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The Ambiguous Space

The Ambiguous Space

For the external and internal space the same applies: only its indefiniteness, its ambiguity, makes it useable. Because of its iconographic vacancy each individual can give it a subject, lend meaning to it by their own projections and so attain more than a use alone.

More than ever contemporary buildings consist merely of a shell and the voids. Their contents change and the users remain unknown to the architects. The town is a collection of profitable letting spaces.

Architecture is required to do nothing more than generate ‘neutral individuality’ for the building and must not come into conflict with any new plans for the space that may be dreamt up in the future. The buildings are stripped of semantics, their facades non-graphical and their interior spaces empty.

Since the invention of the open plan and the lift there are no longer (spatial) restrictions to producing ‘ready-made’ interior spaces. This large-scale, non-spectacular substitute for the inner life of buildings causes whole districts to change their contents and their identity.

It is not possible to argue against this kind of social convention in office and housing construction. On the contrary: we have tried to canalise it.

Our concern was to use methods such as spatial repetition, standardisation or ‘ready-made’ spaces to arrive at a convertible and complex form, while we have always decided on the abstraction and never the image.

In each of our projects we try to replace this requirement for neutrality with ambiguous architecture. Only this method can provide the conditions for creating identity and individual use in serial production.

Object and Town

The contrast between object and town, or rather between individuality and mass, is especially evident in our office building at Halensee. In contrast to the town the object stands for the planned, fully defined form that is placed within a contradictory, jointly improvised environment. It is also true of the European town, since it is rarely more than an agglomeration rather than a representation of a well-proportioned organism, that the urban context negates each large-scale composition, while the object stands for the controllable organism with precise and directed functions. The levelling mass of the urban structure leaves individual objects, which represent a lack of structure, like the big roll in a major stage performance. The urban dimensions of a site and the tasks of construction necessitate a decision about whether to either strengthen the network or to think more in terms of the object.

The site at Halensee embodies this kind of urban dimension of an individual area. The strong architectural identity of the building depicts a vision; it focuses the traffic around this landmark, which in turn relates back to it. Since the traffic in the form of an expressway has lost its shaping power it is no longer a carrier of embellishment. In this context the object must strive to provide orientation and formal improvements. Since urban planning lacks the tools to manage the area on a large scale, the architectural intervention as a regional injection takes the place of a once citywide scale planning. The architectural design as a contrast to the urban ‘soup’ can only offer an alternative if it provides public elements. Autistic towers are destructive to the town.

Therefore architecture must be a stage and offer public spaces. Such elements are evident in the office building at Halensee, such as the generous entrance court, the public-use pocket-park with the quay wall aligned against the stream of traffic on the motorway and the three-storey lobby with bridges and staircases that lead to the cafeteria. There has to be a contrast between object and town, in the case of this project between the landmark and the semantically reserved residential quarter, between the flowing form and the dynamics of the traffic and between the private buildings and the public and semi-public areas of the office building. Object and town must support each other.


According to Bernard Hoesli transparency is “the combination of complexity and clarity”, the “dialectics between what exists and what is hinted”. The intersecting and penetrating of spaces and their optical layering are the essence of the transparent building. The term ‘transparency’ cannot be reduced to the view through an ephemeral skin, like for example with glass. But in fact the material glass in its optically diverse manifestations provides new possibilities to add further to the traditional methods of spatial transparency. It is not its translucency, but its metamorphic qualities that interest us. In the Hamburg project glass has been used in its clear form, printed, sandblasted, pigmented and cast to form glass blocks as a façade. The bandwidth of its form between transmission and reflection creates mystery. The glass produces a relationship between the depth of a room and the layered façade. The inner life seems at times to be projected onto the outer skin, then it lies once again deep within the room, but then it is concealed by the reflection of the sun.

Glass is a modern building material. Due to its optical volatility, its mere hint of substance, it is the ideal material for media rooms and for illusions with light. The glass façade on Amsinckstraße becomes at night a screen for light choreography, which – conducted by the noise of the traffic – sets the vertical beams of the rhythmically composed image in motion.

The above quote “dialectics between what exists and what is hinted” also relates to the changing of the material, its surface and its depth. We have tried to show the contrasting and also the corresponding effects of glass and concrete: contrasting in the heaviness, corresponding in the variability caused by rain and sun. When it rains the concrete appears grey and the glass blocks have a green glow. When it is sunny the concrete has a deep green effect and the glass blocks on the other hand are pale and slightly translucent.

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Simon Marsh said...

Ambiguous space for the right and excellent. The manners of the space are reformed for the best dissertations vague spaces for the humans to solve and settle. It is entirely done for the transparent and enduring.

Neil Jakson said...

thanks for sharing your nice article but Architecture is required to do nothing more than generate ‘neutral individuality’ for the building and must not come into conflict with any new plans for the space that may be dreamt up in the future. The buildings are stripped of semantics, their facades non-graphical and their interior spaces empty.
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Neil Jakson said...

I'm getting excited about this kind of beneficial information of your stuff in the future
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