with a „winter goodbye barbecue“ on my terrace in Nuernberg, but Saturday morning started with something disturbing event…
Well, Matthew Burger came to see me on Friday, in Nuernberg. We had a good, talkative evening, but I had the unfortunate idea to show him and Marco the „Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste“ at Bingstrasse, by Sep Ruf – one of my favorite spots not only in Nuernberg. A beautiful location, next to the Zoological Garden: creatives next to creatures…
I had noticed the result of the restricted European architectural competition about an extension project to the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuernberg, in July 2009:
and I had also noticed that it didn’t seem to have been an easy decision: two first prices were attributed and finally one of them was chosen to be built.
So I studied the plans of the selected project and I have to admit that in consequence I hadn’t dared to visit the Academy any longer since the construction of the extension started in 2011. Today, visiting the nearly ready project, I unfortunately got to know that my most pessimist feelings had become true, the extension project manifesting itself in the way of some hybrid, not very coherent assembling of metal, plaster, concrete and glass. The many light and high trees along the road are gone, the sight onto the buildings of Ruf, shimmering white and elegant between the trees, is blocked by some kind of, let’s say, „building“ along Bingstrasse. And then, still quite shocked by the first impression, wandering around with Matthew and Marco, I even had to discover the following article, published behind glass at the old entrance of the Academy, which couldn’t be more irritating by the extension architects‘ displaced words about the oeuvre of German-Amercian architect Helmut Jahn, which at that time was exhibited at the Neues Museum in Nuernberg:
How can someone, who did such a displaced piece of work at such a lovely, sensibly designed location as is the Academy of Fine Arts by Sep Ruf, dare to talk in such a way about another colleagues‘ highly profiled work!? Did this guy ever visit Jahn’s work at the Munich airport, which in its structure and appearance is so much more sensible than what we can see now at the Academy in Nuernberg? How can someone excuse the disproportions of this extension, going from the urban setting till the constructive details, by the means of energetic regulations we all have to consider nowadays? By the way: Sep Ruf’s pavilions are a lot more „energetic“ than this extension, only regarding their intelligent concept and structure. Ruf just designed small pavilions and never dreamt of housing in the circulation surfaces like the extension does! So only the working spaces of the ateliers are „indoor“ and heated, the circulation is just covered to protect against rain and snow – this is simple, efficient, linking interior and exterior spaces, therefore quite intelligent and, by the way, beautiful! Ruf also linked the open and at the same time intimate courtyards with the circulation space as well as with the atelier pavilions, the extension encloses them between lots of glass corridors – so there’s no quality of space, no usable and communicative room at all! I don’t even want to talk about the simplicity of materials, about the care in details, about the integration of the context in Ruf’s work, especially in comparison to the extension project…
Just have a look by yourself, in situ, read the article above and make yourself a picture about the incredible difference in architectural quality and intelligence between Ruf’s Academy and this extension. How did Marco thoughtfully put it so well: „One could think that Ruf is the new, modern building and not this extension…“ There’s nothing more to be added.
The place, the Academy has been for many years, the one, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Niederwoehrmeier talked about with an incredible enthusiasm some years ago during a wonderful conference in March 2008 about Sep Ruf in the Neues Museum Nuernberg, this place in my opinion is gone forever.
Ruf’s oeuvre is trying to keep its honor, which is really hard in the context of what was built there within the last two years. I hope Ruf’s architecture survives, especially if someone gets the idea to invest into an energetic rehabilitation – what unfortunately may ever happen!
To learn more about Sep Ruf:
And by the way, read about how good architecture comes into life, by Manfred Sack: