the Austrian Cultural Forum

GÃŒnther Domenig, on the architect's imagination.

I love visiting the Austrian Cultural Forum building. Once you've greeted the very-New York concierge guy behind the desk inside the door of the narrow 24-story tower on 52nd Street, you could actually be in Wien. The two-year-old building designed by Raimund Abraham is that modern. And, yes, I really mean that about the city. The former capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire is no longer just old. Go see for yourself.

Anyway, back in New York, yesterday I stopped by the Forum's current exhibition, “GÃŒnther Domenig: Structures that Fit My Nature,” which unfortunately offers only a tantalizing and impressionistic glimpse of the work of the interesting Styrian architect GÃŒnther Domenig. The modest spaces which occupy four levels of the building are mostly devoted to just two projects, the Steinhaus in Steindorf, KÀrnten (Carinthia) and the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Center) in Nuremberg, and there is precious little guidance to those (the supply of the show's brochure had been exhausted long before I arrived).

The first structure is Domenig's own still-evolving dwelling and offices on the shores of a vacation lake, and the second is his striking deconsecration of the notorious Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

One of the most useful (and stylish) elements of the installation was the wall-size video screen interview with the architect (edited as a monolog spliced with photographs of his work) which occupied one of the rooms. I think it should be recommended viewing for anyone who wishes to understand where truly new architecture should start. I wish I had taken notes, but Domenig says something profound about the relationship between the architecture in the architect's head and the architecture which has to be constructed in the messy real world.

I loved the little wooden dock shown in the video; it seems to have made the transition.

The causes for his repeated exasperation, and his extraordinary perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles, helps to explain why we get almost no truly exciting buildings in New York these days. We have to insist on great patrons as well as great architects.

the dream

[GÃŒnther Domenig STONEHAUS, Relations PPP 1987 pencil and color pencil, installation view]


The Cultural Forum has some more wonderful programming lined up over the next two months. First there will be an exhibition of figurative works by Austrian artists and others called "Slices of Life: Blueprints of the Self in Painting." It opens with a public reception on Tuesday, January 18, from 6 to 8pm. The artists include Amy Cutler, Plamen Dejanoff, Nicole Eisenman, Johanna Kandl, Elke Krystufek, Muntean/Rosenblum, Katrin Plavcak, Lisa Ruyter, Markus Schinwald, Ena Swansea, Nicola Tyson and Gregor Zivic. (I'm having fun trying to imagine which of these artists has a connection with Austria, especially if I imagine connections something other than that of birth.)

Beginning the next day there will be a number of chamber music, lieder concerts and film programs in the building's small, two-level jewel-box theatre. Somewhat exceptionally for this institution whose expressed mission (encouraging and describing the impact of the digital world on the arts and culture at large) has meant that it has hosted some very exciting new stuff, the January and February programs are limited to composed "classical" music, although they range, almost all somehow Austrian, from Haydn and Schubert through Mahler, Berg, Schulhoff and Krenek, to PÀrt and Kurtag.

I'll be there January 18, but I'm also going back for the music and the films. There's always the building too, and maybe I'll get further upstairs some day. I still haven't seen almost 20 of those tantalizing 24 stories.

Ena Swansea is a magnificient artist... I do hope you got to see her works!

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Published on January 4, 2005 6:40 PM.

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