A spaceship lands in Graz?

Every time I arrive in a new city, I always look for a highest point, so I can observe the city in peace. In 2004 I visited the industrial city of Graz for the first time, and I did the same thing. I walked up to the Schlossberg, the highest point in the old town. On the hill I only saw red roofs covered by mist and a little blue dot in the middle of the red roofs. It looked like a spaceship had landed in Graz!

where is the spaceship?

I walked down in that direction until I hit the riverside. Across the river I could see a building like a spaceship partially hidden behind the trees. In its side street it stuck up from the older buildings, as if it were playing hide and seek. This alien construction was such an eye-catching thing in the middle of the traditional buildings. I could not stop myself laughing, thinking it looked like an upside-down cow. At the same time, it reminded me of the science fiction films I saw as a child. There was no orthogonal area in the film set, only fluid shape design.

Graz had been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture 2003. Due to this special event an international competition for Kunsthaus Graz took place in 2000. Fully 102 architectural offices joined the competition, and very soon, the jury announced the work of Sir Peter Cook and Colin Fournier to be the winner. Before the building was completed in 2003, 70 percent of the local residents hated it, but after the opening, 70 percent of them loved it. The avant-garde look, with 1068 3D blue acrylic glass plates, is an extreme contrast to the old buildings around it. It does not matter where you stand, every angle and every point of view to the building is different. It provides you with endless possibilities for spatial fantasies.

An eye-catching building

There is a term in architecture called blobitecture, coming from blob architecture. These buildings have a spline, organic, amoeba-shaped, building form. The Kunsthaus Graz is representative of this kind of architecture. They created a brand-new language in the Graz old town and even gave their work a name: A Friendly Alien! The friendly alien is a symbol of Graz city’s future; the old town represents Graz city’s past. It develops an interesting tension between the tradition and innovation.

Inside the museum you can find various exhibitions of contemporary art from the last 40 years. What is very interesting are the 16 nozzles. One nozzle is to let smoke out in the event of fire; another offers a view of the hallmark of Graz, the clock tower. The other 14 nozzles provide for both daylight and artificial light in the upper exhibition space.

Both the inside and outside of Kunsthaus Graz are visually arresting. The BIX Media Facade, a cooperation between light artist and architect, impressed me so much. A total of 946 40-watt fluorescent lamps of the kind commercially available, each with a 40 cm diameter light an area of 900 square metres. They are placed behind the blue acrylic sheets and can be guided and dimmed individually by software and can flash 20 times per second. Many media and light artists’ talents can be showcased in Kunsthaus Graz. They create wonderful shows and share them with everyone in Graz. You can take a short look at the livecam at http://bixcam.kunsthausgraz.at/

After the visual impact, there is a tonal challenge waiting for you. Kunsthaus Graz has its own sound, the Time Piece Graz! The sound artist Max Neuhaus made a five-minute sound track for the facility. At 10 to the hour, an audibe signal begins, and the sound gradually grows. Five minutes before the hour, at its peak, it suddenly stops, creating a moment of stillness. He wanted to create a sound that enters the consciousness of passers-by when it disappears. It was an unusual experience.

Graz and Bilbao are both industrial cities and both had problems with high unemployment. Going through the art movement both cities transform to art temples for all art lovers. Can a single museum change the entire city’s image? Yes, I guess so. The side effect of Kunsthaus Graz is not only profitable by bringing in tourists – it also has positive effects to the gentrification process, artist groups and new possibilities for business, for instance gastronomy, in this area.

The friendly alien makes friends with its neighbours. And more than just being friends, the neighbouring building invited an artist, Esther Stocker, to paint on the fire-proof wall between two buildings. Now they all can share public art with everybody. A Happy Ending.




The neighbouring building asks the friendly alien: Mirror Mirror on the wall…


格拉茲被選為2003年歐洲文化之都, 因此2000年舉辦了藝術館國際競圖。有102個建築事務所參賽, 很快的建築師彼得·庫克(Sir Peter Cook)及科林·傅里爾(Colin Fournier)被評審全數選為首獎。2003年完工之前甚至有七成的人厭惡這個與眾不同的建築, 但是開幕後反而七成的人欣賞它。前衛的外型以1068片3D寶藍色壓克力嵌板拼貼而成,矗立在格拉茲古色古香的老建築舊城區,形成強烈的對比,不管從何種距離、何種角度觀看都有不同的風貌,讓人有無限的想像空間。

有一個建築術語叫做blobitecture (blob architecture). 這是稱呼流線型,有機的曲線造型,像變形蟲形狀的建築物。格拉茲藝術館就是這一種風格的代表。在格拉茲老城區他們創造一個全新前衛的語言。而且他們給這個作品一個名稱:A Friendly Alien!友善的外星物代表了格拉茲市的未來,老城是格拉茲市的過去,在傳統及前衛創新中形成有趣的張力。

裡面展示的是近代40年的現代藝術品。 非常有趣的是16個噴頭造形的天窗。其中一個天窗是火災時的濃煙出口處, 有一個是可以看到當地有名的地標 – 鐘塔。其他的14個天窗是給需要自然及人造光線的展覽區使用。

藝術館裡外不但是視覺上的衝擊, 還有燈光藝術家和建築師合作的BIX燈光幕牆讓我印象深刻。946個直徑40公分的40瓦圓形日光燈被安置在900平方公尺大的寶藍色壓克力嵌板後方, 藉由特殊軟體每一個燈可以特別控制也可以一秒閃20次。媒體藝術家在這裡發揮他們的天份, 讓大家分享他們設計的燈光秀。有現場實況攝影可以看看喔: Livecam—–> http://bixcam.kunsthausgraz.at/

Kunsthaus Graz in the night

視覺的衝擊不夠, 還有聽覺的挑戰。格拉茲藝術館有自己的聲音! 音效藝術師Max Neuhaus 為藝術館設計5分鐘的音效, 每整點的10分鐘前會開始幾乎聽不到的聲響, 真的必須很仔細的去聽, 會慢慢越來越大聲, 5分鐘後到達高峰後突然完全消音。他想傳達的是我們周遭都會有聲音, 但是我們並不會有知覺。反而在這些聲音突然消失時候才會發現。很另類的體驗。

格拉茲和畢爾包都是工業城市, 都曾經有高失業率的問題。經由藝術文化的洗禮下蛻變成藝術愛好者的殿堂。一個單一的博物館能改變一個城市的形象嗎? 我想, 是的。格拉茲藝術館的附加價值不是只有觀光, 它帶來的都市更新效果, 人文藝術氣息及商機(飲食業)都是不可小看的。

友善的外星物不但成了鄰居的好朋友, 甚至鄰居的房子也讓藝術家 (Esther Stocker) 來防火牆上發揮, 一起共享公共藝術。快樂的句點。

Conference room with the view to the neighbouring building.