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Michel de Certeau: Spatial Stories

Blog Interview

Klotz's Last Tapes

Pomo's Chronicler on Show at the DAM

  • This is Heinrich Klotz. Educated as a philosopher and art historian, Klotz (1935-1999) spread his interests in the broadest sense... (Photo: Fred van Arkel, 1988) 1 / 26  This is Heinrich Klotz. Educated as a philosopher and art historian, Klotz (1935-1999) spread his interests in the broadest sense... (Photo: Fred van Arkel, 1988)
  • ...and with his travels his interest in architecture grew steadily... (All images: Heinrich Klotz, © Bildarchiv der HfG Karlsruhe) 2 / 26  ...and with his travels his interest in architecture grew steadily... (All images: Heinrich Klotz, © Bildarchiv der HfG Karlsruhe)
  • ...and he would always make notes in his diaries about the buildings he visited and, even more interesting, about the architects he met. 3 / 26  ...and he would always make notes in his diaries about the buildings he visited and, even more interesting, about the architects he met.
  • Like Peter Cook, photographed here in front of the Klotz’s family house in 1980... 4 / 26  Like Peter Cook, photographed here in front of the Klotz’s family house in 1980...
  • Philip Johnson in New York in 1987: “He still has a great deal of power – he sits on MoMA’s Board of Trustees and frightens people. Johnson is 80 – a thin, dried-up old man with massive, owlish glasses.” 5 / 26  Philip Johnson in New York in 1987: “He still has a great deal of power – he sits on MoMA’s Board of Trustees and frightens people. Johnson is 80 – a thin, dried-up old man with massive, owlish glasses.”
  • Rem Koolhaas in Frankfurt, 1980: “He’s always flying around, always in a hurry, and when he describes his plans or his buildings, he just gestures with his hands a bit, never really trying to make a point or get into the details.” 6 / 26  Rem Koolhaas in Frankfurt, 1980: “He’s always flying around, always in a hurry, and when he describes his plans or his buildings, he just gestures with his hands a bit, never really trying to make a point or get into the details.”
  • Aldo Rossi on the terrace of his apartment in Milan. 7 / 26  Aldo Rossi on the terrace of his apartment in Milan.
  • September 1986: “Invited to Arata Isozaki’s in the evening. A very tasteful house, with restrained modern interiors. The proportions are Japanese: I hit my head on the door’s lintel almost immediately.” 8 / 26  September 1986: “Invited to Arata Isozaki’s in the evening. A very tasteful house, with restrained modern interiors. The proportions are Japanese: I hit my head on the door’s lintel almost immediately.”
  • A visit to Arata Isozaki’s office, September 1986. 9 / 26  A visit to Arata Isozaki’s office, September 1986.
  • Isozaki: Civic Center in Tsukuba from 1983. 10 / 26  Isozaki: Civic Center in Tsukuba from 1983.
  • Isozaki: Museum Gunma in Takasaki from 1974. 11 / 26  Isozaki: Museum Gunma in Takasaki from 1974.
  • Visiting Tadao Ando in 1986: “Ando seemed to emit the aura of genius – more so than Isozaki, Kurokawa, or Takamatsu. His childlike eyes were the eyes of Adam, seeking out the origins of things.” 12 / 26  Visiting Tadao Ando in 1986: “Ando seemed to emit the aura of genius – more so than Isozaki, Kurokawa, or Takamatsu. His childlike eyes were the eyes of Adam, seeking out the origins of things.”
  • Kisho Kurokawa: Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo from 1972. 13 / 26  Kisho Kurokawa: Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo from 1972.
  • Shin Takamatsu: Week Building in Kyoto from 1986. “Takamatsu is the opposite of Ando: expressive, almost showman-like, with an imagination that can be wild at times. His buildings are often over-designed, but...” 14 / 26  Shin Takamatsu: Week Building in Kyoto from 1986. “Takamatsu is the opposite of Ando: expressive, almost showman-like, with an imagination that can be wild at times. His buildings are often over-designed, but...”
  • “...still highly interesting and imaginative. I liked his early buildings the most – the Ark dental clinic, which looks like a mix between a locomotive, an ark, and a domed gothic building.” (Photo: The Ark, Kyoto, 1983) 15 / 26  “...still highly interesting and imaginative. I liked his early buildings the most – the Ark dental clinic, which looks like a mix between a locomotive, an ark, and a domed gothic building.” (Photo: The Ark, Kyoto, 1983)
  • Takamatsus “Pharaoh” in Kyoto (from 1984): “The bolts that are drilled into the concrete all over the façade are also striking. They turn into a kind of technoid surface ornament.” 16 / 26  Takamatsus “Pharaoh” in Kyoto (from 1984): “The bolts that are drilled into the concrete all over the façade are also striking. They turn into a kind of technoid surface ornament.”
  • New York, 1980: “I visited Richard Meier, who, like Venturi, wouldn’t show me his project for the Frankfurt competition.” 17 / 26  New York, 1980: “I visited Richard Meier, who, like Venturi, wouldn’t show me his project for the Frankfurt competition.”
  • “The visit to his office made clear that he surrounds himself with things that are very suited to his style and his understanding of architecture in his daily life as well.” 18 / 26  “The visit to his office made clear that he surrounds himself with things that are very suited to his style and his understanding of architecture in his daily life as well.”
  • “His office is conspicuously clean, all the walls are painted white, even the telephone is white – and the architectural models that lie everywhere – were spookily white, and looked like dream houses, built and not built.” 19 / 26  “His office is conspicuously clean, all the walls are painted white, even the telephone is white – and the architectural models that lie everywhere – were spookily white, and looked like dream houses, built and not built.”
  • Richard Meier: Saltzman House, East Hampton, 1969. 20 / 26  Richard Meier: Saltzman House, East Hampton, 1969.
  • Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry in front of their country home in Lakeside, April 1985. 21 / 26  Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry in front of their country home in Lakeside, April 1985.
  • Rue des Hautes Formes, Paris 1979: “Christian de Portzamparc is a very introverted person. Conversation seems painful for him, and the presence of other people seems to make his skin crawl. But his gaze is very clear, very certain.” 22 / 26  Rue des Hautes Formes, Paris 1979: “Christian de Portzamparc is a very introverted person. Conversation seems painful for him, and the presence of other people seems to make his skin crawl. But his gaze is very clear, very certain.”
  • “Charles Moore is the picture of modesty. He puts on no airs whatsoever. Although he knows that he counts among the most significant architects of the day, he demands no special attention.” 23 / 26  “Charles Moore is the picture of modesty. He puts on no airs whatsoever. Although he knows that he counts among the most significant architects of the day, he demands no special attention.”
  • MLTW (Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull and Richard Whitaker): Sea Ranch Condominium, Sonoma County, California 1965. 24 / 26  MLTW (Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull and Richard Whitaker): Sea Ranch Condominium, Sonoma County, California 1965.
  • “Wonderwall”, Expo 1984: “I really enjoy seeing how Charles managed to make a wonderland out of the fantasy drawings he’d been very guarded about, sending them out only as Christmas cards.” (Photo:Bill Cotter) 25 / 26  “Wonderwall”, Expo 1984: “I really enjoy seeing how Charles managed to make a wonderland out of the fantasy drawings he’d been very guarded about, sending them out only as Christmas cards.” (Photo:Bill Cotter)
  • Wunderkammer Klotz. The installation of “Mission:Postmodern” at DAM in Frankfurt. (Photo: Uwe Dettmar) 26 / 26  Wunderkammer Klotz. The installation of “Mission:Postmodern” at DAM in Frankfurt. (Photo: Uwe Dettmar)

