Documenta IX, Aue Pavilions, Kassel, Germany

The Aue pavilions were temporarily built for the hundred days of Documenta IX in Kassel and formed one of the components housing the contemporary art exhibitions. Visited by six hundred thousand people, the pavilions showcased the work of twenty-eight artists. The Building was situated in the extensive baroque park of Friedrichs' Aue's. This park lies sixteen metres below the nearby Friedrichsplatz from where one could look down on the pavilions from above and across to the hills of East Saxony on the horizon. At the time that the pavilions were being designed, Saxony was still part of East Germany.

During talks with the Documenta team it was decided not to turn the Aue park into a sculpture park but fully to retain its status as landscape, serving as an extension of the Documenta manifestations concentrated in the city centre. And from this vision emerged the idea of returning painting - or what stands as painting in contemporary art - to its origins: landscape stretching away from the horizon. This formed the underlying motivation for the Aue Pavilions. A sequence of pavilions was grouped on an axis which extended tangentially to the park structure. The buildings were a crystallization of the various successive zones which constitute the landscape. This was a low-budget construction with a temporary character built-up from an elementary steel structure of successive arched porticos. Raised up from the ground this light ephemeral edifice served as carrier for the illusory nature of painting - in some way defying gravity. The exterior walls consisted of light, profiled-steel sheeting with on the east side a continuous glazed wall. The paintings inside turned like billboards towards the landscape, towards the world. Railway carriages strung together: the building as metaphor for transport, in particular for the nomadic situation of works of art that in the current set-up can find no permanent home. Displacement: also in the image of the metropolis, the underground train stranded in a romantic German landscape. A sort of inverse dynamic.

Elevated above the bright grass, the building generated a social climate that developed around and under the pavilions. There was a continuous succession of encounters, picnics, conversations and moments of rest. The zigzag arrangement of containers, and the footbridges and sloping ground meant that the building became used as a promenade building in a park. Shades of Paxton's infinitely vaster Crystal Palace that was also built to house an exhibition and subsequently taken down and moved.

We discussed with each artist the specific spatial context for their art. Iza Genzken chose a glass corner for her window-sculpture made of transparent artificial resin. Dan Graham constructed a parallelogram-shaped portal at an intersection between two pavilions. Raoul de Keyser hung his white paintings with black paint flecks in an ephemeral space furnished with a bench. For Gerhard Richter we designed a cabinet entirely faced with walnut veneer. We recognized in his work - in the strip-like brushstrokes of his paintings - a sort of vegetal, iris-like morphology. This striped structure contrasted with the grain of the wood. The art cabinet and its bourgeois background provoked considerable discussion. The Aue Pavilions were dismantled at the end of Documenta and the steel structure was transported to the Netherlands, where the entire edifice was reconstructed in Almere and once again serves as an art pavilion. The arrangement of the individual pavilions has altered and the building - now set against the artificial landscape of Flevoland - stands like a caravan park on the edge of the new centre of Almere. Once again the building resonates an informal temporariness.
Documenta Gmbh / City of Almere / City of Amersfoort and Schipper Bosch
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
pavilions for a temporary exhibition at Documenta IX
Kassel, Germany
Floor Area
965 m2
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem
Structural Engineering
Stahlbau Lamparter, Kassel
Curated By
Jan Hoet
Art Intervention
Richard Artschwager, Marco Bagnoli, Herbert Brandl, Thierry De Cordier, Raoul De Keyser, Isa Genzken, Gaylen Gerber, Michael Gross, Tim Johnson, Bhupen Khakhar, Vladimir Kokolia, Mariusz Kruk, Marcel Maeyer, Thom Merrick, Christa Näher, Pekka Nevalainen, Jussi Niva, Martin Puryear, José Resende, Gerhard Richter, Eran Schaerf, Adrian Schiess, Pat Steir, Thomas Struth, Mitja Tušek, Luc Tuymans, Juan Uslé, Henk Visch