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Unsere Mitarbeiter: Kyung Hun Oh, Übersetzer

Der 31-jährige überträgt bei DOM publishers Texte ins Englische. Die deutsche Sprache, sagt Oh, könne ein "ein großer Kreis" sein. Architekturkritikern empfiehlt er, das Wort "vermitteln" sparsamer zu verwenden.

 

Text: Björn Rosen
Foto: © DOM publishers

 

Gute Übersetzer erkennt man vermutlich an ihren Fragen. Jene, die Kyung Hun Oh manchmal seinen Kollegen stellt, lösen Verblüffung oder sogar längere Diskussionen aus. Gibt es einen Unterschied zwischen den Worten „Konstruktionsart“ und „Bauweise“? Oder: Wie vernichtend ist die Formulierung „geistige Kurzatmigkeit“ eines Architekturkritikers gemeint? Selbst für die deutschen Muttersprachler im Berliner Verlagshaus ist das schwer zu beantworten. Die Fragen zeigen die immense Herausforderung von Ohs Arbeit – und zugleich den hohen Anspruch und die Präzision, mit denen er sich dieser nähert. 

Kyung Hun Oh übersetzt bei DOM publishers seit zwei Jahren Manuskripte vom Deutschen ins Englische. Immer geht es um Architektur, doch manche Texte sind sehr technisch, andere sehr theoretisch. Zehn Bücher hat Oh bisher für den Verlag übersetzt, darunter schon drei Mal das Deutsche Architektur Jahrbuch und zuletzt Radikal normal, eine Sammlung von Aufsätzen des Architekten Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani.

Wenn er spricht, hört man Ohs unverkennbar britischen Akzent. Aufgewachsen ist der Sohn koreanischer Eltern im Großraum London, er hat aber auch schon in den USA und Spanien gelebt. Das erste Mal mit der deutschen Sprache in Kontakt kam er, als er als Teenager einige Jahre in Frankfurt am Main verbrachte: An der internationalen Schule, die er dort besuchte, war Deutsch Pflichtfach. Während seines Studiums der englischen Literatur in Cambridge las er später auch deutsche Lyrik und Theaterstücke. 

Seit viereinhalb Jahren lebt Kyung Hun Oh nun in Berlin, wo er zunächst für eine Übersetzungsagentur arbeitete. „Englisch ist relativ geradlinig, man geht in eine Richtung, Deutsch kann ein großer Kreis sein“, sagt er. Seinem sezierenden Blick entgehen auch die allzu populären Worte in der deutschen Architektursprache nicht: „Aufenthaltsqualität“, „Rückzugsbereich“, „vermitteln“, um nur drei Beispiele zu nennen. „Es gab sogar mal ein Architekturbüro, das über den Zaun um ein Gebäude schrieb, dieser vermittle zwischen dem Außenbereich und dem Privaten“, sagt Oh. „Ich habe das Gefühl, einige Autoren werden von ihrem Wunsch abgelenkt, sehr schön zu schreiben. Manchmal genügt es, zu sagen, es gibt vier Wände und ein Dach, das ist völlig okay.“ Als Beispiel dafür, wie man auf gelungene Weise über Architektur schreibt, nennt er den Guardian-Kritiker Oliver Wainwright, Jane Jacob und Richard Sennett.

Übrigens: Kyung Hun Oh ist mitverantwortlich für die englische Ausgabe des DOM magazine. Und auch diesen Text, den Sie nun zu Ende gelesen haben, hat er ins Englische übersetzt.

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“We must understand architecture as politics”

What brings a practicing architect to start publishing books as a second business enterprise? Ūla Ambrasaitė, publisher of Vilnius-based LAPAS talks to Philipp Meuser, architect and head of DOM publishers, Berlin. During their conversation it turns out that they do not only share their passion for beautiful books but also follow the idea allowing young authors to start their career in the book industry. Meuser shares invaluable insights in his publishing activities. The interview was conducted in in late July 2022, five months after Russian President Vladimir Putin had started his military invasion to Ukraine. The war requires both publishers to position themselves more politically.

