On 31, Jan 2015 | In Installations | By Regina
Light and Shadow
Art for the halation of the new court
among the prison Stadelheim – Munich
Invited competition, 1st place
Fa. Regler GmbH, printmaker, Altenstadt/WN
Katharina Hochhaus, sculptor, Cologne
On the area of the Munich-Stadelheim prison a new building for the assembly hall of the Higher Regional Court (HRC) for high security legal proceedings will be constructed. An artistic decor has been commissioned for the adjacent atrium. The new assembly hall is an elongated, two-story room. The one-story atrium extends from the front and forms the interface between three adjacent areas: the HRC assembly hall, the prison, and the public area. All three areas open onto the atrium through glass surfaces that extend to the ceiling. The atrium represents an empty space, a “cavern” on the ground floor lit only from above and is closed with a flat grid that is not to be walked upon. It is a concentrated, self-centered space, exclusively viewed from the outside. The atrium has no useful function, is not an emergency escape route, nor a passageway—it is simply a generosity of the architecture reflecting light and spatial relations.
The surrounding areas do have distinct functions: In the correctional facility prisoners are being detained, in the HRC assembly hall a search for truth is pursued and judgments are being passed, and the public can follow both in the public area. What is the meaning contained in the emptiness of the atrium? Does the emptiness provide a free space for thinking? What penetrates into this emptiness?
Comparing the empty atrium to a cave-like space in which one is unable to see the light source only its reflection, brings to mind Plato’s cave allegory. The idea here is: of passing through its empty space to transform the atrium walls into projection surfaces—of life, of reality, or apparent realities and the search for them. The atrium itself remains empty. The emptiness becomes a symbol for the search for the truth.
The longitudinal walls of the atrium become “projection surfaces”: Horizontally, the exposed concrete is covered with a dense web of multifold color lines that symbolize the aspects of life for reflection. The lush hues of color transform the light into shadowy lines that seem to describe the abundance of levels of experience, influences, and life events. As a bridge they stand for both the experience of the prisoners and the experience of the visitors. The horizontal orientation of the web of lines on the exposed concrete surface underlines the sightline and the connection of the “public area” with the “closed area”. Ultimately, the greatest possibly transparency between the closed and the open area is affirmed by leaving the narrow window sides open.
The glass surfaces of the assembly hall are extensively covered with a light white, calm, transparent veil. The still light-transparent glass surfaces overlay the view of the concrete wall of the atrium with a touch of white. Across the entire surface of the ten glass fields a structure of large curves has been drawn. From the courtroom and depending on one’s perspective, the free and curved movements of this “etched” drawing open up different vistas on the rear atrium wall. The closer one comes to the glass wall the clearer is the vista of the colorful accumulation of lines. The curved movements on the glass surfaces reflect aspects of the search for truth in the juridical process. From the perspective of the judges and at the beginning of the proceedings the complex contexts of the cases are still diffused, not yet comprehensible. The search for truth becomes clearer and more visible through closer investigation during the proceedings. In a pictorial sense only the search, the free “paths of thought” opens insight into the various levels of experience, events, developments, entanglements—here onto the colorful network of lines. In the language of Plato’s cave allegory the decoding of these shadow images is the goal, i.e., to find the idea of goodness, to recognize actual reality.
The conviction that our observation of things depends on various viewpoints and states of knowledge may also be experienced in the design. Since the visitor may move around and change position within the courtroom and depending on their closeness to the glass wall a more or less open vista appears in which different superimpositions and segments converge in their particular atrium line reflection. The idea that our look at things also depends on various viewpoints and states of knowledge can be experienced in the design. And the fact that the visitor moves around in the courtroom and changes position, provides more or less an open vista depending on how close they come to the glass wall and, at the same time, also depending on their location in the room different superimpositions and segments appear in their line reflection in the atrium
The artwork Light and Shadow in the atrium thematizes the simultaneity of depicted life colors ranging from bright to dark, and the search for this light and shadow that takes place in every criminal trial.
Illustration/Photos: Regina Kochs