We took a trip to the newly opened Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Aarhus, Denmark, where sculptures are exhibited along the coastline and in the forest south of the city. From 5 June – 5 July, visitors can experience 56 different sculptures from 56 different artists and artist groups from around the world for free. Among the many artists, a few architects have slipped in and so we had a talk with the people behind two of the exhibited architectural pieces.
Sømærke (Danish for ‘seamark’) is a wooden sculpture created by German/American architect firm KWY and Danish architect and designer Lise Kassow from Studio Lise Kassow. Installed at the southern end of the exhibition area, Sømærke is a rendition of a Danish seamark.
“A seamark defines a place and stands as a lighthouse relative to the landscape. Sømærke does the same. We have constructed the seamark with layers of lamellas, and the transparent effect lets you see the landscape through the sculpture. The shape of Sømærke came to us after a lot of work with origami. Paper folding inspired the organic shapes and the whole structure is shaped a bit like a flower. In addition to being more or less a traditional seamark, the piece gives visitors the opportunity to sit down and absorb their surroundings,” says Lise Kassow.
The wooden ribs are placed upon each other to create a so-called moiré effect, a visual impression familiar in the world of photography. Moiré is a kind of blurriness, which gives the sculpture a more vivid character. KWY and Studio Lise Kassow have oriented their sculpture towards the water of Aarhus Bay. They believe it is a view and a place where visitors can sit down and contemplate their life and surroundings.
We asked how KWY and Studio Lise Kassow navigate between art and architecture.
“We work a lot on the form and history behind projects, where pure architecture concentrates on function and loads of other practical stuff. I guess working on the artistic side is heaven for an architect. I am an architect myself, and I work within the fields of both architecture and art. In this case, you can say that our spatiality has a function. When function comes in, architecture emerges. If our sculpture did not have seats, it may perhaps have been a pure piece of art,” says Lise Kassow.
Staging the surroundings
Further up the coastline, function plays another role in a sculpture by Danish architect firm Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects. The Infinite Bridge is a circular bridge with a diameter of 60 metres. It rises one or two metres above the water, depending on tide. The centre of the bridge is situated at the end of a groin, so that the circular structure is positioned half on the beach and half in the sea.
On top of the metal framework, 60 identical wood elements have been positioned to form the deck of the bridge. The pillars of the bridge are housed about two metres into the sea floor.
“We have created a sculpture that is all about experiencing the surroundings – about becoming aware of the surroundings. It is a piece that you interact with and go on board to get the full experience. In many ways, The Infinite Bridge contrasts with the other works here at Sculpture by the Sea, because it is a piece of art that you have to work with,” says Niels Povlsgaard, partner and co-founder of Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects.
Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects say they are participating in the exhibition because it was an excellent opportunity to kick-start a project that has been on the drawing board for a long time. The Infinite Bridge would not have been realised if it were not for the exhibition, due to its placement inside the coastal protection zone of Denmark.
As a young practice, Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects reaches out in its approach to making a difference with their projects.
‘The philosophy behind our architect practice is to start some projects on our own and at the same time contact people who can make decisions. Instead of waiting for a project, we invent the project. We do not participate in architectural competitions at the same pace as our classmates from the architecture school,” says Johan Gjøde, partner and co-founder of Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects.
When commenting on the dividing line between art and architecture, Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects is very clear about their role. They are vastly experienced in designing exhibition spaces for ARoS Aarhus Art Museum – assignments that call for the spatial potential of exhibition spaces to be exploited and the focus to be dedicated to each piece of art.
“We have worked quite a bit in the realm of art and architecture. Most of the time it is about taking a step back and allowing the art to come into its own. In these situations, you have to create a setting where people can step in and meet the art. As we did with The Infinite Bridge, we have tried to create a setting where you can experience nature and the landscape surrounding the city. Actually, it is nature, the city’s skyline, the harbour and the relationship to the water that is the true art piece,” says Johan Gjøde.
28 June 2017, update: The Infinite Bridge by Gjøde & Povlsgaard Architects is no longer temporary, but a permanent sculpture in Aarhus.