Trix & Robert Haussmann: The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule

Organizer: gta exhibitions
Date: Wednesday, 31 October 2018 to Friday, 14 December 2018 — Opening: Wednesday, 31 October 2018, 6 pm
Location: ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg

Photos: Philip Heckhausen

Wednesday, 31 October 2018, 6 pm
ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg
Introduction by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen

Trix & Robert Haussmann
The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule

A retrospective with interventions by Caruso St John Architects, Liam Gillick and Karl Holmqvist

Curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen, with a contribution by Sabine Sträuli, gta Archives, ETH Zurich. A collaboration with the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and Nottingham Contemporary

Trix and Robert Haussmann can be counted among the most important Swiss architects of the twentieth century. Their multifaceted practice ranges from architecture to product design, furniture, and textiles – each of which make use of creative plays on form, function, and language.

Since founding their studio in 1967, which they later called “Allgemeine Entwurfsanstalt Zürich” (General Design Institute Zurich), Trix and Robert Haussmann were amongst the first to break with the premises of modern canonical orders and concepts, playfully reinterpreting the linguistic dogmas of architecture theories. In the intervention Chair Fun, an exhibition initiated by the Swiss Werkbund, they pursued the principles of functionalism ad absurdum. For the exhibition – a variety of stool-objects made by a diverse array of artists and designers – they designed a luminous “Anti-Chair” made of neon lights, which threatens to collapse with the addition of the slightest weight. In the following years, they developed numerous interior designs reflecting their unique flair, informed by citations from architecture history and the use of illusionist techniques. These techniques were consolidated in their 1981 exhibition Trix and Robert Haussmann: Manierismo critico at Studio Marconi in Milan, where they presented their concept of critical Mannerism, directed against architecture’s stiff classicism. To that end, Trix and Robert Haussmann designed a series of so-called “Lehrstücke” (Didactics). To combat the conformist impoverishment of expression in their time, the duo developed an experimental design instrument called The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule. Like a slide-ruler, this “concept-slider” makes use of the combinatorial potential of moving two scales against one another. In Trix and Robert Haussmann’s adaptation of the instrument, however, words – predominately adjectives used in architectural discourse – replace numerals, which, through endless combinations, produce imaginative architectures, languages, and images. The Oulipo-inspired concept-slider was intended to expand on prevailing notions of stylistic diversity with the use of randomly combined pairs of words.

For Trix and Robert Haussmann conceptual works are always tools in the design process for concrete projects. Therefore, in addition to architectural designs and models, the exhibition also presents realized projects like the arcades of Boutique Weinberg, sculptural objects that find themselves between art and design, as well as mirror-objects, that confound one’s perception of the exhibition space through illusionistic distortions.

gta Verlag published a comprehensive publication edited by Gabriela Güntert, Bruno Maurer and Arthur Rüegg entitled Trix + Robert Haussmann: Kultur der Formgebung in 2017.

In 2018, the exhibition was shown at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and at Nottingham Contemporary. Supported by Tisca Tischhauser AG, Vitra Design Foundation, ProHelvetia, Peter Röthlisberger, Herald St, London, Stiftung Kunstsammlung Teo Jakob and Caruso St John Architects.