Competition for (un)restricted access competition 2012
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This project undertakes to design archives within one of the Flakturm, former Second World War anti-aircraft towers in the center of Vienna. The idea of constructing an archive within a bunker is not a neutral one. The defensiveness of this building allows it, both symbolically and literally, to host and protect goods against the alteration of the externality –whether it is time or a more direct antagonism. Many civilizations of the past have been annihilated, not only physically, but absolutely as any form of their production has been also destroyed with them. The recent history would have still seen several tragic examples of ethnical ethnic cleansing directly linked to processes of cultural destructions.
In the theater play Almansor that he wrote in 1820, Heinrich Heine made the following tragic prophecy: Where we burn books, we will end up burning men. On May 10th 1933, the Nazis who recently reached the head of the executive and legislative power in Germany burnt thousands of books including Heine’s, which did not fit within the spirit of the new anti-Semitic/anti-Communist policies they are willing to undertake. About a decade later, they industrially killed eleven millions people (including six millions Jews) in what remains as the darkest moment of mankind’s history: the Holocaust.
In 1992, at the beginning of the three years long siege of Sarajevo, the Serbian army deliberately bombed the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina thus destroying more than a million books, including many unique documents belonging to Judaism and Islam. The attack on Bosnian culture was fundamentally complementary of the thousands of assassinations –very often by snipers- of the Bosnian people themselves during these three years of war (1992-1995) as the latter was based on the supremacist will of a culture over another.
The will to store books within a gigantic bunker constitutes, of course, a literal gesture of protection for the books, but more importantly it influences the imaginary of its visitors on the importance of the books physicality and spatialization. The Flakturm Archives are designed, not to diffuse the violence contained within this military structure, but to attempt to reveal it. War architecture -military structures or buildings which have been partially destroyed- has indeed this value; it expresses the violence which lies within each building, it reveals the systematic oppressive power through which architecture subjectivizes the bodies. Once this violence expressed, one can begin to actively adapt to it and appropriate it.
In this regard, the archival space is constituted by the inside world that hermetically contains the bunker tower. Its vertical organization of open slabs, complemented by the numerous stairs, offers to the body a terrain that can only be appropriate through efforts. This dimension of the project allows a global interest on the physicality of things, whether the latter are humans, books or architecture.