Brick Fabric: Installation in the Villa Aichele in 2009

Sandra Peters

The installation Brick Fabric is directly related to the central room on the ground floor of the Villa Aichele in Lörrach. The space is well suited to exhibitions; it is rectangular with 38 square meters of floor space and mea­sures 3.7 meters in height.

The Villa Aichele was built in a neo­-Baroque style by the Swiss textile manufacturer Nicolas Koechlin in 1861 and at the time was used as his resi­dence. His heirs sold the property in 1901 to Maria Aichele, giving the villa its current name. The building is located in a park with many old trees, including some rare species. After the Second World War, the house became the property of the city of Lörrach. Although occasionally used for exhibitions, it has no official institutional status; it is neither a gallery nor a museum. The Villa Aichele is presently used by two architec­tural firms, with the central room used as a conference room by the archi­tects; several weekends a year, the city of Lörrach uses it for weddings. It is directly connected to the main entrance via a corridor. It is entered through a large double door; directly across from it is a second double door leading to the large veranda, which overlooks the park. The veranda extends the interior into the exterior, where in spring a lush and fragrant wisteria corresponds to the neo­-Baroque interior decor. There is a window on either side of the large double door leading to the veranda. The room has two more doors on the side walls, leading to the adjoining rooms to the left and right. The space—like the villa in general—has elaborate archi­tectural decoration. The floors are parquet; the ceilings and moldings have stucco decorations. The radiators are concealed behind wood paneling with delicate woodwork through which air can pass. There is also a fireplace in the room.

Brick Fabric was an installation constructed of calcium silicate bricks (2DF-format: 115 × 240 × 113 mm). The brick structure stood 40 centimeters from the wall. The installation could be entered through two openings: through the double door toward which one walks when entering the villa and through the second double door providing access to the veranda. The bricks were lay­ered to create a structure through which one can see. The walled-­in instal­lation was open on top, so that visitors could see the entire ceiling and its stucco decorations. The wall paneling, the fireplace, the decorated double doors leading to the adjoining rooms, and the radiators could only be seen through the “openwork” masonry structure of Brick Fabric. The brick surface also continued past the windows, resulting in a play of light in the interior of the installation that was as complex as it was variable.

The installation Brick Fabric contrasted sharply in its austerity with the neo-­Baroque architecture of the Villa Aichele. The installation was placed in the exhibition space like a “fabric.” The installation induced two directions of flow in the space. Within the work, viewers perceived the surrounding neo-­Baroque architecture through a “grid.” Cor­responding to this was the light entering the window and the brick struc­ture, which resulted in a play of light in the room that was geometrical—and hence contrary to the neo-­Baroque style. The interior destabilized the ex­terior. The solid contours of the space were, in a sense, broken down so that the space began to flow. Because the bricks had been layered upward without masonry termination above, the viewer had a sense of a layering of bricks that did not wish to end. What appealed to me about the room was the opportunity to create a space within a space in which the more constricted physical environment was associated with an enormous expansion of the experience of the space.

I chose the site because I could imagine there a spatial layering and an interpenetration of different architectonic layers. The first layer was the existing exhibition space with its neo­Baroque architectural decoration. The veranda extended that space into the exterior; it mediated between the interior and the park. By contrast, Brick Fabric established an inner­ most layer that contrasted, as described above, with the neo­-Baroque archi­tectural decor because of its regular structure of bricks. The result can be described as poetic. Thus it was possible to produce associations with the space’s two ordinary uses, as an architects’ office and as a wedding chapel, without relating the brick structure to either of these two functions. Be­ cause the bricks were stacked without plaster, the structure seemed neither ambitious nor conventional; rather, an elementary architectonic ratio seemed to coincide with a festive garment.

For me, the installation Brick Fabric expressed not only architectural connections but also associations with texts. The overall situation seemed comparable to a textual fabric that opens up different perspectives and yet is one thing. The viewers were able to move back and forth between the two rooms—as if between two narrative strands of one story—and perceive the layers and changing perspectives from inside and outside. Not only could the move around in the interior of the installation but also around the work—thanks to the narrow corridor resulting from the distance between the masonry structure and the actual room. Thus they became observers between the spatial demarcations.

Depending on the season and the time of day, the installation Brick Fabric would be flooded with light entering from outside in various ways. After the leaves of the wisteria had fallen in November, the sunlight cast starker shadows on the wall. The room was brighter, and at the same the “shadow pattern” was more dramatic.

Exh. cat. Villa Aichele, Lörrach

Berlin: Self-published


pp. 60–62