Most people just go to see the building


Richard Meier’s new Arp Museum sits on a wooded slope overlooking the Rhine near Remagen. It is conceived as an annexe to the existing Rolandseck railway station which is also mostly converted to exhibition space, although the trains still stop.


The new building is entered via a tunnel under the railway line and a lift shaft cut into the mountain side.


Meier, denied the possibility of a normal public aproach to the building, presents his building from a number of vantage points: on the bridge from the lift to the main block and on exterior balconies in the main block itself.


The building benefits from its woodland setting and the drama of the internal approach in tunnels and shafts. The collection of Hans Arp sculptures struggles for attention, overwhelmed by the building and the magnificent Anselm Kiefer exhibition in the lower gallery. As a local tourist information officer said: Most people just go to see the building

Photoset (August 2008)

Arp Museum, Rolandseck 


Some pictures from Germany this summer:


Above: Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (completed 1984). Spalling of stone associated with metal fixings.


Above and below: Museum of Modern German Literature, Marbach am Neckar (completed 2006). Movement caused by water penetration/frost?


At Marbach am Neckar the maintenance man in helmet and flourescent vest passing by said wistfully: “Wasser”

See also: Dead German poet gets TV demands

and An English pursuit

and The Details of Modern Architecture

Basilika, Trier

Trier, Basilica

The building now known as the Basilika in Trier, Germany was actually the throne room of the Emperor Constantine and formed part of a wider palace complex when the city was a capital of the Roman Empire. The footprint of the Roman building (c 310 AD) and elements of its enclosure survived centuries of change prior to reconstruction by the Prussians following the defeat of Napoleon. The illustration shows elements of the building (‘c’ is the Roman apse) incorporated into a palace complex during the Renaissance period.


The extraordinary juxtaposition of the Basilika and the baroque palace in front is explained by the new significance of the building following the continuing unification of Germany under Prussia. Frederick William IV of Prussia ordered the reconstruction of the 33m high ‘basilica’ as a Lutheran church – a project that was completed in 1856. The building is remade to correspond with a new function and and rises up to dominate the palace structure it had served for centuries. The Prussian structure reflected the architect’s ideal project – the reconstruction of a Roman ruin. The architect interpreted the remains as an early-Christian basilica and borrowed the organization and stylistic elements of early-Christian architecture in Rome.

Trier, Basilica

The building was destroyed by allied bombs in 1944 and reconstructed again in the ‘fifties. The destruction of the Second World War was interpreted by some as a judgement. In its newest form the great hall was stripped of all decoration and given a pre-stressed concrete coffered roof. According to the official history available in the church: The new idea of the reconstructed church can be interpreted as follows: expression of worldly power and its spirituality has been conquered and extinguished by the Nazarene’s message: to put service before all else.

Primitive – Rustic – Classical

CiA recommends a visit to Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition GUSTAV KLIMT: PAINTING, DESIGN AND MODERN LIFE.The Klimt paintings, including the reconstruction of the Beethoven Frieze created for the Vienna Secession in 1902, present a necessarily limited selection of his work. The great boon is the display of furniture and artefacts created by Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstatte for many of the same connoisseurs who commissioned Klimt’s radically icon-like paintings.

The variety of Hoffmann’s work, at one point geometric, then stylishly classical, then utilitarian, was matched only by the indulgent eclecticism of his clients. Who, for example, could fail to be charmed by the coal scuttle designed for Ludwig Wittgenstein’s brother?

The Primavesi family had three properties designed by Hoffmann, the strangest being the rustic-classical villa in Winkelsdorf (now Koutny) Moravia from 1913-14. With its two-coloured log construction, painted window shutters, primitive eight column portico and steeply thatched roof it presented an incendiary combination for a modern house which sadly burnt down in 1922.

Material on the building is available at this link…

The catalogue from the Liverpool exhibition contains an excellent essay by Beatriz Colomina ‘Sex, Lies and Decoration: Adolf Loos and Gustav Klimt’. She begins with the bracing assertion “Adolf Loos is the only architect of his generation whose thinking is still influential today.” The contemporary vogue for decoration and ornament perhaps threatens that claim, and the display of Hoffmann material offers an alternative vision for the framing of modern life.


Picture: detail of the Villa Primavesi, Vienna before restoration

Adolf Loos: Anachronistically Alpine?

Following the Christmas post below, a few slides of the Khuner House by Adolf Loos (1930).Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Contemporary to the whitewashed masterpieces of his last phase…this country house that is so vernacular, so anachronistically alpine, so rustic, raises a theoretical question…to what extent this manifest contradiction of languages reveals a poetic dissociation, a sort of architectural schizophrenia..…If, set in the world of the metropolis, Moller House shows the extreme reticence of nihilismus, Khuner Country House…speaks the dialect of the place. Loos substitutes the logical modesty of building works with deep roots in their site for the fetishism of the ‘grand form’, of the narcissistic search for poetic consistency: “To bring materials from far away is more a question of money than of architecture. In mountains rich in timber, one builds in wood; on a stony mountain, stones will be used”.*From Adolf Loos by Benedetto Gravagnuolo, p204

Loos Haus

In the years since our first visit to their Hotel-Restaurant the Steiner Family have, every Christmas, sent us a sprig of vegetation from the forest surrounding their building, better known to architects as the Khuner House by Adolf Loos. Guests can stay, relax and eat in the almost unaltered environment of the house, a place which brings out the architect’s concern for homeliness, comfort and contextual materials (it is made of logs). The food is exceptional and the view is magnificent.

Happy Christmas.

Alpenhof Kreuzberg

Homage to the square…

CiA were saddened to hear of the death of the German architect Oswald Mathias Ungers in Cologne aged 81. Ungers exploited a controlled use of geometric form, particularly the square. His work represented a severity which redeemed classical order from the dark romanticism of its totalitarian associations, linking it back to the modernity of a tradition which stretches back to Schinkel. His rationalist compositions were never less than authoritative and thankfully free of easy charm.

A surprisingly positive obituary may be found here: Guardian Obituary



James Stirling’s relationship with his clients and end users is no better demonstrated than the pride with which the architect and his work is presented on the site for Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (Social Science Research Centre) in the Kulturforum. The eclectic elements of the building’s architecture are thoroughly documented. Take the virtual tour…LINK