Coop Himmelb(l)au


The name Coop Himmelb(l)au wavers between “sky-building” and “sky-blue”. This name underpinned the agency’s paradoxical programme, drawn up in 1968 in Vienna by Wolf D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michaël Holzer. Their 40-year career has involved them in constructions dealing with the most diverse of programmes. It was in the ferment of protest in the late 1960s that they embarked on utopian projects such as Villa Rosa. Their architectural installations and happenings were accompanied in those days by scathing manifesto texts. Situated on the borderline between architecture, art and theory, their praxis vehemently lambasted established codes and promoted the “openness” of architecture, not only in its forms, but in its very process of development. “Open architecture” would be crystallized in a manifesto-like project of deconstruction, the Open House, where the creation of forms corresponded to an approach to automatic writing which re-injected into the conception of the project a subjective and random dimension, hitherto obliterated in architecture. In their early works, the building was conceived like a foreign body which has to “amplify” urban tensions through an asserted autonomy. It was the force fields between constructions which from then on created space. The forms of Coop Himmelb(l)au’s buildings thus did away with all compromise and harmony: they were sculptural and dislocated, and made a powerful impact in their context.

Coop Himmelb(l)au was created in Vienna in 1968 by Wolf D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michaël Holzer, who left the group in 1971. Alongside their uncompleted projects (Villa Rosa, 1967-68)—sometimes for fortuitous reasons (Open House, 1983-92)--, they produced several buildings which illustrate their approach, such as the Funder Werk III (1998), the Gröningen Museum (1994), the Akron Museum (2001-2006), the Musée des Confluences, in Lyon (2014) and the BMW Museum, inaugurated in Munich in 2007, among the agency’s many other major projects.

Nadine Labedade

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