Andras Bojti: Encounter with Axel Schultes in Berlin, 2002
During June and July 2002, I had exhibited my architecturally inspired glass sculptures at the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary in Berlin. Mr. Kamel Louafi, landscape architect, who had designed the impressive Park complex for the recent Hannover Expo, opened the exhibition. The Exhibition was titled The Gate in the Gate (Tor am Tor in German). The different sized gates, sculptured of glass, were set up in the room, as they would have been lined up on an axis, one behind the other, the imaginary axis pointing towards the real Brandenburg Gate being hundred meters behind in the background. It was indeed, architecturally symbolic. The visual combination created the impression that the inner order conquered the distance and united with an external landmark, thus creating a contemplative and compositional unity. The discreet appearance of the glass in the space and the respect of freedom played a major role in the process of this composed view. My enjoyment of the concept of unity was amplified by the elegant facade of the Frank O. Gehry designed DG-Bank building also in the background. In summary, it was wonderful to have an exhibition in such, architecturally fomenting city, rich in human tolerance. It was a very satisfying experience to tour and discover this city’s newest, finished and yet unfinished buildings with the friendly help of Kamel Louafi, aided by up to date maps and guidebooks.
It is exemplary for us the way Berlin cares and respects its most monumental sculpture (its buildings) and provides fresh, quality information of them for the locals and the outside public. The organic coexistence of the creative art, public statues with the contemporary architecture and landscape design are indeed enviable. I’ve attempted to discover (by bike) the above jewels of this livable and enjoyable city as its temporary citizen. During one of those trips, I passed the Crematorium in Berlin’s Treptow section, designed by Axel Schultes. This building impressed me the most and effected my senses as an architect and sculptor.
The building is, in a positive sense, poor and rich at the same time. The absence of the post-modernistic bric-a-brac is obvious. The respect for all-important elements, such as earth, sky, light and the proportions of the mass, openings and colours are noticeable. I do not wish to describe the building here; this should be the task for someone else. I would, however, talk about the perhaps not accidental lucky circumstances between my first glance of the building and experiencing it in a photographic, almost movie-like, way.
The Crematorium’s layout is horizontal on a flag lot shaped park. Inside I saw a young couple, dressed in white, walking in the huge hall of columns. The grayish white of the concrete and the turquoise of the facade's shadow system only wished for this moving, snow-white flotation. Unwittingly, they provided a human scale for truly appreciating the dimensions of the over 10 meter high hall. Their theatrical movement was in harmony with the randomly positioned 29 slim columns, each protruding from illuminated portholes. At the first look, the columns are appearing as having no functional, supporting function. Their trunks ends below the ceiling and are connected to it only by a strong but hardly visible ferro-concrete „neck”. The spirit of a great Hypostyle hall of an Egyptian temple, transplanted into our modern 21st century. The apparent elements, sand, water, raw concrete and light are suggesting the sacred nature of such a building. A universe by itself with an eternal silence connected to a chapel of simple proportions.
Inspired by the unique experience, I felt a sudden desire to meet the architect.
Prior to our meeting, I’ve sent material to Axel Schultes on my Berlin exhibit and of my precious architectural works. He kindly invited me to his studio on the added on top floor of a Jugendstil villa in the Tiergarten section of Berlin. He designed the addition also. Although a busy man, he spared time for me – while taking a cup of red wine - to discuss the interaction between Berlin’s present architecture, and the contemporary plastic arts and sculptures. He explained that also in their view, the work of the architect and the selection of the sculpture for the building are influenced by many external viewpoints. Such was the case with the Office Building of the Chancellor: we agreed that at the front of the already over-accentuated main facade , the erection of the overgrown Chillida made Corten-steel non-figurative statue was not the luckiest choice. He talked about glass as a versatile sculptural tool and medium, with a healthy familiarity. Our conversation was not really ended there…
My exhibition tour started in Aix en Provence from the Foundation Vasarely and continued at the 4th International Exhibition Glass Sculpture and Garden in Munster, near Hannover where I was awarded the 2nd price, then it was finished in Berlin. Summarising the Tour: this has been an accelerated assessment of the international significance of the local glass-sculpture culture, evolved in isolation.