Awards in Architecture tend to cause many discussions and arguments, much as they do in every other sector of the art world. This year’s RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Award was no exception. Merely the fact that the building awarded was not built on English ground cause much controversy. But why should it? Is good architecture confined within borders? Of course not.
David Chipperfield won the UK’s most prestigious architecture award
for the Archive of Modern Literature in Germany. A question asked is why can
the UK produce architects but not architecture? Let us see some examples: Zaha Hadid did only overseas projects before getting a UK
commission, Richard Rogers became famous in Paris with the Pompidou Centre.
Last year the prize went to a building in Madrid. This year alone, four out of the
six British short-listed entries were built outside the UK.
But enough about the arguments. Lets leave those to the committees and magazines. We have an awarded building to see!
The Archives are located in the German city of Marbach‘s scenic park, on top of a rock plateau
overlooking the picturesque valley of the Neckar River. Displaying and
archiving works of 20th century literature, notably the original
manuscripts of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ (which I recently read by coincidence!) and Alfred Döblin’s ‘Berlin
Alexanderplatz’, it provides panoramic views across the distant landscape.
pavilion-like interiors of the building reveal themselves further as the visitor descends down through the display and archive spaces. Then he sees the dark timber-panelled exhibition
galleries, illuminated only by artificial light due to the fragility
and sensitivity of the works on display.
concept is clearly defined: using solid materials (concrete, sandblasted
reconstituted stone with limestone aggregate, limestone, wood, felt and
glass) the rational architectural language is given a sensual
physical presence. The archives opened in September 2006, constructed at a cost of £7 million by Leonard Weiss GmbH. The engineers were Ingenieurgruppe Bauen. The total area is 3800 square meters.
In the words of David Chipperfield, " this building was an attempt to build a bridge between the public and the work of the institute". As we can see from the section above, the building fully takes advantage of the landscape, providing different views depending on the location of the viewer.