Pavilion 333—stage vs. emptiness
What remains is the pavilion. Both in design and in name, it can be found again in the new temporary building built on the Türkenstrasse on a meadow next to the Türkentor. However, the term "pavilion" marked the beginning of the current structure at a completely different location.
For the 2018 Biennale, a group of DesignBuild practicing lecturers from the dbxchange.eu network came together with the TUM Architecture Museum in order to prepare an application for the German Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice.
The idea envisaged a live construction site which, furnished with students from various universities and colleges, would ensure a constantly lively, self-developing exhibition for the entire duration of the Biennale. Instead of this application, CRAFT—involving Marianne Birtler and the internal German border—won the race. Yet the idea of a live contribution to the exhibition was retained and transferred to Munich, as was the need for the DesignBuild teaching method to be made more visible in the form of an exhibition at a renowned location.
The construction site of the pavilion was to start at the same time as the “DesignBuild—Experience in Action” exhibition at the TUM Architecture Museum, and give exhibition visitors the opportunity for an own "experience in action." The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions ruined the timeline and the direct connection with the exhibition.
Nonetheless, and in part this can be traced back to the other roots of the project, the building was still built despite the inauspicious initial situation. These roots lie in the combination of actors and their spatial needs, which have existed for a long time. Pavilion 333, as it will be called after the opening, will bring the various Pinakothek der Moderne collections, the Brandhorst collection, and the TUM Department of Architecture under one roof. These two museums had already articulated their needs for a space for art education when they opened, which would have been fulfilled by the second construction phase of the Pinakothek der Moderne, but construction is still not in sight, while the Department of Architecture of the Technical University, which is also part of the museum quarter, is squeezed on its edge and is striving for visibility in street space.
The task of building the pavilion on a prominent site in the city was generated from this dialectic of needs. The simultaneous juxtaposition of the exhibition, on the one hand, and the focused work atmosphere, on the other hand, forms the core of the design. The associated contrast between visibility and concealment remains legible. In an urban planning interpretation, a curtain actually suggests somewhere to live, so does it conceal actual use, does it even invite people to live there?
Before you seek out answers to these questions, it is worth taking a step back to the empty meadow: the meadow as a place of longing for dog owners; emptiness as the optimal condition for Walter de Maria's Large Red Sphere and monument protection; the meadow as a place of invisible media in the soil; emptiness as an undesigned residual area around the Pinakothek der Moderne and as a placeholder for the second construction phase; the meadow, parking lot, and driveway as a field of tension and a stage for major urban points of contention—all distilled into an area measuring 15 x 15 meters. The needs of dog owners clash with those of car parkers, which in turn come up against the sun-hungry lunch crowd and the expectant audience of high culture, with its demanding sponsors.
Thus 15 x 15 meters, or some 1,300 cubic meters of enfolded air, now make up this podium; the space in front of the Türkentor comes to a standstill toward the south and no longer flows away. The ephemeral wooden structure, with its translucent shell interrupted by glass strips, arranged like a windmill, for viewing, creates the necessary degree of concealment for the art education program while the glass caesura prevents a cutting off from the surroundings.
The pavilion is thus intended to connect institutions located in the Kunstareal and form a first, low-threshold, open point of contact for the entire precinct. As early as during the planning period, the pavilion, which at that time only existed in a personified form, managed to bring together representatives of the four collections of the Pinakothek der Moderne, the Brandhorst collection, and the Department of Architecture—and get them talking. Here, too, the shape of the building that was being created stretched into an almost amoeba-like structure.
Now the concurrence of numerous interests is per se an integral part of activity—in the construction context as in any other kind of project process. In this case, however, ideas, wishes, and projections all condensed on the polycarbonate of the façade and pearled off it before the first element was even positioned. Even in the so-called classic environment of DesignBuild projects, namely in the Global South, one is used to the fact that this type of construction project stirs people and softens boundaries; but how surprising was the force and, at the same time, bubblegum slowness with which this happened for one very small building in front of the TU's doors—compared with the neighboring structure.
At this point, it may be necessary to briefly sketch the time constraints of a DesignBuild project in general, and the legal peculiarities of such projects in connection with construction work in the western world. There are interfaces between two co-existing realities which, as the normal course or career of professional existence dictates, must follow one another. Hence if one wishes to widen the interface and enable bidirectional exchange, this quickly becomes a challenge, both in terms of time and organization. The perpetual tempo would be predetermined by the division of the academic year into two semesters and of these into lecturing periods and lecture-free periods, whereas involved project partners outside academia would naturally be suspended to other timelines. There are also the students—to whom a maximum of self-sufficiency and responsibility in the design process, and also in concrete planning, should be conveyed—who often still lack the tools of the trade with regard to their studenty, sometimes utopian design tasks.
In contrast to a student job in a planning office, a DesignBuild project transfers the planning responsibility to the students but, and this is where the second interface comes into play, but only up to the point at which this country’s legal reality prescribes that liability be assumed, or a certain timeline be adhered to. The extent of the balancing act conducted by project managers is defined by holding back and pushing students toward a tangible result. Hence the tightrope walk between, on the one hand, teaching and the resulting learning effect and, on the other hand, the need to adhere to schedules and deliver effective results, defines the project framework, especially for a DesignBuild project in an environment informed by rules and standards.
It is precisely because of the special nature of DesignBuild projects that it is easier to question existing processes and stretch boundaries which, in the case of a conventional building project, could quickly spell out the end. The temporary orientation of the building helps, as does the supposedly rigid temporal structure which, in the end, does make it possible to set up a building, from the first sketch to completion, within a limited time period—one year in the case of the pavilion.
But let us return to emptiness and the meadow. Without any doubt, both the pavilion and the creative process offered, and still offer, a source of friction for the city, the Kunstareal, and all those involved in its creation. Now the emptiness of the place on the Türkenstrasse is shifting a little further toward the Gabelsbergerstrasse, while the functionality of the meadow has been retained or even increased by the fact that the stage mentioned at the beginning is now becoming palpable and being constructed. The hope entwined with the opening of the pavilion—whose date cannot yet be set, another special feature of pandemic times—would be that discussions that arose through construction and are symptomatic of an urban society like Munich’s can now be conducted in this very same building; that a space has been created that can be more than just an extension of certain functions of the institutions involved—a space that really flags the low-threshold contact point in the Kunstareal; and that a degree of accessibility enabling inclusion at all levels has been achieved.
In order to enable long-term acceptance of the project among the urban population and even, perhaps, break down existing prejudices, it is imperative to avoid exclusive, closed events, and turn the place into one that offers space in an exposed location, of which there are so few in this city—to offer a space for young, non-commercial, creative, art-loving ideas and their execution. It is only in this way that the building will become part of the urban public sphere and boundaries between outside and inside will become blurred, while the textile coating of the curtain will also shake off the isolation effect that it could have brought about if we were dealing with an exclusive place. It will be transformed into a translucent layer that suggests an interior and makes you eager to step in, to take part, and become part of.