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Back to the future

Pamela Buxton

ICA showcases how Hans Hollein used Bau magazine to present his futuristic, all-encompassing view of architecture

Dealing with perennial themes.
Dealing with perennial themes.

In 1968, the progressive Austrian architect Hans Hollein (1934-2014) used his editorship of Bau Magazine to publish his radical manifesto Alles Ist Architektur (Everything is Architecture). Rather than be restricted to buildings, the scope of architecture was seen as increasingly limitless in response to the fast-changing times, in particular the emerging possibilities for space travel, cybernetics, and in the nascent computers, exciting new forms of communication media.

An exhibition at the ICA opening next week celebrates the heady five years of Bau from 1965-1970, when a series of architect and artist editors used the magazine to showcase experimental new theories.

‘Hollein proposed that architecture should be beyond just buildings, walls and towers, and should adapt to the communication age… There was a real euphoria and excitement at the possibilities of what technology might bring,’ says Juliette Desorgues, associate curator at the ICA. She adds that this period coincided with a ‘tremendous moment’ in Viennese culture across all art forms as it responded to changes in society. 

  • Bau before Hollein, a cover from 1966
    Bau before Hollein, a cover from 1966
  • Not just buildings by architects
    Not just buildings by architects
  • Not just buildings
    Not just buildings

The 24 covers, displayed in the show along with articles from the magazines, epitomise the progressive yet playful tone of the magazine in this period. Binary code, lipstick, spacesuits, and perhaps most appealingly the Alles Ist Architektur cover, which featured a giant cube of Emmental cheese towering over the cityscape of Vienna. This tongue-in-cheek comment on the large scale architecture of the time gains added punch with the colloquial Viennese meaning of the word Emmentaler – a bad building.

But as well as embracing the new and the future, Desorgues points out that Hollein and his colleagues were equally radical in showcasing pre-war architects such as Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann who were all but forgotten in the ‘cultural amnesia’ of post-war Germany and Austria. In 1969 the magazine was crucial in raising awareness of the radical Wittgenstein House in Vienna, which was subsequently saved from demolition.

While the original magazines, mostly on loan from the AA, will be displayed in vitrines, the exhibition will also include facsimiles for browsing and some translations.

The venue is appropriate – Hollein featured in a show at the ICA in the 1960s and had close links with former ICA director and Archigram founder Peter Cook.

Everything is Architecture: Bau Magazine from the 60s and 70s, 28 July – 27 September, ICA, London