Showcasing the work of Viennese architecture firm COOP HIMMELB(L)AU from the past 40 years, the highly designed, internationally touring exhibition COOP HIMMELB(L)AU: Beyond the Blue makes its U.S. debut at the Wexner Center
April 2–July 26, 2009. First conceived and presented at the MAK, a leading museum of contemporary art and design in Vienna, this multimedia show marks the most comprehensive museum exhibition to date of the firm’s work. It will include approximately 200 architectural models, displayed as an urban landscape on raised platforms with choreographed lighting, graphics, and a film (featuring interviews with COOP design principal Wolf D. Prix) in a rich visual experience recalling an urban landscape plan. A model of the show as it appeared at the MAK will be included, as will a model of the COOP-designed Akron Art Museum addition in a “HIMMELB(L)AU in Ohio” section. Jeffrey Kipnis, professor of architecture at Ohio State’s Knowlton School of Architecture and the Wexner Center’s former curator of architecture and design, is the exhibition's consulting curator.
Notes Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin, “The Wexner Center has a longstanding commitment to presenting the work of bold and innovative architects in dynamic installation contexts. Having seen this remarkable retrospective of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU in Vienna, I was convinced that it could be creatively reconfigured for the Wex, allowing our audiences to appreciate the unique philosophy and design practice that has characterized HIMMELB(L)AU’s work over decades.”
As Kipnis writes in the catalogue, this exhibition “constitutes an explicit critique by COOP HIMMELB(L)AU of urban planning today….demonstrating how easy it would be to make something much better, if only we had the courage.”
Launched in 1968 in the midst of one of the most creative and turbulent periods of the 20th century, COOP HIMMELB(L)AU—now based in Vienna and Los Angeles and led by Wolf D. Prix—has never yielded its radical fervor and has consistently produced exquisite, experimental plans and constructions that reject preconceived notions of design. Among the cooperative’s current and recent projects are the dramatic double cone structure of the new BMW center (BMW Welt) in Munich, the eye-catching addition to the Akron Art Museum (2007), the dramatic headquarters for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (slated for completion 2014), and the Museum of Contemporary Art & Exhibition Planning in Shenzen, China, among other projects. It also recently completed the Central Los Angeles High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts. In the name of the firm, “COOP” signals the firm’s identity as a cooperative; “HIMMELB(L)AU” offers the double meanings of “sky blue” (with the “l”) and “sky construction” (without).