude, Projekte”,
Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, Wien, 1992