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Michael Z. Wise

Capital Dilemma

Michael Z. Wise Capital Dilemma Germany's Search For A New Architecture Of Democ
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The decision to move Germany's government seat from Bonn to Berlin by the year 2000 poses an epic architectural challenge and has fostered an international debate on which building styles are appropriate to represent German national identity. Capital Dilemma investigates the political decisions and historical events behind the redesign of Berlin's official architecture. It tells a complex and exciting drama of politics, memory, cultural values, and architecture, in which Helmut Kohl, Albert Speer, Sir Norman Foster, and I. M. Pei all figure as players.

If capital city design projects are symbols of national identity and historical consciousness, Berlin is the supreme example. In fact, architecture has played a pivotal role throughout Germany's turbulent twentieth-century history. After the fall of the monarchy, Germany gave birth to the Bauhaus, whose founders argued that their own revolutionary designs could shape human destiny. The century's warring ideologies, Nazism and Communism, also used architecture for their own political ends. In its latest incarnation, Berlin will become the capital of the fifth German state in this century to be ruled from that city. How will the official architecture of reunified Berlin, a democratic capital being built amid totalitarian remains, be different this time around? The Federal Republic of Germany, a highly stable democracy in stark contrast to its predecessors, has been struggling with burdensome architectural legacies. In the process, it has considered remedies as varied as outright destruction, refurbishment, and, in the case of the former Nazi Central Bank now being converted into the new Foreign Ministry, physical concealment.

Reviews From:

House Beautiful

Metroplis

From: House Beautiful

Measuring just 5 by 6 inches, this little red book by graphic designer Tibor Kalman--a riff on Chairman Mao's book of quotations--packs into its lively pages the wit and wisdom of a true Chair Man. He is Rolf Fehlbaum, CEO of Vitra, which produces chairs by some of the world's greatest designers. The book consists of just a handful of words and 650 amusing photographs. One section is on Fehlbaum's collection of modern furniture classics. Appropriately enough, Chairman is itself designed to be a collectable.


From: Metropolis

THE CHAIRMAN DANCES: After Rolf Fehlbaum took over Vitre two decades ago, the furniture company became something of a corporate counterculture. As CEO, he befriended avant-garde designers, adding chairs by Philippe Starck, Klaus-Achim Heine, and Coop Himmelblau to Vitra's line. Little wonder they like him: ""He believes that the designer is always right"" and ""that the purpose of industry is to fund culture and social progress,"" according to gold-foil lettering stamped on the back cover of Chairman:Rolf Fehlbaum. Designed by Fehlbaum's old friend Tibor Kalman, the founding editor of Colors magazine, the chunky little picture book is a suitably unorthodox biography of the man whose parents started Vitre by manufacturing Eames chairs in their factory near Basel, Switzerland.

Kalman and co-designer Kim Maley stuffed Chairman with 651 of Fehlbaum's favorite people and things--often as full-bleed images running right off the page. They included Fehlbaum's horn-rimmed spectacles, his signature bottle of Corona beer, a trio of Beijing acrobats standing on their heads, a pair of neatly pressed periwinkle boxer shorts, and, course, pictures of the Vitra chair collection installed in the factory's Frank Gehry-designed museum. But Kalman has kept text to a minimum: short sentences of kindergarten words (chosen so that all of Europe could read them without translation) function like title cards in a silent film.

Kalman, who heads up his own New York graphic design firm, M, calls his work uncommercial. Nevertheless, the book has been flying off store shelves since it was released in Europe last November. That's appropriate, according to the designer, because shelves are the wrong place for an object like this. Instead, he recommends putting it ""on your mantel, on your head"" or even using it ""as a doorstop.""

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