There’s performance art, and then there’s performance architecture.
Take, for instance, the latest project of Berlin performance architecture firm raumlabor, which has called for a competition to construct hotel rooms made of trash all over the German city of Mannheim. The aim of Hotel Shabbyshabby is to create 20 spaces, or cabins, to be constructed during Theater Der Welt, the city’s renowned international theater festival this spring. All must have locks, be weather resistant, and be built in under seven days.
Raumlabor’s Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius says his projects often tackle goals that seem impossible under a city’s everyday functioning. “These are driving forces for me, to get stubborn bureaucratic systems to do something that they would [usually] never agree with,” he says.
The point is spectacle, of course, but also engagement. By having architects create hotel rooms out of waste materials under bridges, in parks, and empty shopping malls, Hotel Shabbyshabby’s judges hope to draw public attention to recyclable-focused architecture, to place, and to the mundane functions of a city that urbanites might typically walk by and ignore.
“Economic forces, the passing of time–when you live in a city, all this registers in the architecture,” says Gilly Karjevsky, another judge for Hotel Shabbyshabby, and the creator of international architecture competition 72 Hour Urban Action. “The city, in that sense, is a canvas for many different types of performances.”
Foerster-Baldenius also hopes Hotel Shabbyshabby will refresh perspectives, and get the public thinking about future uses for blighted and neglected areas. He cites, for example, Mannheim’s abandoned military barracks, where U.S. forces camped out for 65 years after World War II. The former base will serve as one of the locations for Hotel Shabbyshabby cabins, and part of the project is being supported by government funding allocated for rebuilding the area.
“When we try to make people see their city from a new point of view, it’s like finding a new joy in their own city,” he says.