Oasis 7 in the Victoria & Albert Museum 06.10.08

words William Wiles

This time-lapse video shows the re-construction – and inflation – of Oasis 7, a pioneering piece of experimental architecture, inside the Victoria & Albert Museum. The original Oasis 7 was erected in 1972 for Documenta V in Kassel, Germany, by Haus-Rucker-Co, a pioneering firm of experimental architects. It’s being re-created for the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition, Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970.

Oasis 7 is an exercise in imagining a future in which humanity has retreated into climate-controlled environments to escape pollution. “We were dealing with nature and the artificiality of nature and nature in the city as artificial and so on,” says Günter Zamp Kelp, one of the founder members of Haus-Rucker-Co.

In the original, the bubble that is Oasis 7 protruded out of one of the windows of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, creating a space that is neither outside nor inside. It’s a wholly artificial environment, with two potted palms inside as a mockery of attempts to simulate nature. “You go into the bubble, and you see on one hand the two artificial plants, but also the … normal urban situation [outside],” says Zamp Kelp. “It’s also kind of sarcastic because we got the message [from 1970s architecture and urbanism] that people shouldn’t dream of nature and want to leave the urban environment, and should stay in an urban environment, and accept the urban environment.”

Haus-Rucker-Co’s other work explored similarly environmental themes, which were still unusual in the 1970s. In one 1971 installation, the collective swathed Mies van der Rohe’s Haus Lange in Krefeld in white vinyl, creating an insulated environment within. Anti-pollution hoods and masks designed by the firm are also on display as part of Cold War Modern, which explores how architecture and design reflected popular anxiety about the possibility of nuclear holocaust.

Cold War Modern is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 11 January 2009. It is reviewed in the November issue of icon, in shops now.


image The original Oasis 7 at Documenta 5 in Kassel, 1972

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