This photomontage comes from Hollein’s series Transformations, created between 1963 and 1968. In the series, an agricultural or urban landscape, often barren, is the site for a monumental industrial object. Hollein used machine technology—sparkplug, boxcar, and, here, aircraft carrier—to create a pure, absolute architecture with no identifiable architectonic style. Hollein followed Aircraft Carrier City in Landscape with a group of site photographs in 1964, dispensing with buildings altogether and declaring the forms of the land itself to be architectural statements—proof of his statement that “everything is architecture.” Related to this ironic, politicized viewpoint, the aircraft carrier is for Hollein an iconoclastic relic of its former function; its use here confounds common understandings of what it means to build in the contemporary landscape.
Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.
When Hans Hollein announced that everything is architecture, he could have been not only expressing his view of architecture's all-encompassing nature but making an autobiographical statement: his accomplished career as an architect has run alongside his work as an artist, planner, teacher, and writer, and all of these activities have mutually influenced each other. His designs reflect this diversity, ranging over the last three decades from small shops, exhibition installations, and furniture to museums, civic buildings, urban planning, and environmental projects.
All of Hollein's drawings in this book are from his Transformations series, created between 1963 and 1968. In each, an agricultural or urban landscape, often apparently barren, becomes the site for a monumental object. The drawings are visual parodies of Le Corbusier's concept of architecture as an object in the landscape, an idea exemplified in his seminal book Vers une architecture (Toward a new architecture), with its images of ocean liners, automobiles, and airplanes-examples of technological ingenuity that stand as singular objects, more worthy of an absolute and dominant place in the world than any other current example of monumental architecture.
More important in both Le Corbusier's and Hollein's projects, however, is the reference to the machine. Like his Austrian colleagues Walter Pichler and Raimund Abraham, Hollein proclaimed the essential role of the machine in the world: Today, for the first time in human history, at this point in time when an immensely advanced science and perfected technology offer us every means possible, we build what and how we will, we make an architecture that is not determined by technology but utilizes technology, a pure, absolute architecture. This fascination with the machine was central to the Museum's thematic exhibition Architectural Fantasies: Drawings from the Museum's Collection (1967), which also featured the work of Pichler and Abraham.
Hollein's lack of interest in any architectonic style is exemplified by his appropriation of the forms of the sparkplug, aircraft carrier, and tomb/boxcar. In their new contexts these objects become symbolic relics, their old functions transformed into unexpected ones of memorial and renewal. The Aircraft Carrier City in Landscape Project led Hollein on to a group of site photographs he took in 1964, dispensing with buildings altogether and declaring the forms of the land themselves to be architectural statements-another proof that everything is architecture.
Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 146-147.