About 15 years ago we were witness of a lecture by Christian Rapp. Rapp divided our profession in two categories: the domain of the Conceptual vs. the Empirical, abstract thinking vs. pragmatic embedding, Greek Temple vs. Primitive Hut.
According to Rapp symmetry is the most significant tool in the realm of the Conceptual. But he identified the ‘stubborn’ character of reality frustrating the purity of the abstract idea. Material thickness can be a pain. He mentioned the issue of the Mauerwerkvorsprung as signaled by Jan Turnovsky in an essay about the Wittgenstein house. In the breakfast room every window is the sole opening in the wall in which it is placed. Hence, the windows should be positioned in the middle of the wall. Both inside and outside. But since there is an inner corner and an outer corner involved the material thickness varies: the axis of the inner wall does no longer coincide with the axis of the outer wall… So asymmetry had to be accepted. Wittgenstein however could not live with this imperfection: he devised a local expansion of the wall; a fake column in the corner would set things straight! “The desperate act of a brilliant amateur” in Rapp’s words.
Our intuitive response to the problem was to use a kind of ‘double glazing’; to place one windowpane in the center of the interior wall and one in the center of the outer wall. And connect them through an oblique aperture, morphing the inside to the outside. Would it be possible to be empirical and conceptual at the same time?
Recently we were confronted by a similar problem. In the Crossoverzaal, our contribution to the Muziekpaleis, some building parts, we call them tentacles, reach to the facade. The idea was to open up the interior to the wonderful view. However the masterplan by Studio Hertzberger would not allow full glazing on the east and west facades; the wrapping of the building should remain complete and continuous. No accents or distracting openings are permitted. Luckily the paneled skin of the building is perforated by oval holes. So we could make openings. But the outside pattern did not match the interior outline. How to overcome this incongruity? We applied our ‘discovery’ on the Wittgenstein problem: we took the outside pattern as a given and redistributed the windows into a ‘perfect’ arrangement in the interior. And then connected the inside and outside. The wall thickness allowed this sculptural shift. Let’s see if we can make this crossover work…