Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015: An installation by the German firm Kuehn Malvezzi portrays its design for a religious building in Berlin that would contain a synagogue, church and mosque – all under one roof.
The House of One would serve as a place of prayer and learning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as secular communities.
The proposed site for the competition-winning design is the Petriplatz in the heart of Berlin, where a historic church once stood.
A large-scale, abstract model of the project in now on view at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which opened 3 October and runs to 3 January 2016.
“The House of One’s potential lies in the simultaneity of intimacy and foreignness, the similarities and differences between the three Abrahamic religions,” said Kuehn Malvezzi.
The Biennial installation “exposes the visitor to this potential in a specific spatial setting, where three models are experienced in one installation,” added the firm.
The installation – on view in a gallery inside the Chicago Cultural Center – consists of three blocks encircling a tall, cylindrical form topped with a sphere. The all-white forms are made of styrofoam.
“The Model of Spaces is a sculpture that displays the interior spaces of the House of One as a negative volume at a 1:8 scale,” explained the firm.
The installation was produced in collaboration with artists Armin Linke and Marko Lulić.
Photographs by Linke are displayed on walls around the model and show liturgic gestures of a rabbi, a priest and an imam in their respective sacred spaces. Linke’s collection is called Model of Gestures.
Marko created a performance piece related to the project titled Model of Relations, which explores “the simultaneity of intimacy and foreignness of the three religions”. A recording of the performance is played on a screen in the gallery.
Kuehn Malvezzi’s concept for the House of One is the result of a 2012 international competition organised by Petriplatz Prayer and Teaching Hall, a nonprofit association made up of leaders from multiple religious communities.
The firm’s proposal won the competition, and money is now being raised to construct the building.
The design calls for a brick structure that would be free of religious symbolism on the exterior.
“The spatial experience within, however, forms a contrast with its outer perception,” said the firm. “The internal organisation of the building frees itself from the overall form. It resembles a city within the city.”
“The central square operates both as interstitial void and as a space of encounter that expands the urban realm of Berlin into the building,” said the firm.
“In a spatial sense, the House of One enables the three monotheistic religions – related to one another, but also estranged – to engage with each other and with the secular urban communities,” the firm added.
Based in Berlin, Kuehn Malvezzi was founded in 2001 by architects Simona Malvezzi, Wilfried Kuehn and Johannes Kuehn. The firm’s main focus is public spaces and exhibitions.
The Chicago Architecture Biennial – described by curators Sarah Herda and Joseph Grima as a “site of experimentation” – features work by more than 100 designers around the world. The three-month-long event includes installations, exhibitions and events.
Photography by Tom Harris.
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