Frei Otto: Thinking by Modelling, Karlsruhe

Designed by: Far Frohn & Rojas
For client: Archive of South West Germany for Architecture and Engineering (saai) of the KIT and the Wüstenrot Foundation Floor area: 3130.00 M² Year of completion: 2016
Nominated for: Exhibition of the Year

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© Felix Grünschloss

Frei Otto’s Model Landscape

About the Project

The exhibition consists of four central elements occupying two of the museum`s atriums.

“Frei Otto’s Model Landscape” - All of the models are organized by scale on a single 50-meter-long table cutting diagonally through one of the atriums. The researching character and aesthetic continuity in Otto’s thinking becomes evident. For the table we repurposed the timber frames of existing exhibition walls from the past supposed to be disposed. Referencing Otto`s work the linear strips of fluorescent light tubes above the table are suspended from the courtyard structure by a series of metal wires.

“Frei Otto’s Cosmos” - Visitors are able to see photos of studies of nature, spiders’ webs, sand structures and soap bubbles. They provide insights into the poetic and scientific cosmos of Otto’s imagination. Objects and information are presented on 18 tables inspired by those at Otto`s studio in Warmbronn. Light fixtures are connected to long power cables which are hanging like arches from the roof structure thereby creating associations to Otto`s chain models.

“Frei Otto’s Projection” - Images and technical media play a major role in Frei Otto`s interdisciplinary approach. A projection of more than 30 meters in length covering the full side of one atrium conveys this approach.

“Frei Otto’s open archive” - It consists of 18 over-sized archive shelves surrounding both courtyards. Selected original plans, photos, books and reproductions guide the user through Frei Otto`s life.

What’s unique about it

The design concept focused on linking two critical relationships to Otto`s work.
The model table and the hanging lamps illuminating the exhibition and creating its atmophere es-tablish strong visual relationships with Otto`s work: The anthracite grid-like table top offers visual cues to his measuring tables allowing him to use his models as simulation tool. The suspended linear fluorescent lamps above the table of the model landscape trigger associations with various of Otto`s design models while the hanging lamps pick up the principle and appearance of his chain models.
Material Resources
Using these same exhibition elements, we also reappropriated Otto`s search for an architecture of reduced material resources.
The 50m-long table was largely constructed of timber frames for exhibition walls used in previous shows. Instead of letting them go to waste as planned we re-conceptualized them as the “table top” and only added legs and metal grading.
Like the table, the hanging lamps in the other atrium achieve a maximum of spatial presence with minimal material means. The excess length of the power cables creates a strong vertical presence making use of the full atrium space.
For the open archive we have purchased standard archiving shelves which were adjusted to meet the needs of a variety of different media to be displayed. After the exhibition was taken down these standard shelves were re-purposed in the SAAI-archive housing much of Otto`s estate.

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s Model Landscape

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s Model Landscape

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s Model Landscape

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© Christoph Engel

Frei Otto’s Model Landscape - close up

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s Cosmos

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© Bernd Seeland

Frei Otto’s Cosmos

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s Cosmos and Projection

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s open archive

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© James Morris

Frei Otto’s open archive

Location of project:
FAR frohn&rojas

Georg Vrachliotis, Marc Frohn, Martin Kunz, Joachim Kleinmanns

Julia Schiffer

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