Rendering of Kronschlaeger’s forthcoming installation at the Universidad de Monterrey.
(Produced by studio assistant Sandra Lee.)
Tadao Ando’s Gate of Creation at UDEM. Photo by Alois Kronschlaeger.
Last month, Alois traveled to Mexico to meet with Ana Perez Escoto, Founder and Director of PEANA Projects, and curators at the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) to discuss his proposal for a site-responsive installation at the campus. Designed to cohabitate with Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s Gate of Creation, a sublime poured concrete edifice that houses UDEM’s Centro Roberto Garza Sada de Arte, Arquitectura y Diseño, Kronschlaeger’s proposed installation was initially imagined as a series of latticed brick walls that would harmonize with the striated surface of Ando’s extant structure. Kronschlaeger’s physical experience of the site, however, played an integral role in the development of the most current proposal, a vision very different from the originally proffered plan: the nascent idea of the stacked brick wall metamorphosed into a design dominated by organic clusters of seventy-five carbon steel rods that create a cohesive path toward, underneath, and beyond the Gate.
Approximately twenty-four feet tall and one inch wide, alternating in color and in distance to one another, the rods will be set in the hilly ground that supports the structure laterally and flanks the pathway that meanders beneath the building. Kronschlaeger’s conception proposes the creation of a wholly new axis to Ando’s building and to the corresponding pathway, defined by shifting vertical color lines that weave in and out of the structure. Perceptible tonal variations in the concrete of the Center, which was poured in different locations, are conjured by the polychromatic palette of the artist’s installation.
The façade of Ando’s building is slashed into two canted planes that sweep into and consume one another. Anchored in the earth at a tilt, Kronschlaeger’s carbon steel poles are also slightly inclined with respect to the horizontal axis, flirting with Ando’s oblique angles. But if Gate of Creation and Kronschlaeger’s sculptural response mimic each other’s swooping diagonalities, the architect emphasizes the inertia of the angle, whereas the artist invokes its kineticism: the metal rods, lithe but sturdy, sway with the wind like the foxtail grass that envelops the campus in a billowy to-and-fro.
Foxtail grass at UDEM. Photo by Alois Kronschlaeger.
This rhythmic pendulum motion—when tested for flexibility, each rod had a sway of about twelve feet—stands in direct opposition to the sort of monolithic construction that characterizes Tadao Ando’s projects. With movement in mind, UDEM becomes the substrate for a historically charged progression from a site-specific artistic intervention that is static to one that is mobile. The optical phenomenon whereby each rigid vertical pole appears to yield in the wind and become elastic serves as a reminder that nothing is truly stable or still. It evokes an architectural problematic, reminding us of William LeMessurier’s infamous design for Citicorp Center, a skyscraper suspended on nine-story stilts that had to be urgently reinforced with steel plates once calculations revealed a flaw that made the building fatally susceptible to diagonal winds.
Robert Smithson, whose legacy is theoretically inseparable from the concept of site, collapsed traditional principles of space and time by creating earthworks that forced the spectator beyond the limits of the gallery and into a vulnerable, exposed atmosphere subject to destruction (although he recognized the confines presented by both sites: “I don’t think you’re freer in the desert than you are inside a room.”) Earthworks were enigmatic explorations into immediacy and infinity, and Kronschlaeger’s interception at UDEM retraces many of these temporal concerns. But where Smithson was preoccupied with entropy, often creating works that were irreversible disintegrations of themselves, Kronschlaeger’s project deals with the production—and not the exhaustion—of energy. To illustrate this point, the artist will have to literally reign in the electric potential of his carbon steel rods, grounding them three feet into the earth, to avoid creating a veritable lightning field.
Left: Constantin Brancusi, Column Without End, version I, 1918. The Museum of Modern Art. Right: Underbelly of Tadao Ando’s Gate of Creation. Photo by Roberto Ortiz.
The grooved underbelly of Ando’s building echoes the long history of the serrated motif, exemplified perhaps by the various iterations of Brancusi’s Column Without End, the first of which dates from 1918 and features rhomboidal modules with slightly curved faces carved into an oak beam. In 1920, Brancusi created a 24-foot high version of the Column for the garden of photographer Edward Steichen. The late sculptor and authority on Brancusi, Sidney Geist, wrote that the Column in Steichen’s garden
…rises without effort and unobtrusively…a repetition without monotony, diminishing perspectively, but ever present in the mind. Stiff where all is swaying, regular where all is varied, it is the shape of intelligence amid floral exuberance, a human gesture in a natural world.
Ando’s Gate of Creation has a similar effect on its surroundings: it stands block-like and rigid in a vastly green and open space, while its corrugated surface imitates the campus’s natural topography. Alois Kronschlaeger’s installation reverses the logic of Brancusi’s column in Steichen’s garden, effectively swaying where all is stiff, and takes the human gesture one step further—not only integrating the site’s landscape but leveraging the region’s elements, such as its strong winds, to amplify movement. Simultaneously strong and supple, the artist’s design for UDEM opens up a new and much-longed for field of conversation with its architectural predecessor.
At this stage, the artist is consulting with an engineer, Esteban Astudillo, to produce a feasibility study. Installation will begin at the end of January 2017; the project opening date is scheduled for March 2017.