Exhibition — What if… — gta – Institute for the History Theory of Architecture — ETH Zurich

What if…

Organizer: gta Ausstellungen
Date: Saturday, 30 September 2017 to Friday, 13 October 2017
Location: Europaplatz Lucerne, Theaterplatz & Kohlenberg Basle, Heimplatz Zurich

What if…
A Walk-in Installation on the Potential of Urban Space

Europaplatz Lucerne, 11–30 August 2017
Theaterplatz & Kohlenberg Basle, 7–27 September 2017
Heimplatz Zurich, 30 September–13 October 2017
Concept and organisation: Natalia Wespi and Sarah Barth

Architects and, more to the point, laypersons for whom planning is a foreign language accept the built environment as given. In fact what has made our cities what they are today is the result of numerous competitions, studies and tendering processes. Using building and project plans from the archives, the installation What if… shows how our cities might have alternatively evolved. It teaches us to call things into question and to recognise opportunities. What if instead of what was built it had been the second- or third-prize project that was realised?
The intervention is an on-the-spot invitation to discover the city that surrounds us and to hone our eye. Without making value judgements and without claiming to be encyclopaedic, What if… portrays an alternative view of urban space from an exploratory and artistic perspective. Three large-scale cultural centrepoints are chosen for the installation, each of them possessing their own particular urban-design, social and political resonance:
– in Basle the expansive Theaterplatz with the nearby Barfüsserplatz, which achieved international prominence with Zaha Hadid’s project for the extension to the Casino and today is under renewed discussion with a proposal by Herzog & de Meuron;
– in Zurich the busy traffic intersection on Heimplatz, site of the soon-to-be-completed extension to the Kunsthaus and the high-profile international competition for the Schauspielhaus with the unrealised winning project by Jørn Utzon;
– in Lucerne the world-renowned Kultur- und Kongresszentrum by Jean Nouvel and site of Melchior Berri’s architectural vision for the city quayside.
These central, highly public and civic locations are each connected with an exciting and controversial past – debates that still remain to be resolved today. International competitions with famous participants provided revolutionary propositions, while heated public referendums have anchored the sites in collective memory. In an era of rapid urban renewal, the topic is of the utmost importance. Far more than a glossy rendering could, the respective plans displayed on-site make the alternatives to the as-built clearly perceptible to the visitors.