 

Illustration: Natascha Meuser, © DOM publishers

  

Ūla Ambrasaitė: DOM publishers are already counting their 17 years in business and successfully growing in depth as well as in size. Not only your books receive awards but also DOM publishers as an enterprise were awarded twice with the German Publishing Prize as an outstanding publisher in 2020 and 2022. What is even a more important step in a life of an independent publishing house – lately you have decided to share the editorial responsibilities and invited an editor-in-chief to join the team. Since 2019, Björn Rosen has been appointed as the publishing director. Therefore, I would like to ask you to share your insights on the publishing industry today, and if your perspective has changed during the years. But let me ask you about the very beginning – what was your way into publishing? How came DOM publishers into life, and what was the reason that you had started the publishing?

Philipp Meuser: My way into publishing started from the first day of studying architecture in the university. I had entered a fellowship program to also be trained as a journalist during my studies in architecture. When all my student fellows in the university did their internships in all these famous architects offices in Berlin in the early 1990s, I was gaining work experiences at local newspapers and radio stations. I always felt in-between these two worlds of practicing architecture and theorizing on architecture – until today. In 1996, my wife Natascha and I founded Meuser Architekten, and almost ten years later we extended our activities in the publishing world. As an architect, you are trained to manage your projects in a very holistic way. You always need to have all planning steps in your mind. The same applies to publishing: you write about architecture, you think about the graphic design, and how to do the printing process, the production, and the distribution. Allow me to add that content management is my main priority. Moreover, I believe that a book needs to be found and that you do not need to promote it, if the message is clear and contemporary.   For me, the publishing business is more about the contribution to a discussion, let's say adding a small piece of mosaic to a whole picture of architectural history. It's even more important to publishing a book which is listed in a bibliography five or 10 years later, as if you would sell 2,000 or 3,000 copies within the first three months of the publication. Of course, sales and earnings are important for independent enterprise cannot survive without profit.  

Ūla Ambrasaitė: You mentioned the importance of the book being quoted in other books. I think this is one of the fundamental drivers of a publisher: contributing to a global web of ideas and creating the context for authors within the bigger context.

Philipp Meuser: Indeed. Whenever I'm going to brief an author, I always ask him where he would like to see his book in the bookshelf, if it is an architect's monograph, or is it something about urban design, about a style of architecture, about a material, about a construction method. It’s a fundamental question to make the author clear what he is writing about. For me, briefing the author is never reduced to the issue “tell me something about your target group”. It's always about the question: What is the context you are writing in?

Ūla Ambrasaitė: The author plays a crucial role in publishing, and I am noticing authors becoming stronger voices in the industry. How do you see the role of an author at DOM publishers, has it changed since 2005?

Philipp Meuser: I don't know if the role of the author has changed dramatically. I would say the ambition of me as a publisher might have changed. Allow me to simplify: In the beginning it was important for us to publish any kind of book, which was related to architecture, design, or urban planning. Today the selection of an author has become more important to us. Our strategy is to ask whether this author fits into our publishing program. I've never counted, but I would estimate we have published more than 700 titles with more than 1,000 authors since the beginning. And it has always been important for me, that each author contributes to the profile of the publishing house.

 

»As an architect, you are trained to manage your projects in a very holistic way. You always need to have all planning steps in your mind. The same applies to publishing.« – Philipp Meuser 

 

Ūla Ambrasaitė: Would you recall a moment when it has changed from wanting to publish books on architecture in general to aiming to create a network of conversations, that each author would contribute to the profile? 

