Raimund Abraham’s Dream and the House for Euclid, (1983)
(the following is taken from a conversation between Lebbeus Woods and an unnamed journalist)
What do you find most interesting about Mr. Abraham’s “conceptual” work and his drawings? What can other architects learn from it? How can the unbuilt, drawn work contribute to the built realm of architecture?
I’m curious why you choose to put the word conceptual in quotes, as though his entire oeuvre were not conceptual.
First of all, his works—drawn and built—are always visually compelling. Regarding his exploratory drawings, one is immediately struck by their sensuality, their tactility, their originality. They are the very opposite of drawings that attempt to be objective or coolly professional. There are something highly personal, which is very unusual for the drawings of an architect, and this makes them a little frightening. At the same time, they address ideas that allude to the universal, in his use of archetypes—square, cube, circle, sphere, point, line, and plane–for example. The interplay between these supposed extremes creates an inner tension, an existential, dialectical, ultimately tectonic, that is, a constructed, idea of place, time, the world.
Such drawings (and many he has made are in this category) cannot be directly translated into buildings, nor, I imagine, are they intended to. They are not prescriptive and illustrative of some next step, but formulations of principles, grammar, methods of thinking and working. They have much to teach in an explicit way, as I think they have taught architects like Ando, but are impossible to imitate. They have the best kind of influence in that they challenge other architects to find their own integrity, while at the same time showing that this can be achieved in architectural terms.
Are the architectural drawings by Mr. Abraham art or architecture or a hybrid of the two?
This is a misleading question. It takes us into either-or debates which really have nothing to do with his work, drawn or otherwise. In my view his drawings are essentially philosophical, in that they struggle with questions of existence and its meaning. What makes them architecture—or, I should say, Abraham’s architecture–is that they create clear relationships between abstract, tectonic space and form and human experiences and conditions that comprise our existence. As he has said on many occasions, “architecture must confront a program,” which I take to mean a program for inhabiting particular spaces and their contexts.
“…an architectural imagination seemingly oblivious to context, function, community values or coordinated urban development … where the muscularity of pure size informs everything and anything … the psychology of drug financed construction … is informed by the impulse of watching your back rather than looking too far ahead. Here is, therefore, a true architecture of death …” Professor Ina Blom