saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) presents an exhibition on the Multihalle Mannheim on the occasion of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale
“Sleeping Beauty” follows on from the successful exhibition “Frei Otto—Thinking by Modeling,” which was hosted by the ZKM in Karlsruhe from November 2016 to March 2017. The show in Venice focuses on the Multihalle and will be the first exhibition in the world dedicated to this fascinating building. Cooperation partner is the City of Mannheim.
The project’s initiators and curators are the Berlin-based urbanist and curator Sally Below and Georg Vrachliotis, professor of architectural theory and director of saai, who also curated the previous Frei Otto exhibition. Both are long-standing advisors to the City of Mannheim on the development of the Multihalle preservation strategy. The exhibition architect is Marc Frohn, who is also a professor at KIT, and his architecture firm FAR frohn&rojas.
The exhibition gives visitors a double view of the Multihalle. Looking back at the past, it presents original archival material to relate the building’s experimental history. The exhibition also looks toward the future. Today, after several years of vacancy and 40 years after the construction of the Multihalle, which was originally planned as a temporary building, the City of Mannheim is working together with a dedicated group of artists, architects, local residents, concerned citizens, engineers, and universities on a new sustainable concept aimed at ensuring its long-term preservation. This open and collectively designed process is unique in Germany.
The title of the exhibition makes reference to this current process. Its aim is to embed the Multihalle into the city’s social landscape, reframe the discourse, which was previously more technical in nature, and develop a new interpretation of the building as a platform for an “open society,” as Frei Otto originally intended. The Multihalle has gone from being a built object to becoming a subject of discourse.
The exhibition in Venice introduces the Multihalle and its future prospects to an international scene—and tells more about it to those already familiar with the structure. A portside building on the island of Guidecca, an authentic Venetian location, will serve as the exhibition space.
The Multihalle in Mannheim:
The multipurpose hall, built by Frei Otto and Carlfried Mutschler for the 1975 Bundesgartenschau (federal garden exhibition) in Mannheim, Germany, is held to be the largest timber lattice shell structure in the world to date. With its experimental history, open spatial qualities and integration into the urban topography and its greenery, the Multihalle embodies an “open space” for an “open society.”
Frei Otto’s embrace of experimentation was not based on a systematic analysis of architecture in the narrow sense of the natural sciences, but on its artistic interpretation. He tirelessly experimented with models in order to investigate spatial qualities and mechanisms. Frei Otto thus laid the groundwork for an experimental culture that remains relevant today—one that straddles scientific observation and artistic skill, in a form balancing craftsmanship and intellect, where modeling can spark individual insights as well as collective discourse on the future of architecture. The Multihalle embodies this approach like no other building of the 20th century.