„The Langen Foundation building is the largest work of art that I have ever purchased."
The exhibition building initiated and endowed by the collector Marianne Langen is situated on a former NATO base amidst a swath of Lower Rhine landscape. The collector Karl-Heinrich Müller developed a visionary project for these grounds in 1994, aiming to coalesce art and nature to form a unique synthesis.
Following an invitation by Karl-Heinrich Müller, the Japanese architect Tadao Ando visited the Rocket Station in 1994 and experienced its original state. Enthusiastic about Müller’s plans, Ando developed an architectural model that was to become integrated into the project. When Marianne Langen first saw Ando’s plans in the year 2001, she quickly decided to have this building erected as the final, and also the largest, work of art in her collection. Acting on her personal precepts, she refrained from accepting any outside funding.
Tadao Ando’s pronounced love of concrete and his feel for the specificity of a site likewise played into his design for the Langen Foundation. He thus invoked concrete, glass, and steel while also adapting the building to the topographical scheme of the surrounding ramparts. The latter were only opened on one side to facilitate the entry area, which is highlighted by a four-metre-high, semi-circular concrete wall with an incised portal that offers a view of both the building and the large anterior reflecting pool.
The exhibition venue, which opened its doors in 2004, is assembled from two interconnected building tracts of respectively different architectural nature. Abutting the elongated concrete slab veiled in glass at a forty-five-degree angle is the main building tract, which is comprised of two parallel cubes that are entrenched nearly six metres deep into the ground. Running between the two tracts is a large open stairwell resembling a stairway to heaven, leading from the depths back up into nature.
The Langen Foundation offers three exhibition spaces totalling an area of 1,300 square metres. Situated within the ground-level concrete slab is the so-called Japan Room – an unusually long and narrow gallery conceptualised by Tadao Ando as a space of “tranquillity” especially for the Japanese segment of the Langen Collection. The two subterranean exhibition rooms, with a ceiling height of a surprising eight metres, were in turn designed to accommodate the modern part of the collection.
Characteristic for many of the buildings designed by this Pritzker awardee is the visible structure of the installed formwork panel of smoothed concrete, which is oriented to the size of the Tatami mats and, together with the holes of the formwork anchors, yields a distinctive visage. In the Langen Foundation building these structures are consistently visible, even from the inside in places.
„We borrow from nature the space upon which we build.“
Tadao Ando, who was born in Osaka in 1941, is the only architect to have won all four of the most important international prizes of his field: the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Praemium Imperiale, the Carlsberg Architecture Prize, and the Kyoto Prize. And this despite the fact that he has never attended an academy or a university. Ando has instead acquired his knowledge through self-directed studies and architecture trips to the USA, Europe, and Africa. In 1969 he founded his own architectural office, Tadao Ando Architect & Associates in Osaka. Today, Tadao Ando is likely the most renowned Japanese architect in the world and has decisively influenced the way Japanese architects are perceived. His architecture combines elements of Japanese tradition with those of modernism. Characteristic for his buildings are geometric austerity and clarity, a pronounced love of concrete, and a feel for the specificity of a site. Tadao Ando held a professorship at Tokyo University through 2003 and has taught at the American Ivy League universities Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. In recent years he has become increasingly involved in eco-political issues. In 2007 he initiated the project “Umi-no-Mori” (Sea Forest) in Tokyo, which aims to turn an artificial island, which once served as a rubbish dump, into a reforested recreational area.
„Art in parallel to nature.“
(Guiding principle of the Hombroich Foundation)
The Rocket Station Island Hombroich is part of the visionary project by the collector Karl-Heinrich Müller (1936–2007), with the intention of fostering a unique synthesis of art and nature on a “small neglected piece of earth” in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
For decades the property located along the Erft River near the German town of Neuss, which was not noted on any maps, served defence purposes for NATO and also the storage of warheads for cruise missiles and Pershing rockets. In 1992–93 the facility was abandoned in the course of disarmament agreements between NATO states and the former USSR. In 1994, Karl-Heinrich Müller purchased the thirteen-hectare-large area and initiated – together with Erwin Heerich, Oliver Kruse, and Katsuhito Nishikawa – a unique project dedicated to culture and artistic space.
Müller recultivated the property, turning it into a place of culture, science, and nature. Here the idea was not to erase the history of the location, but rather to give it a new face and to lend it new purpose. Military elements like barbed-wire fences, floodlight systems, and bulletproof glass were done away with. Though the storage facilities, hangars, bomb-shelter systems, earthen walls, and the observation tower all remained in place, they were renovated and in certain cases also remodelled. New buildings by Heerich and Nishikawa complemented the existing ensemble, as did sculptures by Heinz Baumüller and Eduardo Chillida.
Following an invitation by Karl-Heinrich Müller, Tadao Ando visited the Rocket Station in 1994 and experienced its original state. Enthusiastic about Müller’s plans, Ando developed an architectural model that also ended up becoming part of the project. This culture and artistic-space project was introduced at the Venice Biennale in 1996 and has now been realised in its essential aspects.
The Rocket Station Hombroich and the Museum Island Hombroich merged in 1997 to form the Island Hombroich Foundation, today forming the Hombroich cultural space: a dynamic ensemble of art, culture, science, and nature that pursues a path of continual development.
Additional Information: www.inselhombroich.de