Philipp Meuser: This was quite early – forced by economic circumstances and not voluntarily. The strategical turn was: mainly focusing on series, saying farewell to the anything-goes mixture. I remember that the first architectural guide we published on Berlin was shortly after the 2008 financial crisis. We were forced to think about our publishing strategy very much. In the beginning years, we licenced nearly all our titles to foreign publishers. We closely worked with publishers in China and Singapore – we released the titles in German, and Chinese publisher in Mandarin, and the Singaporean publisher in English. The copies were printed in one production process using the method of black-film change. We had quite a good cooperation which was suspended immediately during this financial crisis when Asia suffered a lot. We also suffered in the architect's office. I remember that within one week we lost five projects, what we were doing in Russia and Kazakhstan. The clients called us and terminated the contracts overnight. We had to think about how to survive and then we came up with the idea to reduce our whole publishing program and to develop three series: guides for travelling architects, construction and design manuals for practicing planners, and the Basics series for our academic audience. We try to meet the requirements of all architects, scholars, and people who are generally interested in architecture. It's clear for us that the architect is not the only stakeholder in the building and planning process. But the architect remains the only stakeholder in the process who is responsible for design and beauty.

Ūla Ambrasaitė: As much as I know you personally, and as much as I am following DOM publishers’ programme, I notice a strategy to support and to empower the younger generation as well as first-time authors in general

Philipp Meuser: Indeed. We have been working many times with so-called first-time authors – youngsters who publish a book first time in their life. In general, it is quite time- and energy-consuming. You always need to start from scratch and to explain each step. During the years we have helped mainly young authors from Eastern Europe to publish their first book ever. We are very proud of supporting young talents. I strongly believe that a young author can also write about a subject of which generations of other authors have been publishing before. Young authors can add new thoughts to a topic what experts have written about. The new view is so important, especially when it comes to the architectural guides. Whenever we have authors with Arab or Asian background, they are often very shy and too respectful, and they tell us: “Oh, we are nor old neither experienced enough to write about our city, to select buildings for an architectural guide.” In this case we try to encourage them to start writing, because all these experts and more experienced authors also have started some day in the past. We feel that we can really persuade young author to write.   

Ūla Ambrasaitė: Which title do you have in mind?

Philipp Meuser: I remember the initial meeting for our Alexandria title, which was edited together with a local architecture school and the Goethe Institute. In 2017, I went to Egypt for a first workshop to introduce the architectural guidebook as a book genre, which is not so common in certain cultural context. I explained what an architectural guide is, what is the purpose of it. 25 out of the 30 students were female. They were very open-minded, but at a certain point, they all told me, they didn’t feel qualified to become authors. The told me: “We feel too young and it should be the older men who should write about architecture.” I told them not to believe in a single history of architecture!  Finally, I am very happy that the guidebook was recently published. And most of the authors who contributed were those young female students. I count this as a success in our publishing activities. It's not the quantity of books, what we sell, or the quantity of titles, what we publish during the year. It’s about inspiration and motivation. Whenever young authors are as proud as to have tears in their eyes – this reminds us why we do books.

 

»It is important to give a voice to different perspectives. And it takes effort to encourage people to start writing and believing how to contribute to the dominant narrative, how much their voice also matters.« – Ūla Ambrasaitė 

 

Ūla AmbrasaitėIt resonates a lot to my personal vision as a publisher that it is important to give a voice to different perspectives. And it takes effort to encourage people to start writing and believing how to contribute to the dominant narrative, how much their voice also matters. However, we come to a very important question to a publisher: How do you define the bestseller at DOM publishers? How do you measure the success of the book besides its contribution to the broader profile of the publishing house?

Philipp Meuser: Let me give you two answers. Of course, from the financial point of view, a bestseller is a book what you sell many copies of within a very short time. And another bestseller is, of course, if you have a second or even your third print run. So I think these are bestsellers on the economic side. However, the successful book could also be a title with a very small print run, but which gets reviews from high-qualified reviewers or from experts within a certain field of research. I think this is something, what is important for me and for DOM publishers in general.  Sometimes young people contact us because they read something what we had published, and they want to contribute to our publishing program. In general, we are very open to support them. Whereas I have to say that we are not as generous as we can allow everyone to publish in our publishing house. Of course, we have some levels of quality control – but also of financial responsibility. We need to calculate how the return of investment is guaranteed. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. And this brings us to the question, how can we give a forecast if a book is successful or not? Frankly speaking: I cannot! The book market is unpredictable. You never know, how fast a book will sell. But I can tell you that you will sell all copies in the end.  

