extensively focussed

Hohe Auflage – exhibition vai, Dornbirn

Architecture of quality has always stood at a critical distance to the mainstream practice of commercial building. Such states of tension are found in many areas, for instance in the contrast between cheap, noisy advertising and an inventive and stylish way of communication. In this sense the collaboration between an architecture institute and a mass medium can be regarded as ambivalent. This project clearly shows that, despite this, the results of such collaboration can be positive for all involved. Under the title “Leben & Wohnen” (Living and Dwelling) a real estate supplement appears each week in Vorarlberg’s biggest daily newspaper, the “Vorarlberger Nachrichten“. Since November 2011 the vai (Vorarlberger Architektur Institut) has been responsible for selecting the projects and for the editorial design of the cover series. The supplement profits from this cooperation and obtains a constant supply of interesting cover stories with high quality visual and textual material, while in return the vai is provided with a permanent showcase for the presentation of architecture to a broad public. To place these full page reports on the first pages including the title image in the form of an advertisement would be well beyond the architecture institute’s budgetary possibilities. Within the space of five years around 1300 architecture pages were published. And the series continues. As a response to the first design enquiry from Marina Hämmerle, director of vai at that time, I suggested that the contents should be regarded editorially and that the graphic design department of the Vorarlberger Nachrichten should deal with them in their usual manner. The intention here was that the architecture portraits from Vorarlberg should convey authenticity and credibility.

After just a year the board of vai decided to present this successful media collaboration in an interesting and informative overall show in the exhibition spaces of the vai in Dornbirn. Working in an intensive process with Marina Hämmerle and the architecture critics Robert Fabach and Florian Aicher, we developed exhibits, stage set and scenography. The summer exhibition ran from July 18 to October 6, 2012 under the title “Hohe Auflage” (High Circulation). 33 reports with a total of 175 architecture pages were extricated in reproduction terms from the real estate supplement and facsimiles were made of them on a 50-meter-long roll of paper. This was stretched right across the exhibition spaces, dipping up and down, turning around its own axis at the centre, and finally ending with the paper simply trailing across the floor. Placing the contributions next to one another revealed the enormous diversity and quality of the publications. The world of reproduction technology and web offset printing on broad lengths of paper, which is standard in mass printing today, suggested this form of presentation. A further backdrop consisted of a section of an illustration enlarged 100 times. This 5.66-meter-wide and 3.02-meter-tall wall mounted illustration showed in a demonstrative way the grid of dots that makes up the images and the fuzziness of the edges of the letters.

Several exhibits focused on the editing and processing of the texts. For instance a large word image made the headlines to the articles legible in a new way. The “forced justified text” in very narrow columns of type standing next to each other, with a sizable distance between the lines, dissolved the vertical type pattern and linked the words in the columns with each other horizontally: a strategic typographical faux-pas, which produced new texts, meaningless but sensous. In a 40-page special issue “Nur Text” (Only Text) the architecture stories – just the texts alone – were printed in a limited edition as a small format newspaper and were stacked on a pallet for people to take home with them. A glossary of specialist terms concluded the series of articles on the length of paper that extended through the space. These explanations of selected terms from the worlds of architecture and mass communication were made by compiling entries from various encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Reinhard Gassner