Hans Hollein’s Rudimentary Effects

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Entry to the Austriennale

I’ve gotten a few questions about my header photo, so I’ll explain. It’s a photo of visitors to Hans Hollein’s Austrian Pavilion at the ill-fated ’68 Milan Triennale. The installation consisted of a series of hallways, each of a different length and exploring a different spatial or conceptual effect: a catalogue of environments, some pleasurable, others off-putting. It falls right in line with Hollein’s earlier projects for underground environments and his faith in modern technology’s ability at simulation. He was preoccupied in this period with the possibilities of environmental control. Instead of creating real environments, why not simulate them? Architecture then dissolves into the production of special (or spatial) effects.

Plan of the Austiennale

Plan of the Austriennale

Speculating on these architectural effects, Hollein created such absurd and obtuse concepts as environments in aerosol and pill form. While clearly ironic, these proposals stem from Hollein’s previous engagements with mimetic underground environments with Walter Pichler and his early “floating stones” collages. He also produced a series of designs for sunglasses, in which framing and coloration are explored as rudimentary architectural effects. These “virtual realities” are perhaps the lowest or most basic form of architecture: a change of environment through augmentation. These experiments proved, for Hollein, to be dead ends. One wonders, however, what form they would have taken had Hollein been born thirty years later. His radical speculations on this subject could easily have come to a higher level of development in today’s intellectual and technological climate.

Hollein’s primitive experiments with the possibilities of effect and simulation have been mostly forgotten, but their trajectories seem to predate to some of today’s most pressing concerns and speculations. These projects imply much more than the ironic detachment from disciplinary issues others have attributed to them. Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the architectural possibilities of such rudimentary effects.

Strange sunglasses distributed at the exhibition

Strange sunglasses distributed at the exhibition

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