Coop Himmelb(l)au, CONTACT, Galerie Stampa / Kunsthalle Basel, 1971
Duration: May 19–June 15, 1971
Dimensions: 29.7 x 21 cm
Further Information: In May 1971, three men ran through the old city of Basel in Switzerland inside a transparent ball, causing a great deal of public attention. Restless Sphere was designed and realized by Austrian architects Wolf D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky, and Michael Holzer, who together formed the collective Coop Himmelb(l)au. The ball, a pneumatic construction, was part of their exhibition CONTACT at Galerie Stampa and Kunsthalle Basel. It represents a living environment that can also act as a means of transport. The collective describes it as an idea to produce architecture with fantasy, making it as light and flexible as a cloud (“Architektur mit Phantasie leicht und veränderbar wie Wolken zu machen”, 1984), in order to open up spatial perception, human interaction in big cities, isolation, and closed concrete architectures.
More than just a symbol, the organic bubble is central to other exhibited works related to radical openness: for their cybernetic living structure Villa Rosa (1968), pneumatic bubbles function as rooms, fixed to a scaffold. The incompleteness of these units also suggests a participatory action from its potential residents, who are asked to complete their own homes. Another predecessor of Restless Sphere in the work of Coop Himmelb(l)au is Astroballon from 1969, in which the bubble is presented as an extension of the human body. As an experimental method of biofeedback, the collective presented this work for the first time Galerie Nächst St. Stephan in Vienna, where the heartbeat of participating visitors was made visible and audible. The collective posited this bubble as a meditation space, into which people stressed by urbanity and technology can retreat. The exhibition title, CONTACT, relates directly to the works Contact Box I and II—a relay station that created a connection between both locations of the exhibition through a walkie-talkie.
The collective has participated in international exhibitions such as Deconstructivist Architecture at MoMA New York in 1988. Today, Wolf D. Prix runs Coop Himmelb(l)au with studios in Austria, England, the US, and Australia.
Further Links: coop-himmelblau.at
Images: Images of the invitation and all other archival documents are part of the online collection of Archiv der Avantgarden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.