Coop Himmelb(l)au, CONTACT, Galerie Stampa / Kunsthalle Basel, 1971

Duration: May 19June 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 IIa 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:

Images: Images of the invitation and all other archival documents are part of the online collection of Archiv der Avantgarden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.




“Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Restless Sphere action was intended to demonstrate the possibilities of pneumatic constructions. A pneumatic sphere four meters in diameter, a transparent habitat, was at the same time a means of transportation with which they demonstratively rolled through Basel’s old town for a day.” (Text via

COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, Restless Sphere, Basel, Switzerland (1971) photograph © Peter Schnetz
Coop Himmelb(l)au, Restless Sphere, Basel, Switzerland (1971) photograph © Peter Schnetz

“Wie beschissen die siebziger Jahre waren, kann man auch aus den verklemmten Architekturprojekten lesen. Die Umfrage und Gefälligkeitsdemokratie lebt hinter Biedermeier-fassaden. Wir haben aber keine Lust, Biedermeier zu bauen. Nicht jetzt und zu keiner anderen Zeit. Wir haben es satt, Palladio und andere historische Masken zu sehen. Weil wir in der Architektur nicht alles das ausschließen wollen, was unruhig macht. Wir wollen Architektur die mehr hat. Architektur, die blutet, die erschöpft, die dreht und meinetwegen bricht. Architektur, die leuchtet, die sticht, die fetzt. Architektur muss schluchtig, feurig, glatt, hart, eckig, brutal, rund, zärtlich, farbig, obszön, geil, träumend, vernähend, naß, trocken und herzschlagend sein. Lebend oder tot. Wenn sie kalt ist, dann kalt wie ein Eisblock. Wenn sie heiß ist, dann so heiß wie Flammenflügel. Architektur muss brennen.”
(Coop Himmelb(l)au, Architektur muss brennen, Lecture at TU Graz, 1980)