Sleeping Beauty: Reinventing Frei Otto’s Multihalle
On the occasion of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale the saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) will present Frei Otto’s Multihalle in an exhibition in the context of this year’s biennial theme, Freespace. The project’s initiators and curators are the Berlin-based urbanist and curator Sally Below and Georg Vrachliotis, professor of architectural theory and director of saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Both are long-standing advisors to the City of Mannheim on the development of the Multihalle preservation strategy. The exhibition architect is Marc Frohn, who is also a professor at KIT, and his architecture firm FAR frohn&rojas.
The exhibition gives visitors a double view of the Multihalle. Looking back at the past, it presents original archival material to relate the building’s experimental history. The exhibition also looks toward the future. Today, after several years of vacancy and 40 years after the construction of the Multihalle, which was originally planned as a temporary building, the City of Mannheim is working together with a dedicated group of artists, architects, local residents, concerned citizens, engineers, and universities on a new sustainable concept aimed at ensuring its long-term preservation. This open and collectively designed process is unique in Germany.
The Multihalle in Mannheim
The multipurpose hall, built by Frei Otto and Carlfried Mutschler for the 1975 Bundesgartenschau (federal garden exhibition) in Mannheim, Germany, is held to be the largest timber lattice shell structure in the world to date. With its experimental history, open spatial qualities and integration into the urban topography and its greenery, the Multihalle embodies an “open space” for an “open society.”
Frei Otto’s embrace of experimentation was not based on a systematic analysis of architecture in the narrow sense of the natural sciences, but on its artistic interpretation. He tirelessly experimented with models in order to investigate spatial qualities and mechanisms. Frei Otto thus laid the groundwork for an experimental culture that remains relevant today – one that straddles scientific observation and artistic skill, in a form balancing craftsmanship and intellect, where modeling can spark individual insights as well as collective discourse on the future of architecture. The Multihalle embodies this approach like no other building of the 20th century.
Sally Below, Urbanist and Curator and Georg Vrachliotis, Professor for Architectural Theory, Director of saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Marc Frohn, KIT Institute of Architectural Design, Art, and Theory, FAR frohn&rojas
saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
City of Mannheim, Commissioner for Building Culture