Curating Architecture in Berlin

Architecture exhibitions are a bit like perpetual motion machines. They keep being created even though they are doomed to failure, as it is well known that they are intrinsically impossible. How do you show architecture, which is a medium in itself, through other media – such as photographs, scale models or videos – which cannot express the essence of the spatiality and complexity of architecture? What are today’s curatorial practices? These are only some of the questions touched upon during the “Curating Architecture” series of meetings by German architect Jürgen Mayer H.

The meetings are only held twice a year at Soho House Berlin, where the curators, critics and theorists invited by Jürgen discuss the role of architecture exhibitions and the issues of exhibiting architecture, sharing their experiences.


photo: Diego Brito

“The reason I do this is because I am interested in what the organisation of architecture exhibitions looks like from the other side – from the curator’s point of view. I want to invert the usual question-answer hierarchy – this time, it is the architect who asks the curators questions about their principles and their work, wanting to find out the whys and hows.” – Jürgen Mayer H.

I do not know of any other modern architect with such a rich output and established reputation who would be willing to organise meetings like these: completely unadvertised, with invitations sent out via text messages. This may be why I have been following Jürgen Mayer H.’s career with utmost respect for many years. For him, the theory of architecture is equally important as its practice.

This is why I was delighted to be able to talk about my work and share my experience and thoughts on exhibiting architecture during the most recent meeting in the “Curating Architecture” series, which took place in June. I talked about projects that have changed my approach to exhibiting architecture, and in the end, I talked about the last two exhibitions I have organised with Hugon Kowalski: the biomorphic installation “Blob your mind” and the “Let’s talk about garbage” project, which draws attention to the issue of the overproduction of waste and the possibility of efficient use of waste in architecture. Another guest at the meeting was Edward Schwarz, General Manager of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, founded in 2003 (as the Holcim Foundation). Edward is responsible for all activities of the LafargeHolcim Foundation, including the most prestigious International LafargeHolcim Awards Competition, which aims to promote architectural projects that take on the challenges of our times, such as increasing urbanisation and improvement of the quality of life of the residents. In his presentation, Edward talked about the activities of the foundation: competitions and projects that respond to crucial environmental, socio-economic, technological and cultural issues in modern construction. The meeting, which lasted more than 2 hours, ended with an interesting discussion moderated by Jürgen, who asked us why we had chosen architecture as our medium of communication.


photo: Diego Brito

“I believe that architecture should work as an activator to move people from a passive mode of expectation to an involved level of participation and attention. The influence of new media and new materials now expands our understanding of ‘space’ as a platform for communication and sociocultural interactivity.” – Jürgen Mayer H.

I sincerely hope for many more meetings of this kind organised by professionally active architects and wish Jürgen Mayer H. many fascinating meetings to come.