Ūla Ambrasaitė: You say this after 17 years in publishing – that you never know what will sell. What was the most unexpectedly successfull book?

Philipp Meuser: The more nerdy the subject is – the better you can sell it. We have published a book on the north Ukrainian city of Slavutych – most people in Western Europe never have heard about it. It's a city which has been replaced after Chernobyl disaster and it's like a big open-air museum of Soviet panel housing. Very nerdy. We published this book in English, Ukrainian, and Russian language, and it was sold out very soon. It was really a surprise for us. Our motivation to publish was not to sell it as soon as possible and to make a big profit. Our motivation was to allow the author Ievgeniia Gubkina to write a book on this subject, on the city, and to make this city more well known in the academic world.

Ūla Ambrasaitė: I would say it is an intrinsic success of a publisher, when the audience you have built during the years trusts in your choice and is eager to read about a nerdy subject they have not heard about before. However, the economic success is measured by different metrics. For example, the Federation of European Publishers has once published a report saying that one out of 10 published titles is a bestseller, two published titles cover the expenses and seven titles are unprofitable. What percentage of bestsellers in this regard does DOM publishers have per year?

Philipp Meuser: When I just think about those ten per cent bestsellers, I agree in terms of revenue and number of titles. Out of 50 new releases per year, five are bestsellers. Together with our strong backlist, it allows us to publish financially high-risk titles. These are those “nerdy” titles I was mentioning before. Since our books are not focused on one season, we can sell it the same price for five to seven years. The risk in publishing is mainly to understand how soon you can sell your longsellers. This caused the main troubles in the beginning of our publishing business. Today we have approximately 300 titles in the market which guarantees continuous earnings. The biggest risk for publishing business remains the cash flow. You need to calculate how long you are going to have the title on stock, that means for a calculation of a book, it's not only the author's and designer’s fees or printing, distribution, warehousing cost – the secret is to balance future investment, continuous returns, and the “frozen money” in your warehouse. Luckily, we have full control on most of the publishing steps and don’t depend on third parties. But whenever there are some certain issues like a financial crisis, the pandemic, or the war in Ukraine – we are directly hit. Since a couple of years, we had established quite good and successful sales in Russia, but it was completely suspended by the start of Russia’s invasion. The same applied to our sales in Ukraine whereas. It’s dramatic, less in terms of financial disaster but in terms of cultural exchange what is our main motivation to keep running the publishing house. The war forces us to act more actively: We must understand architecture as politics, not only as a beautification of our built environment or as an answer to social and ecological questions. 

 

»Out of 50 new releases per year, five are bestsellers. The more nerdy the subject is – the better you can sell it.« – Philipp Meuser 

 

Ūla Ambrasaitė: Publishing is a tought business where the content analysis is way more important to understand economics than the way around. Although the book market is unpredictable, or maybe because of it, I notice people usually gets excited about the idea to publish books, to start their own publishing house. What would be your economic advice for the ones thinking to start publishing – how many years of investments should they calculate before the break-even? 

Philipp Meuser: You need to calculate 5 to 10 years. Definitely. The first five years you can hardly make any profit unless you carry Harry Potter in your program. The Bible might be another bestselling option. If young people think about establishing a publishing house, I recommend to do it with a partner: One is responsible for the content, and the other one is responsible for the financial success. This might help to have the breakeven sooner than five years.

Ūla Ambrasaitė: That is a very good advice – to have a partner and to calculate at least 5 years of negative results. What do you see as the biggest challenge for yourself today in publishing?

