Berlin–Tokyo | Tokyo–Berlin: Die Kunst zweier Städte
New National Gallery Berlin: Exhibition design by Toyo Ito, Christoph Cellarius and Florian Busch
From the beginning, when it became clear that our exhibition design for the upper hall would need to accommodate about a dozen living artists, half from Berlin, half from Tokyo, we envisaged scenarios of an exhibition going beyond the conventional allocation of spaces for artists and their works.
Rather than designing an a priori condition for artworks to be displayed, our idea was a loose envelope for processes which would interactively negotiate the exhibition. As actual playground for these negotiations, we proposed a layer between the gallery’s roof and floor slabs, an exhibition design which would not be a top-down implant but translate Mies van der Rohe’s Cartesian grid into an emergent one, a parametric field opening up a network of continuous yet differentiated spaces. In engaging artists and curators early on in the design process, several feedback loops led to a series of manipulations of this layer which gradually dissolved the Miesian absolute space into an exhibition of fluid, active relations.
The visitors to the exhibition are lured to freely wander in a network of possible routes. As there is not one predefined path but a multitude of unexpected encounters, the exhibition becomes an interactive experience exploiting the potential for spatial dynamism inherent to Mies’ homogeneous transparency. This spatial non-determinacy makes the visitor active part with multiple ways to enjoy the exhibition. Moving through the exhibition, new relations between artists and artworks, between Berlin and Tokyo are discovered through constantly changing juxtapositions.
Artists and artworks were not pre-assigned to confined spaces. Instead, soft zones fading into each other gradually emerged as artists and curators began negotiating their spatial preferences, and the artworks spread between, on, above, and in the hills. While our proposal to cause the Miesian stone floor to undulate was unanimously greeted with great excitement, we were a bit surprised how much the artists differed in seizing the opportunity to directly use a landscape defying the conventional constraints and distinctions of clearly defined rooms of floors and walls. The potential of the design approach, the structure’s responsiveness to feedback inputs, enabled all to interactively engage with the structure throughout the process, and consequently, the exhibition kept evolving until the last minute. The eventual outcome, the built structure is a still-frame, a snapshot, representing a moment in an ongoing process of negotiating the space for an exhibition.
FB, Tokyo & Berlin, July 2006