Heinrich Klotz (1935-1999) was the founder of Germany’s first museum to focus on architecture alone: the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (German Architecture Museum) DAM in Frankfurt, which opened in 1984.

The DAM is now hosting an exhibition revealing the treasure trove that Heinrich Klotz has left us. Because not only did he convince the city of Frankfurt of the necessity for such a museum, but he was also able to acquire early works from the likes of Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman, Aldo Rossi, and many others. Klotz always documented his visits to architects with photographs, recordings and notes in his diaries which, shown here, have proved to be a unique collection of observations and documents of a time when Postmodernism was in the ascendent. In this interview with uncube’s Florian Heilmeyer, DAM curator Oliver Elser explains why, in his opinion, Klotz is one of the three key protagonists of Postmodernism.


FH: Heinrich Klotz was an art historian. How did he come to found a museum dedicated solely to architecture?

OE: Klotz always went beyond the bounds of his profession. In addition to art history he studied philosophy and archaeology. He wrote for newspapers, and clearly had a knack for explaining things to a wide audience. Above all, he was a man of action who possessed charm and charisma. As a professor in Marburg he was a vocal advocate of the preservation of the old town, but not purely in terms of conservation. He invited contemporary architects like James Stirling, Charles Moore, and Oswald Mathias Ungers to draw up their visions for the city – none of it was ever realised, but these contacts and his talents made him an ideal museum founder.

“Charles Moore is the picture of modesty. He puts on no airs whatsoever. Although he knows that he counts among the most significant architects of the day, he demands no special attention.”

He began the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt in 1979. It was the first institution in Germany dedicated exclusively to architecture and among the first of its kind in the world. What led him to do this?

Klotz said that in 1969 he wanted to interview Mies van der Rohe in Chicago, but only managed to see a few models at his office. Mies was already quite ill and died shortly thereafter. When Klotz returned to Mies’ office, the models were gone. For him, this was the moment at which it became clear that a place was needed to preserve the authentic evolution of the design process: an architecture museum.