Philipp Meuser: Today’s challenge is to focus the publishing to a more political program. The war in Ukraine had forced us to rethink our direction. We sharpened our focus on Eastern European topics. Currently, half a dozen titles about Ukraine are in progress. They aim to increase knowledge about the country in the rest of Europe. Other titles will be translated into Ukrainian language to support decision makers in Ukraine when it comes to rebuilding the country. We understand this as our political statement against Russia. Putin and his minions dream about destroying the existence of Ukraine as a souverain nation. We as publishers try to fight back with independent reflections on Ukrainian architecture, building culture, and identity. If you would ask me what DOM publishers is going to do in 5 or 10 years, we would try to become stakeholder not only in the discussion on architectural history, but also about politics related to architecture and housing.

Ūla Ambrasaitė: I would like to finish our conversation with your perspectives on the future. What would you think the most disruptive innovations will be, what mental shifts they might cause? Would you think there will be different way how people buy and read books, how authors write or choose a publisher? Have you ever thought of how and if different the publisher’s life will be in 10 years?

Philipp Meuser: I this regard I might be the most conservative publisher. I believe in printing on paper, and I keep believing in. All these utopian thoughts about removing printed books from the market – I can hardly imagine that we as humans will completely digest knowledge from digital sources only. But the kind of books, what we are doing will change. I believe that books become more and more design objects. The more you focus on the quality of books, the better you might succeed in the market. From this, all stakeholders in the industry will benefit: the publisher, the reader, and the author.

 

Architektonische Sommerlektüre

Vom "Portugiesischen Haus" über italienische Ruinen bis zur Lübecker Altstadt: Diese sechs Bücher aus unserer Reihe Grundlagen empfehlen wir Ihnen fürs Reisegepäck und für laue Leseabende. 

 

Abbildung: Raúl Lino wählte die Zypresse zu seinem Zeichen, bezugnehmend auf ein Zitat des persischen Dichters Scheich Saïd: »Besitzt du im Überfluss, sei freigiebig wie der Dattelbaum. Wenn du nichts deinen Besitz nennst, dann sei ein Azad, ein freier Mann wie die Zypresse.«

 

1. Portugal  

Er gehört zu den interessantesten Persönlichkeiten der portugiesischen Baugeschichte: Raúl Lino da Silva (1879–1974) entwarf vor allem Wohnhäuser, für die er regionale Traditionen mit innovativen Strömungen aus West- und Mitteleuropa verband. Als junger Mann besuchte er die Kunstgewerbeschule in Hannover und blieb Zeit seines Lebens eng mit Deutschland verbunden. In unserem Buch Zwischen regionaler Moderne und portugiesischem Stil wird die Biografie dieses so vielseitig begabten wie umstrittenen Mannes nachgezeichnet. Ausführlich werden Linos wichtigste Schriften und das von ihm propagierte Ideal des »Portugiesischen Hauses« vorgestellt.

 

2. Spanien  

Die Diktatur des Generals Francisco Franco hinterließ in Spanien auch architektonisch tiefe Spuren. In der Zeit nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg standen die ländlichen Gebiete im Fokus des national-katholischen Regimes. Eine neue Generation von Architekten suchte damals nach einer abstrahierten ländlichen Architektur und einer organischen, mit der Landschaft verschmolzenen Stadtform. Das Buch Rural Utopia and Water Urbanism stellt die Strategie hinter der Gründung von 300 Dörfern ("Pueblos") vor und zeigt, welche Rolle dabei Dämme, Bewässerungskanäle und Elektrizitätswerke spielten.

  

3. Italien  

Ruinen gehören seit jeher zu europäischen Städten, sei es als Überreste alter Reiche oder als Folge von jüngeren Ereignissen wie Bränden oder der Stilllegung von Industrieanlagen. Wie umgehen mit ihnen? Diese Frage steht im Mittelpunkt des Buches Urban Ruins. Die Denkmalpflegerin Elisa Pilia untersucht darin den Umgang mit urbanen Ruinen am Beispiel des historischen Zentrums von Cagliari. In der Hafenstadt an der Südküste Sardiniens wurden während des Zweiten Weltkriegs viele Gebäude durch Luftangriffe der Alliierten zerstört. Ausgehend von ihrer Analyse zeigt Pilia Strategien zum Schutz und zur Neunutzung von Ruinen überall in Europa.

