The Berlage

Session Room K

Conceptual Mannerism, or Learning from Carlo Mollino

Wilfried Kuehn

Mannerism is usually being associated with highly idiosyncratic forms including a degree of extravagance if not affectation. Historically, mannerism is also used to describe very subjective artistic works and expressions if not outright artistic crisis like the period following the High Renaissance. Having become known for his extravagant designs starting in the critical 1930s, Carlo Mollino appears to fall into this category for more than one reason. However, we may look at mannerism and at Carlo Mollino in yet another way. What if mannerism is less reactive and also less self-indulgent but something different: a form of radical realism. As Hermann Czech argued in 1977,‘Mannerism is the conceptual approach to accepting reality on the necessary level in each case; it permits that openness and imagination which allows external processes to be set in motion and to be accepted without the insincere fiction that architecture gives up its claim to create experiences: open, but nonetheless defined; poor, but nevertheless comfortable.’Looking at Carlo Mollino’s work from this perspective, we may see in him a design position from which we can learn how to approach reality with a strong interest in contexts as found, in heterogenous situations to be dealt with and in contradictions to be made fruitful. Starting from here and analyzing Carlo Mollino’s multidisciplinary practice, we may look differently at professionalism and disciplinary discourse, discerning knowledge production in the liminal spaces rather than in the disciplines as such.This is the second in a seven-part lecture thematic series entitled “The Architect as Generalist.” Scholars and practitioners will explore how architecture practice is inherently expansive and cross-disciplinary, from the Renaissance to the present. Lectures in the series will examine how architects are not only comfortable designing buildings and cities but also furniture, exhibitions, books, films, fashion, amongst other things. Topics in the series include the architect as the Renaissance Man, Carlo Mollino’s Conceptual Mannerism, the intersections between architecture and fashion in the work of Prada and OMA/AMO, the designs of Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s from the spoon to the city, the architecture of book design, architectural practice as a field of research, and new forms of professional practice.

Wilfried Kuehn is partner in the architectural firm Kuehn Malvezzi in Berlin. An architect, designer, and curator, he directs the Department of Spatial Design at the Vienna University of Technology. From 2006 to 2012 he was Professor for Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice at the Karlsruhe University for Arts and Design/ZKM where he founded Displayer, a periodical focusing on curatorial design. In 2011 he curated the exhibition Carlo Mollino. Maniera Moderna together with Armin Linke at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Hollein at MAK Vienna in 2014, and ithe exhibition Wohnungsfrage at HKW in Berlin in 2015. With Kuehn Malvezzi he has earned a reputation in museum architecture and exhibition design for projects such as Documenta 11, the extension of the Hamburger Bahnhof—Museum der Gegenwart in Berlin, the Julia Stoschek Collection in Düsseldorf, the extension and museography of the Museum Belvedere in Vienna; as well as the extension of the Modern Gallery of the Saarlandmuseum in Saarbrucken. Kuehn Malvezzi has participatedin the Manifesta 7 in Trento; in the Venice Architecture Biennial 2006, 2012, and 2014; and the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015 and 2017.

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