Georg Trenz


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HOCH TIEF EBEN
Public art for the State Construction Departments, former McGraw barracks,
Munich

Hochbauamt München Hochbauamt München Hochbauamt München

The terms HOCH, TIEF and EBEN are applied to the extreme east and west edges of the building, acting like a set of brackets. The way the paths and roads are laid out means that viewers can see only half the word as an abstract sequence of signs that only turns out to be intelligible when walking or driving past. Formally, this work is reflecting on peripheral rustication as a principle of architectural articulation and design. The selected type size (half character height approx. 1 m) corresponds with the proportions of the architecture. Here the use of different typography invokes contrasting architectural styles and epochs, thus also referring to the building’s chequered history in war time and after wars, and then again to its current use as a modern administrative facility.

The formal presentation of the words runs counter to the actual meaning of the concepts HOCH (high) and TIEF (low). TIEF is written in modern sans-serif capitals, and despite its size seems weightless and allocated to heaven. HOCH, in Gothic lower case and set from top to bottom, looks heavy and earth–drawn.
This contradictory quality also applies to the choice of material, shiny V2A steel and rusted iron respectively. The third term, EBEN (flat), executed in gilded aluminium in a roman typeface mediates between the two extremes not just formally and geographically, but also because of its linguistic significance.

Hochbauamt München

At the back of the former barracks, the main section was linked with three new buildings, identical in ground plan, by fully glazed staircases. The inner courtyards created in this way, with buildings on three sides, were allocated to three different vegetation zones by a landscape architect. Thus the gardens on the horizontal plane and the staircases on the vertical plane create different areas of perception for the building's visitors and users.
These perception areas are interlinked and connected by a typographical design on the glazed stairwells, developed from “Wanderers Nachtlied”, a poem by Goethe. It is the most familiar poem in the German language, and the one most frequently parodied and assimilated. It is still decipherable even when broken down into a collection of syllables.

In terms of content it is a poem of transitions: from top to bottom, from inside to out. Thus it reflects the architecture and use of the place in a very complex way. Letters and syllables, developed vertically, on translucent sheet of different colours, detach themselves individually, completely changing the context and their meaning. This work playfully reflects building as a structural linking of individual elements, and also language, as a higher, necessary building material.
The typographical presentation (capitals about 80 cm high) and the destruction of the syntax take away the texts fussy, classical feel and stimulates visitors to think about the analogy between reading and building.

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