 

4. Finnland  

In seiner Heimat gilt er als "Meister des Betons": Pekka Pitkänen (1927–2018) war einer der bedeutendsten finnischen Architekten der Nachkriegszeit. Bekannt ist er vor allem für den Erweiterungsbau des finnischen Parlaments (1978) und die Heilig-Kreuz-Kapelle (1967) in Turku. Für Concrete Modernism hat der Turkuer Autor Mikko Laaksonen umfangreiche Archivrecherchen angestellt, Interviews geführt und sich in Pitkänens unveröffentlichte Memoiren vertieft. Seine Monografie – das erste Buch dieser Art auf Englisch – bietet einen einzigartigen Einblick in das Leben und Schaffen eines ungemein produktiven, aber erstaunlich wenig bekannten Architekten.

 

5. Deutschland  

Kaum ein Ereignis hat Lübeck in der jüngeren Geschichte so sehr geprägt wie die Luftangriffe im März 1942. Die Erzählung über den Zweiten Weltkrieg konzentriert sich deshalb meist auf die Altstadt, die inzwischen zum UNESCO-Welterbe gehört. Unbeachtet bleiben dabei die für Zwangsarbeiter und, nach Ende des Kriegs, für die Unterbringung der Vertriebenen genutzten Lager und der spätere Siedlungsbau außerhalb des Stadtkerns. 90.000 Vertriebene fanden in der Hansestadt schließlich ein neues Zuhause. Heimat auf Trümmern zeichnet anhand ausgewählter Dokumente sowie zahlreicher historischer und aktueller Bilder die Planungsgeschichte der Stadt nach.

 

6. Brasilien  

Posthume Ehre: Im vergangenen Jahr wurde Brasiliens bekannteste Architektin Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992) für ihr Lebenswerk mit einem Goldenen Löwen der Architekturbiennale von Venedig ausgezeichnet. Die gebürtige Italienerin steht im Mittelpunkt von Richard Zemps Buch Bauen als freie Arbeit, in dem es um die brasilianische Architektur zwischen 1961 und 1982 geht. Wie die Grupo Arquitetura Nova, die ebenfalls Gegenstand von Zemps Untersuchung ist, war Bo Bardi bestrebt, die Trennung zwischen Entwurfsplanung und handwerklicher Umsetzung auf der Baustelle so weit wie möglich aufzuheben.  

 

Zwischenstopp in: Toulouse

Christof Göbel, Mit-Herausgeber unseres Architekturführers über Toulouse, ist seit mehr als zwei Jahren zu Gast in der südwestfranzösischen Metropole. Was dem Stadtforscher dort besonders gut gefällt: Gewässer, Parks – und eine Raumstation.

 

Text: Christof Göbel
Foto: Die Garonne und das Hôpital de La Grave, © Gremi357

 

Toulouse ist die viertgrößte Stadt Frankreichs – und sehr charakterstark. Die engen Gassen im Zentrum zeugen von einer langen Geschichte, die bis in die gallo-­römische Zeit zurückreicht. Es ist außerdem Europas Rugby-Hauptstadt und der Ort mit dem Dialekt »le plus sexy de France«, wenigstens behaupten das manche Toulouser. Ich habe Toulouse dank ­eines Forschungsaufenthalts kennen­gelernt und finde es sehr lebenswert.

