Host and Guest (Zhu-Ke 主客)
August 23, 2009
Last Week I went flying with Ulli and Nora in a small 4-seater plane and we went from Berlin to Neuss to look at Tadao Ando’s Langen Foundation exhibition building for the day.
It is a really impressive and powerful building in his trademark off-form concrete, which one approaches from a cutout in a semi-circular wall in the middle of a former NATO base in the landscape of the Hombroich cultural prescient.
The thing that struck me most is the different way Tadao Ando and I. M. Pei handled exhibition spaces, since earlier this year I also saw Pei’s extension to the Deutschen Historischen Museums in Berlin, where I am living now.
In an exhibition space there is always the question which is the guest and which is the host? Should the space serve the exhibits or the other way around?
In Ando’s Langen exhibition building, it is all about circulation, manipulating the viewers from one end of the complex to another, so there are mostly flows and little containment and that is one of the reasons why this building very powerful. As Ulli said at the end of the day, “I don’t have a “ganying” 感應 (mutual resonance) with this building, but I am awed and impressed by it”.
Whereas in Pei extension in Berlin, he separated the public circulation spaces from the exhibition spaces, so while the public circulation space is also powerful and impressive, strong enough to compliment the main building across the road, the exhibition space is very intimate and served the purpose of what it is meant to do.
There is a yin/yang interplay in Pei’s building that is missing in Ando’s masterpiece, which one gets the impression that the work of art is there to serve the building instead the other way around. One comes to look at Ando’s building and not the paintings on display. In Pei’s Berlin extension, I can see that his space is the host in the public circulation area and then his space switched to being the guest, when one enters into the exhibition halls, allowing the work on display to do their magic.
Apart from the picture of our little plane with Nora at the front and Ulli behind on the other side of the plane, I have attached the two floor plans below and if one looks at the circulation patterns of the two buildings, one will understand the importance of deciding which should be the host and which should be the guest and in what occasion, because the result will definitely affect the Feng Shui of a place, with a different atmosphere and feeling.