Most people hunting for a new apartment avoid those on offer located on main roads, as they're considered too loud and too dirty. Instead, the preference tends to be homes in more idyllic locations. And store owners, well they tend to find that main roads lack the passers-by who might just drop in by chance. Not Vitra, which draws a benefit from what others consider a disadvantageous location. The Swiss furniture maker's showroom in Frankfurt is located on an intersection on a five-lane one-way street complete with traffic lights. When the lights turn red every three minutes the cars stop right next to the shop windows. With its "Lights Change" project, Vitra exploits this fact - now for the fifth time it has invited architects from the region to redesign the entire showroom as they see fit for a total of three weeks. There are no rules, other than that it must be possible to return the showroom to its original state afterwards. For the architects who in "real life" have to adhere to building plans and any manner of other regulations, this is tantamount to enjoying complete liberty.
For the offices invited to participate, 3deluxe transdisciplinary design from Wiesbaden, a5 Planung from Wiesbaden, Bernhardt + Partner from Darmstadt, Kontext Architektur from Frankfurt, KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten likewise from Frankfurt and Planquadrat Elfers Geskes Krämer from Darmstadt, have dared to attempt something new. They simply abandoned the subdivision of offices by shop window and created a joint undertaking.
Taking as their own theme the idea of "stop/motion" they have now elected not only to transform the shop windows but the entire showroom, too. The Vitra furniture has been stored elsewhere, with only a few lecterns left in the installation. Vitra's customers will hardly be unsettled by the lack of product presentations as most of them really appreciate Vitra's commitment, its charming ability to think out of the box, as Alexandra Düll of Kontext Architektur puts it.
The first meeting between all the conspirators took place in early February, followed by regular workshops at which the respective design was jointly discussed. Assembly work for the new "Lights Change" started in August and the Showroom now boasts a curved platform on which several organic seating isles have been set. In this way, they share a joint presentation area or, as Max Diemand from 3deluxe puts it, there's "a scenographic frame" for the individual exhibits. The idea: to create a tactile world that can be experienced personally and will astonish, a flowing configuration on the plinth that highlights the notion the architects all had of doing something together. On the plinth, the individual presentations by the six are on display, whereby they tried to avoid simply presenting their designs - "that was the brief we set ourselves," comments Jennifer Herzog of a5 Architekten.
The Frankfurt-based office installed a total of seven so-called "loopers", telescopes that present street scenes from other cities in an endless filmed loop. KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten built a huge angel's trumpet that seemingly sucked the street space outside the window inside while freezing it in motion. Kontext Architektur came up with two automats that highlight dynamism and frozen movement, that characteristic of traffic lights, playfully referring viewers to the phases of waiting and movement. 3deluxe has built a black block or box with 78 cold cathode tubes at work illuminating it. Bernhardt + Partner designed a room full of tennis balls that adapt to the user's movements. And while touring the show, thanks to Planquadrat visitors can carry a drink around with them in a house that is reduced quite literally to a handy size.
From the outside, longitudinal strips glued to the shop window panes and resembling a kind of barcode indicate that something inside has changed. At irregular intervals the strips reveal what is going on inside. "The idea is for people on the outside to get an idea of the inside but the focus of the exhibition is in the interior," is how Marie Sobe of Planquadrat explains the transformation of the shop window front. The strips round out the fifth "Lights Change" the way the icing does on cake, suggesting that the viewer creates a kind of stop-motion film by moving along outside the broad line of shop windows.
From August 18 - September 7, 2011
Vitra Showroom, Frankfurt/Main