Wasser. Durch die Stadt verlaufen der Canal du Midi, der das Mittelmeer und den Atlantik verbindet, und die Garonne. Beide prägen Toulouse stark. Ich wohne im Umland, und wenn ich ins Zentrum fahre, zieht es mich oft ans Flussufer: Rund um den Place de la Daurade und den Place Saint-Pierre gibt es viele Cafés und Restaurants, bis spät abends geht es dort quirlig zu; ­Toulouse ist eine junge Stadt – in Frankreich haben nur Paris und Lyon mehr Studenten. Auf der anderen Seite der ­Garonne – einmal über die Saint-Pierre-Brücke – befindet sich ein Museum für zeitgenössische Kunst, in dem interessante Ausstellungen stattfinden: Les Abattoirs (76 Allées Charles de Fitte) besitzt auch einen guten Museumsbuchladen.

Erde. Ich bin seit 2019 zu Gast an der Uni­versität ­Toulouse–Jean Jaurès, Teil eines städtebaulichen Ensembles von Candilis-­Josic-Woods aus den Sechzigerjahren. Leider ist von deren architektonischer Idee nach diversen Umbauten wenig übriggeblieben. Gerne spaziere ich durch die nahe gelegenen Parks. Dort kann man Pigeonniers finden, wie man sie sonst eher außerhalb von Toulouse sieht: große ­Taubenschläge (oft zweistöckig auf ­einem Grundriss von 5 × 5 Metern und mit offenem Erdgeschoss), die je nach Region anders gestaltet sind. Teilweise hat man sie inzwischen zu Wohnungen umgebaut.

Luft. In Toulouse befindet sich ein großes Airbus-Werk, das man auch besuchen kann. Mit der Familie lässt sich die Beziehung der Stadt zur Luft- und Raumfahrt am besten in der Cité de l’espace (Avenue Jean Gonord) erleben, einem interaktiven und lehrreichen Themenpark. Ein Highlight dort sind zum Beispiel die vier Module der Mir-Station, die von 1986 bis 2001 im Weltraum unterwegs war.

 

CHRISTOF GÖBEL ist Mit-Herausgeber und Teil des Autorenteams (auf dem Foto der zweite von rechts) unseres Architekturführers zu Toulouse, der auf Deutsch und auf Französisch erschienen ist. Den aus Deutschland stammenden Architekten und Stadtplaner führte ein Forschungsaufenthalt nach Frankreich. Göbel ist Professor an der UAM in Mexiko-StadtFoto: Maison de l'Architecture Occitanie-Pyrenées  

Congratulations, Francis Kéré!

The architect and DOM author from Burkina Faso is this year's Pritzker Prize winner.

 

Photo: Astrid Eckert

 

On 15 March, Francis Kéré, a native of Burkina Faso, became the first African architect ever to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize. Kéré was born in 1965 in Gando and has lived in Germany since 1985. His internationally active office Kéré Architecture is located in Berlin. He not only contributed to our Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa, some of his great works are also represented in it, such as Christoph Schlingensief's Opera Village. His contribution to the English-language volume Theorising Architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa is entitled: "Building Commons. An Inventory of a Kampala Neighbourhood". We warmly congratulate Francis Kéré!

Wir unterstützen den Architektur-Nachwuchs

Zum wiederholten Mal beteiligt sich DOM publishers an Deutschland-Stipendien für Studenten der Hochschule ­Anhalt in Dessau.

  

Foto: © privat

 

Dabei handelt es sich um eine Förderung, die zur einen Hälfte vom Bund, zur anderen von privaten Geldgebern – zum Beispiel Stiftungen oder eben Unternehmen – übernommen wird. Die neuen DOM-Stipendiaten heißen Elsa Le und Oskar Schmid. Die monatliche Finanzspritze soll ihnen bei Anschaffungen fürs Studium helfen, etwa wenn es da­rum geht, Material für Architektur­modelle oder Software-Lizenzen zu kaufen.