Philip Johnson in New York in 1987: “He still has a great deal of power – he sits on MoMA’s Board of Trustees and frightens people. Johnson is 80 – a thin, dried-up old man with massive, owlish glasses.”

As its “founding father” Klotz’s role is naturally central to the DAM. But what is the international significance of the collection and the observations made by Klotz in his records?

It is beyond doubt that Klotz, along with Charles Jencks and Paolo Portoghesi, was one of the most important protagonists of postmodernism. The exhibition focuses on three main aspects of Klotz’s tape recordings and the architectural works that he acquired for the DAM collection. Firstly, there’s the confrontation with postmodernism: it is amazing to discover in Klotz’s diaries the amount of contention there was at the time about it. Secondly, it is about how architects in the 1980s began to produce “art” as a strategy, in order to turn at least some sort of a profit. We present works by Koolhaas, Hadid, Eisenman, Ungers, Venturi, Rossi, Moore, Coop Himmelblau, Gehry, and Mies van der Rohe. We also look at the development of their prices. In 1989, an A5-sized sketch by Mies was worth $4,000 USD. Three years later, it was going for five times as much!

And thirdly, we ask: What is an architecture museum actually? That was a central question for Klotz as well. Despite the collection that he assembled, he remained sceptical of the museum approach. It should not be antiquated. He wanted to create a culture of debate, discourse, and knowledge through opposing positions.

Visiting Tadao Ando in 1986: “Ando seemed to emit the aura of genius – more so than Isozaki, Kurokawa, or Takamatsu. His childlike eyes were the eyes of Adam, seeking out the origins of things.”

Why was Klotz so interested in postmodernism? Was it his attempt to negotiate architecture in as contemporary a way as possible, so that it did not become “antiquated”, as you put it?

Klotz disagreed with Jencks and abhorred much of what he celebrated in his books. He also struggled at length with himself, as to whether or not he should use Jencks’ notion of postmodernism as applied to architecture. Yet ultimately, he did use it, for the first DAM show in 1984, titled “Revision of Modernity. Postmodern Architecture 1960-80”. It seems that everyone was unhappy with the term – basically no one wanted their buildings to be labelled as “postmodern”. Ungers also never wanted to be linked to postmodernism, and in fact vehemently rejected it.

I think that Klotz understood that the times were changing: the heroic spirit of early modernism had been exhausted by the 1960s or 1970s at the latest. He hated brutalism, for example, and described it‘s buildings as autistic concrete mountains. Klotz always sought a conciliatory, human, and popular architecture – and found it in the pop-hippie Charles Moore, in Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and in Frank Gehry’s own house.

What was the allure of postmodernism for him?

Klotz’s relationship to postmodernism was quite ambivalent, and he rejected much of it. But he also called it an architecture of “friendly protest against the seriousness and earnestness of the world”. I think that this sense of joy was more important than the stylistic citations, the historical references, and all those serious motives from around 1975, from which postmodernism had emerged as a form of protest.

And why do you feel that postmodernism is so important today?

For me, postmodernism is an era in which many taboos collapsed. Its architecture once again placed itself in a historical tradition that did not seek to break or exclude, but which was decidedly interested in history and context. It did not seek confrontation, but rather reconciliation with the existing city. Its only clear line of demarcation was with regard to modernism; like every notable era, it turned against its immediate predecessor.

Postmodernism spawned an architecture that was mocked for its citations, its little gables and pillars, and which today is practically shunned. Personally, this “ironic turn” inspires me. I find the attitude of protest in postmodernism, as well as its strong desire to build with popular appeal, as both highly interesting and topical. Historical distance helps us to appreciate and understand buildings, like James Stirling’s Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, no longer as intimidating, but rather as a quite remarkable contrast to everything else at the time. Or Hans Hollein’s Museum for Modern Art in Frankfurt: there you can feel how intensively the architect addressed its interior spaces. The surrealistic moments created by all of its citations and pathways are inspiring. These buildings announce: “I am different, read me. Grasp me, learn to understand me. Engage with me.” It can sometimes seem penetrating, strenuous, and didactic – but it can also be immensely stimulating.

Interview: Florian Heilmeyer

 

MISSION: POSTMODERN – Heinrich Klotz and the Wunderkammer DAM
Deutsches Architekturmuseum
Schaumainkai 43
60596 Frankfurt am Main
Until October 19, 2014

Arch+ has just released its 216th issue in cooperation with the DAM as the (almost) full documentation of the “Klotz Tapes”.

Julia Brandes devoted part of her diploma project at the HfG Karlsruhe to digitalizing the enormous image archive of Heinrich Klotz which is now publicly accessible here.

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