Coop Himmelb(l)au

Coop Himmelb(l)au

The duo Coop Himmelb(l)au is made up of Wolf D. Prix, born in Vienna in 1942, and Helmut Swiczinsky, born in Poznan (Poland) in 1944. Both studied architecture at the Technical University in Vienna, and at the Architectural Association in London. In 1968, they started a partnership, and the duo has been working solely on joint projects since that time. In the Netherlands, Coop Himmelb(l)au is chiefly known for designing the pavilion of ancient arts at the Groninger Museum (1994).

The name Coop Himmelb(l)au is, in several ways, a reference to their methods. ‘Coop’ stands for cooperation and refers to collaboration. Himmelb(l)au may be read as ‘Himmelblau’ or ‘Himmelbau’; both words indicate the type of free and open architecture they advocate. The expression of this philosophy may be seen particularly in the deconstructivism, a movement that Coop Himmelb(l)au adhered to until late in the 1990s. Within this movement (which fit particularly well in the post-modern spirit prevalent during the 1980s), people were not looking for harmony and synthesis, but instead, they sought fragmentation, chaos, contrast and movement in their designs.

Although Coop Himmelb(l)au consists of two architects, their approach displays a kinship with the plastic arts. Particularly at the start of their partnership, Prix and Swiczinsky organised

a number of happenings; a phenomenon from the visual arts world. Their manifesto is not functionally oriented, but instead, adheres to the – contrary – gridless composition of plastic arts manifestos: “We want architecture that has more to offer. Architecture that bleeds, exhausts, that turns and even breaks, as far as I am concerned. Architecture that glows, that stabs, that tears and rips when stretched. Architecture must be precipitous, fiery, smooth, hard, angular, brutal, round, tender, colourful, obscene, randy, dreamy, en-nearing, distancing, wet, dry and heart-stopping. Dead or alive. If it is cold, then cold as a block of ice. If it is hot, then as hot as a tongue of flame. Architecture must burn!” [From: Gründungsmanifest Coop Himmelb(l)au, 1968].