Compared to other cities, Hamburg organizes a large number of architecture, urban planning and landscape competitions each year – all over the city, with varying scope, focus, types of competition, number and constellations of participants. After the jury’s decision, the entries to the competitions are usually presented in small, local exhibitions, which was not possible during the pandemic. Therefore, the city of Hamburg wished to show their activities in competitions in a large public exhibition to the public. This raised the curatorial question of which competitions, and from these competitions which entries, should be selected for the exhibition.
Not only the winning design of a competition is important, but each individual competition entry has a value in itself and contributes to the discussion about the future development of the city. Each work stands in relation to all the other works and is defined by others and vice versa. That is why we, as the curatorial team, decided not to select at all, but to show all the entries from all the competitions of recent years together in the exhibition. The entries to the about 200 competitions of the last recent years together form an extreme creative mass – expressed in about 1.500 ideas and 6.000 plans. Our curatorial concept is to make this huge wealth of all the competitions visible. Presenting them all together shows the extreme creative contribution that is continuously made for the entire city and gathers all the themes that form the discussion to the urban development. It allows for new readings and narratives that will shape the entire city.
Even in our digital age, most competitions are still submitted as printed plans – which we used as a medium to design the exhibition. In a spacious former warehouse in the HafenCity in Hamburg, 1.100 banners (3m long and 90cm wide) were hung from the roof in long rows. Together, they build a hovering spatial body that we regard as a floating archive of ideas. The competitions printed on the banners are arranged by districts and within the district by chronological order. The entries to the respective competitions are not shown in the usual order of winning projects followed by the others, but alphabetically according to the offices ‘names. This neutral order is reflected in a code that was given to each competition, each entry, each plan – representing the idea of an archive of ideas.
The plan of the floating archive shows the parallel rows of the banners crossed by wide and narrow paths, giving visitors the possibility to stroll through the installation like walking through a city. Listening to the audio guide while walking, visitors are provided with background information to the urban context of the competitions. Along the wide paths, so-called islands are arranged, creating separate exhibitions spaces within the floating archive. Here some selected competition entries are shown to represent the major tasks of the city planning: Residential, Office/Commercial, Infrastructure, Public and Green Spaces, Culture/Education/Sport, Conversion and Re-Use, and Urban Planning. Each island showing one of these themes features a unique geometrical shape and colour. The colour concept of the islands reflects the basic concept of the exhibition: each colour has an absolute beauty in itself, all together, they harmonise to form an entire whole.
The plan of the exhibition resembling a city is to visualise the importance of this first-time show of all competitions together as the sum of all contributions to the entire city.
KAWAHARA KRAUSE ARCHITECTS with
Kaye Geipel (Architecture critic)
strobo B M (visual communication)
Bureau N (agency for communication)
Structural Engineers: Bollinger & Grohman Ingenieure, Hamburg
Fire Safety Engineers: THAT, Hamburg
Colour concept: Nobuko Watabiki (artist)
Client: Behörde für Stadtentwicklung und Wohnen, Hamburg