Herzog & de Meuron
15 September – 17 November 1996

Inquiry into the Architecture of the Future

Our contribution to the 1996 Venice Biennale presents four projects in progress, which give insight into several themes that we are concurrently pursuing. As in previous presentations at the Swiss Institute in New York or the Centre Pompidou in Paris, 3 architectural models and 1 video monitor are placed on 4 separate tables. Both the models and the video are intended to provide food for thought on today’s cities. A fictional, contemporary city in the process of growth is conveyed through the synthetic combination of real pictures from our everyday surroundings.

The video project was originally designed for the exhibition “Enquête sur l’Architecture Proche”, a survey of contemporary architecture, which was to be mounted at the Centre Pompidou in 1997. Our project was well advanced when the ambitious exhibition had to be cancelled due to budgeting problems. The project was so important to us, however, that we decided to proceed although we had no idea where it would lead us. For a long time, we simply followed the images, a flood of images, which we organized like a library. Although fascinated by the magic of these images, we did not know at first what we were actually looking for: namely, pictures of the contemporary city.

From the formal view point this video consists of a journey around a city through the eyes of a camera that provides a picture in real time of image fragments connected in association, which condense into the portrait of a false city of the present. The raw material consists of images and fragments of films – both well and lesser known – and television news bulletins. Although some we have already seen, we had not perceived or understood them in such a direct relation with our notion of a city of the present. What images are they? Beautiful images, ugly images, images of destruction – both visible and invisible, yet perceptible – real and false images, from news bulletins and cinema studios. Could there also be other images? Certainly, though wholly different ones; among the innumerable ones appearing on our screens, only few we took on board or recorded, because they expressed something that we hadn’t known before. Images that let themselves be detached from their original context, from their previous content within a film or a TV new story and that could enter a new context. They no longer needed to recount a story, neither to transmit facts; they didn’t even need to put forward a theory, nor to expound a thesis on the city of today or even tomorrow. They are images that represent the urban reality as a perception of reality, images that describe the process of perception as a type of strategy for urban survival. Sometimes only extremely brief fragments –almost traces of images that let us see a new way –that are able to cast doubt on a presumed certainty. Sometimes they are longer clips that almost present an action, where real men seem actors (Sarajevo scene) and where the actors seem real men (Dennis Hopper scenes) in this false city of the present.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1996




Biennale Director

Hans Hollein

Exhibited Projects

132 Institute for Hospital Pharmaceuticals, Rossettiareal, Basel, Switzerland
134 Wood House, Stuttgart, Germany
145 Art Box Bonn, Museum for the Grothe Collection, Bonn, Germany
“Enquête sur l’Architecture Proche”, Video, 8 min by Herzog & de Meuron and René Pulfer.


“Herzog & de Meuron. Urban Projects. Collaboration with Artists. Three Current Projects.” Exh. Cat. “Architectures of Herzog & de Meuron: Portraits by Thomas Ruff.” TN Probe Exhibition Space, Tokyo. 22 November 1996 – 9 January 1997. Tokyo, TN Probe Toriizaka Networking, 1997. Vol. No. 4.

Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron.” In: La Biennale di Venezia (Ed.). “6th International Architecture Exhibition. Sensing the Future. The Architect as Seismograph.” Exh. Cat. Sensori del Futuro. L’Architetto come Sismografo. La Biennale di Venezia. 15 September – 17 November 1996. Venice / Milan, Edizioni La Biennale di Venezia / Electa, 1996. pp. 80-83.