July 17, 2007

Osnabruck 1 (Germany)

A wooded context set the tone for the final Gigon / Guyer project on our itinerary, the Varusschacht Museum and Park Kalkriese. Once off the main road, a reddish-orange lookout tower came into view, its block form and sharp lines contrasted with the surrounding landscape. A tension was created with the tower's appearance of an "impossible lightness," large 15mm thick weatherproof steel panels (WT-ST 37... similar to Cor Ten (WT-ST 52)) were supported by slender H-beam stellae touching lightly on the ground, anchored in only a few locations. With this posturing, a respect for the existing context was emphasized, and the clear shapes of the museum and park were used to depict historical events as an artistic interpretation (as opposed to display plaques with naturalistic images).

The museum grounds mark the final phase of the 9 A.D. Varus Battle, or "Battle of the Teutoburg Forest" when Germanic tribes led by
Arminius ambushed and destroyed 3 legions of Roman troops (imagine a stretch of troops 9 to 12 miles long) led by Publius Quinctilius Varus. The roman losses in the battle were so great (15-20,000) that they are reported to have caused fits of semi-insanity by Emperor Augustus, who allegedly banged his head into marble colums yelling Quintili Vare, legiones redde! ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!'). Plans for conquesting Germania were given up and the 3 legion numbers were never again used or restructured, ending a period of triumphant expansion for the Roman Empire.

The interior exhibit installation was enlivening, meshing seamlessly with the architecture. Sense was key.. there were expressed sounds of battle, projected moving images, text imprinted on display case glass and steel panels, all piecing together a feel for the times of the great battle. Steel also played a major role on the museum interior. Untreated stainless steel panels for the flooring, cold-rolled steel panels for the foyer hallway, and matte lacquered hot rolled steel panels in the exhibit hall. Surprisingly, the museum didn't feel cold with all this steel use with the clever use of bright colors and warm casework. (Verbal descriptions don't do justice, see the photos!) The lookout tower gave breath-taking views of the surrounding park.

Outside on the park grounds weatherproof steel was also the most eye-catching construction material. The characteristic use of this steel was employed because it (1) demarcated the contemporary addition from the existing grounds (i.e., it is a modern material, widespread use of steel has only been possible since the industrial revolution), and (2) because it was fitting for the site, corroded steel is common in archaeological finds. Steel plates in the landscape, some engraved with text, marked the Roman's death march path and were reminiscent of shields and gravestones. A line of iron poles marked the location of the historic rampart and rusted iron sheet piling cut into the landscape to reveal a reconstruction of an improvised fortification created by the Germanic tribes. Three "box" pavilions of corroded steel set in the grounds offer open-ended views into "Seeing" "Hearing" and "Questioning " as they relate to the historic battlefield, with a relevance that applies to war through modern times.

The clarity achieved by the metaphorical execution of dialogue between architecture, history and landscape along with construction detail transparency have our vote for this being most impressive project in Germany!

1 comment:

  1. dude, i told you it was a wicked project, there's a reason gigon_guyer are one of the better firms out there.

    glad you guys enjoyed it. shit there's a lot i'll have to check out next time i'm overseas...


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