Tour of European Museums Takes Architecture Students to Seven Countries
During two months of last summer, 11 architecture students visited more than 50 museums — with the subject matter ranging from art, ethnography, technology, history, automobiles, and anthropology. Titled Museum as Spectacle: Tracking the Changing Landscape of Museums in Europe, the class, which was part of the department's Summer Abroad program, traveled to 26 cities in seven countries and was led by architecture professor Werner Goehner and assisted by HAUD Ph.D. student Edith Fikes.
"The idea of the program was to critically trace the changes museums have undergone in the last 50 years," says Goehner. "In addition to two urban design charrettes in Paris and Berlin, a required paper, and taking a critical position toward museum issues of their choice, every student was assigned four museums, each of which was graphically analyzed and presented in situ."
According to Goehner, the museum was not only seen as a challenging architectural program, but also as an institution and product of the so-called culture industry.
"Experiencing with their own eyes the variety and architectural expression of so many museums, the students realized that the museum seems to be the last realm of uninhibited creation of form up to a point where the container of art — the museum — becomes more spectacular than what is contained," says Goehner.
The students studied how museums as institutions have been exploited by national and city governments for purposes of national grandeur (France), rewriting art or national history (Paris, Berlin), or branding and image management (Frankfurt, Bilbao).
Highlights from the trip included visits to the new Quai Branly Museum in Paris and the Museumsinsel Hombroich in Neuss, Germany, as well as a stop at the recently inaugurated Louvre Lens. The location of the satellite Louvre was deliberately chosen to help revitalize the devastated former abandoned coal mining area in Northern France. Designed by SAANA as a series of one story, easily accessible wings that come together in an entirely glazed entrance hall, the Louvre Lens critiques the hierarchical and difficult-to-reach, multi-floor typology of the original Louvre in Paris, without losing entirely the centrality of the original Louvre. The integration of the normally hidden support spaces into the museum tour enabled the group to get a glimpse into the politics of storage, conservation, and restoration of artworks before they are shown to the public.
"We were truly lucky to have experienced what some people don't experience in a lifetime," says Mariya Tsvetkova (B.Arch. '14).
"It was such an inspiring experience for me, and I'm sure the energy I got from seeing and experiencing so many beautiful things will drive me on for years to come," says Sean Kim (B.Arch. '14).