Elsa Le stammt aus Kanada: Zur Welt kam sie 1993 in Frankreich, verbrachte die längste Zeit ihres bisherigen Lebens aber in ­Montréal. Ein einjähriger Auslandsaufenthalt hatte sie vor einigen Jahren an die TU ­München geführt, ehe sie für ihren Master im August 2020 nach Deutschland zurückkehrte – und damit leider mitten in der Corona-Pandemie. »Ich würde gerne noch mehr reisen, die Welt entdecken«, sagt Elsa. In welchem Bereich sie als Architektin arbeiten möchte, weiß sie noch nicht.

Dagegen hat Oskar Schmid, Jahrgang 1998, aufgewachsen in Unter­franken, eine ziemlich genaue Vorstellung von seinem Traumjob. Neben der Architektur – er studiert im siebten Semester und steht damit kurz vor dem Bachelor­abschluss – begeistert er sich sehr für Musik. Seit seiner Kindheit spielt er Geige und ist heute Teil des Akademischen Orchesters Leipzig. Gerne würde er seine beiden Leidenschaften verbinden. »Das Thema Akustik interessiert mich«, sagt Oskar – und denkt dabei an »Klang­räume«, seien es Konzerthallen oder Proberäume in Musikschulen

The fascinating story behind Moscow's Four Seasons Hotel

Myths surround this luxury accommodation and its peculiar story. For 4000 euros a night you can now stay right next to Red Square where the first Stalinist-style building once stood – it looked exactly the same.

 

Text: Damien Leaf
Foto: © depositphotos (skaliger)

 

On a booking platform, a German tourist praises the ‘great view of the Kremlin’ and an Italian extols the wellness area with its large pool. Judging by the reviews, the Four ­Seasons Moscow has satisfied customers. However, a one-night stay costs at least 800 euros and it can be 4,000 euros for the Premium Suite. The hotel with 180 rooms and suites is located between Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre and is one of the largest and most exclusive in Russia’s capital – and it has an incredible history.

The latter began in the early 1930s when the Hotel Moskva was built on the same site – it was one of the first new hotel buildings in the Soviet Union. Architecturally, under Joseph Stalin, who had been sole ruler since 1927, the country was undergoing a shift from the avant-garde to neoclassical eclecticism. Part of the shell construction was already in place when the original constructivist plans for the building by Leonid ­Savelyev and Oswald Stapran were abandoned. ‘Stalin wanted a monumental, rather classical and richly decorated building,’ says architectural historian Dmitrij Chmelnizki. The task of adapting the design to the dictator’s taste was given to Alexey Shchusev. ‘He created what can be considered the first Stalinist-style building’: an eight-column, six-storey portico with an open terrace, generous arcaded loggias in the centre of the main façade, and numerous balconies. The corners were accentuated with turrets. Bruno Taut, who was also involved in the designs, later wrote in a letter that Shchusev had taken over his floor plans, but in a distorted form.

Alexey Shchusev, born in 1873, was a special case in that he was one of the very few who had managed to rise to the top of the architectural hierarchy under the tsars and then repeat this success under Soviet rule. His name is associated with a wide variety of styles. He designed churches and the Kazan railway station in Moscow, but also constructivist buildings. He is probably best known for the Lenin Mausoleum of 1924. ‘Under Stalin, Shchusev was one of the country’s most important architects. That was cynicism, he adapted,’ says ­Chmelnizki, who recently published a critical monograph, Alexey Shchusev. Architect of Stalin’s Empire Style, on the architect. There were many myths surrounding the Moskva, the interior of which was furnished with works by the Soviet Union's most respected artists. No wonder: ‘The secret service was involved and everything was top secret. It was a hotel for foreigners and cadres, no normal Muscovite could enter.’

To this day, the legend circulates that the façade was asymmetrical because Stalin put his signature between two different designs and no one dared to ask. ‘In truth, it was just a matter of statics.’ The hotel was expanded in the 1970s, but it came to an end in the turmoil of the post-communist period. In 2002 the building was demolished for obscure reasons and against an initiative of the then Minister of Culture. Ironically, it was rebuilt almost immediately afterwards – with an asymmetrical façade true to the original.