Dr Mark Morris
Between 1973 and 1996 Prof. Friedrich Kurrent and his assistants built around 300 models together with their students at the chair “Entwerfen, Raumgestaltung und Sakralbau” (now called Chair of Spatial Arts and Lighting Design) at the Technical University in Munich. Over the span of more than two decades their research into housing examined notable projects from the past 200 years, including well-known projects by Le Corbusier, Rudolph Schindler, Frank Lloyd Wright and Adolf Loos as well as vernacular buildings and a few churches; built and unbuilt.
Friedrich Kurrent, an architect from Vienna who had been part of the Austrian architectural group Arbeitsgruppe 4, was interested in structural experimentation as well as historical architecture long before postmodern became a buzzword in architectural circles in the 1980s. The models were built as part of the studio work under the supervision of Wolfgang Wannieck who ran the model workshop. According to Friedrich Kurrent, the most important feature was that every model could be disassembled. All models were constructed at the large scale 1:33 1/3 to depict the interiors at a size detailed enough to analyze and compare them. Yet, wood and cardboard models remain relatively abstract and there is no indication of building materials or context. The models were photographed in beautiful black and white images by Franz Wimmer that reinforce the emphasis on abstract spaces and focus attention on the most important aspects of the design.
The models were meant as a study tool for students to examine the relationship between inside and outside and to develop skills in spatial thinking. The first that were built were designs by Adolf Loos, whose work Kurrent had rediscovered while he was studying in Vienna and whose drawings he had brought to Munich.
The accurate information needed for all other models often came from his assistants and from colleagues in the United States, which made it possible to draw the plans for the models. Students had to take the model apart during their exam to explain and analyze the spatial layout of the buildings. Appropriately, a 1996 publication featuring the models was called “Raummodelle”—spatial models. While Friedrich Kurrent’s models are now at the archive of the Architekturmuseum der TUM, the current head of the chair, Hannelore Deubzer, is continuing the tradition of making spatial models with a focus on buildings by Louis Kahn.
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