Leben heißt, von einem Raum zum anderen gehen.
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In his 1995 essay, 'Bigness, or the Problem of Large', Rem Koolhaas described a new reading of architecture: when a building reaches a certain critical size, it leaves the scale, perception, and functionality of architecture to function as pure density, a collision of differentprograms, as a self-referential inner world without an exterior. Bigness is a theory of complexity that does not follow the logic of architecture but the purely physical logic of the mass and the program it contains.
In 1989, Bigness almost came to Karlsruhe. OMA‘s competition-winning design for the new ZKM (Zentrum for Kunst und Medientechnologie) proposed a 43 x 43 x 58 cube to be sited next to the Hauptbahnhof. Their concept for the 'Electronic Bauhaus' brought together multiple cultural programs with a trans-European transportation hub, contained in 100.000 cubic meters of space. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, cultural budgets in West Germany were cut, and the project was abruptly canceled.
A potential Bigness already exists in many German cities: the department store from the 1960s and 70s. Thei generic facades hide an inner world of consumption which represented the dreams and wishes of the post-war German middle-class society. Now with competition from online retailers, the department store has lost its potential To capture the consumerimagination. Whether or not its demise is inevitable, the department store volume represents new architectural possibilities for the German city center.
The 100.000m3 studio appropriated the strategies of Bigness to develop, through a speculative outlook, new programmatic and structural scenarios for a possible future for the large volumes left behind by the post-war department store.
Since the City Council‘s decision to cancel the OMA proposal in 1992, the ZKM has been located in the IWKA, the former largest munitions factory in Germany. Today, the archives house a collection of 8,000 new media artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. One of them is OMA's original competition model in an M 1:100 scale, rediscovered by a team from the ZKM and R+E under several layers of shrink wrap.
This find was reason enough for us, 30 years later, to revisit the design theories and concepts that the project contains. As part of the '100,000 cubic meters' Seminar (which describes the approximate volume of the ZKM cube, based on its dimensions of 43x43x58m), we restored the original M 1:100 OMA model from the ZKM competition. Herr Neubig from the KIT model shop supervised the restoration.
We also developed a research cosmos around the model, to contextualize the design with other OMA projects and texts and the contemporary events that influenced them. By classifying the projects and texts in relation to their time of origin, and examining them through the lens of the present, we gained insight into why they were so revolutionary then, and what makes them relevant now.
We conducted our research over several stages, starting with a detailed cross-analysis of four OMA projects and four OMA texts (all circa 1989-1994). We examined the surrounding events, trends, and actors that influenced the projects and texts. The research outcomes were presented in a group exhibition in January 2020, together with the refurbished ZKM model.