Magazine article The Spectator

Eating Your Way to Art

Magazine article The Spectator

Eating Your Way to Art

Article excerpt

Despite mushroom growth in the number of London restaurants with single walls in acid pastel shades and birch plywood chairs, the connection between architecture and food does not occupy as central a place in architectural theory as it should.

Many architectural materials are mixed and cooked (bricks, concrete), others are gathered like vegetables and salads direct from nature (timber, stone). In a world tending always towards fast food solutions, a mark of distinction among architects has been to get more fussy about the quality of the products arriving on their design tables, requiring them to be reared as ecologically as the products arriving in the adjacent kitchen.

Architecture and food provide a common theme in the current exhibition, Hombroich Architecture, at the RIBA. The reticent visuals (basic models, black and white photos, few words) portray something rather more exciting. Hombroich is an island in the river Erft at Neuss, near Dusseldorf. Once an `English park' it was retrieved in 1982 from semi-wilderness by the industrialist Karl Heinrich Muller who has created a museum for his varied private collection in the form of a series of pavilions, designed by the sculptor Erwin Heerich. These simple structures of recycled brick are conceived as `sculptures to be walked through', each adapted to its contents. A handful of comparable museum parks exist in other European countries, but Hombroich has extended its territory and functions to include a former Nato missile base and land for a farm, the offshoot of an existing organic farm near Munich. The place already functions as a residential artistic community, partly housed in the former military buildings, and a series of new architectural commissions will provide facilities for study and interaction.

Architecturally, all the buildings could be described as Minimalist. They have a concentrated attention on essential qualities of substance, surface and light with a simple structure that distinguish them from other forms of Modernism more concerned with dynamic expression of construction, transparency or movement. The monkish character is emphasised in the Accommodation Building by Claudio Silvestrin, a high priest of London Minimalism, in the form of a cloister plan with a church-like Seminar Room attached at an angle. Similarly angled is a gallery building by this year's RIBA Gold Medalist, Tadao Ando. Raimund Abraham contributes a circular living and rehearsal space for musicians, with a more complex internal plan. …

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