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Türkentor by Sauerbruch Hutton, Munich, Germany

Sauerbruch Hutton have designed a gallery in Munich, which houses work of American artist Walter de Maria. Photograpy by Jan Bitter

Known for creating large site-specific outdoor works, American artist Walter De Maria is perhaps most famous for The Lightning Field (1977), a 1km x 1 mile weather-conducting grid of steel rods in New Mexico. As part of the land art movement, De Maria took art out into the landscape. But he also, on occasion, reversed the process by bringing land into the artistic domain, such as with Earth Room (1968), a volume of soil deposited in Munich’s Heiner Friedrich gallery.

In October last year, another major work of De Maria’s was unveiled in the city’s new Türkentor gallery, designed by Sauerbruch Hutton. Like its predecessor, the piece follows the artist’s ‘one room, one work’ principle, but now the concept of ‘work’ and ‘room’ seem indivisible - an effect heightened by there being only one room in the gallery. This gesamtkunstwerk has, however, been created by integrating a found fragment of the building’s facade with an existing sculpture, a process that involved close collaboration between the practice and De Maria over a three-year period.

In 2006, Bavaria’s State Galleries asked Sauerbruch Hutton to make a gallery from the ruined neighbour of the Brandhorst Museum (AR July 2009), the polychromatic venue in the city’s art district on which the architects were working at the time. Previously having occupied the length of the urban block, all that remained of the 19th century former Turks’ Barracks was a portion of the main entrance, which is now the Türkentor’s principal facade. (Access is, however, through a rear vestibule flanked by a pair of smaller entrances.)

De Maria’s Large Red Sphere (2002) - a giant 260cm-wide, 25 tonne, granite ball - is placed centrally on the building’s axes, set on a plinth, with a double-height U-shaped brick enclosure built around it. The sculpture’s relationship to the structural columns and beams is one of symmetrical harmony, and yet the former’s polished surface contrasts beautifully with the latter’s rough finish. The space is only naturally lit, with the oculus overhead layering an animating depth of sunshine across the scheme’s geometric composition.

Architect Sauerbruch Hutton, Berlin, Germany
Structural engineer Herbert Fink, Ingenieurbüro für Bauwesen
Services engineer IBH-Ingenieurbüro Honisch

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