13 Okt Interview with Tibor Bielicky – Superposition
In need of any ideas while staying at home this winter? Why not read this exceptional – and loooong – interview about five friends who used their spring lock-down time rather wisely for the last refinements of their magazine. The very first issue of Superposition is about nothing else than the ‘Hardcore Home’. This wild hodgepodge of absurd and compelling home narratives with an architectural touch – and a beautiful layout – will take you into the hidden, obscure notions of your beloved Home sweet Home!
A magazine starting with a superlative?! Seriously, Tibor?!
Well, you’ll get the picture-book explanation first then: In geology the term superposition refers to the youngest layer on top of a rock formation. So in a sense that is us…but our practices and knowledge of architecture can’t and shouldn’t be understood in isolation, but in correlation with former ideas and visions. So to say, we understand Superposition as a cross section between the old, the current and the future. And then there was Superstudio, an architecture group based in Florence with all these radical, utopian visions what architecture can and should be. Very 70s. Position however is more an attitude. Or even a feeling which we are trying to trace down for every issue. And yes, our publication’s name might seem pretentious. But honestly, it is just a gentle reminder for us to do the best we can by not taking ourselves too seriously. A thing which got lost these days – and even more, when I think of working as an architect.
Your theme ‘Hardcore Home’ is that an aftershock of the pandemic?!
We had the home theme in mind for a long time. Pre-Corona time, so to speak. We came up at with the idea – not least because there is nothing more boring than to make another architecture magazine about homes. But we thought, that’s exactly why we have to do it! In Switzerland in particular, housing construction is the export hit par excellence. And Swiss housing is pretty much a reality shock. In Zurich you hardly find vast spaces or high ceiling walls like in Berlin or Vienna. A typical flat in Zurich has one little room next to another little room, and another…with each room having an average of around 10-16 square meters. Additionally, Fredi and Niels, our guest editors, came across the Hart magazine. Their first thought was why not call the magazine Hardcore. After months of deliberation (the list contained about 250! names), it was then – once again – quite easy. Hardcore Home opens up such a wide range of possibilities: from wacky, fucked up, extreme or hardcore, hygge, Scandinavian, floral wallpaper – it can be anything.
Did the pandemic have any effects on the last refinements?! After all the renovating and big clean ups were done during the first weeks of the lockdown you couldn’t escape that gloomy feeling being stuck in your own four walls from time to time…?!
Believe it or not, but almost everything was ready by the time the lockdown started. Almost. Ellena was rummaging in the archive of the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal for suitable building plans. They just have this incredible archive of beautiful plans and photographs – which doesn’t really help get to a final selection… In this respect the Covid-19 crisis kind of helped us to come to a final selection of plans, or in this case one plan. Suddenly all these other typologies came to the fore again: hotels, hospitals and prisons. All of them heterotopias that we had taken for granted for so long. Prisons, because home for many turned into a prison during the lockdown; hospitals, because of the omnipresent fear that they become overcrowded and therefore the whole health system will collapse; and hotels, of course, because the booming tourism industry came to a standstill over night. All of them are heterotopias, in the sense that they are peculiar transit spaces functioning according to their very own principles. Located within our society and yet hardly integrated. I think it’s also super important to keep in mind that these kind of spaces in particular are the real home for so many people. So yes, this contribution arose as an aftereffect of the lockdown, through the sharpened sensitivity for these places. So Hardcore Home because everyone is living in a Hardcore home right now!
You are not new to the field. On the contrary, most of you were actually working together as editors for the magazine Planphase at the Architecture Museum in Munich. Are there things you do differently now with Superposition than you did with Planphase?!
Being part of Planphase and now Superposition increased our awareness that what comes out of it in the end is a very ephemeral snapshot of a certain point in time and space. However, it is the matter of time when it becomes really interesting. Thinking of 15 or 20 years from now, the moment when you take the magazines out of the shelf again and actually see which offices have survived over the years. But also which topics or building styles are still relevant – or in reverse, have ground to a standstill…For us it is this lingering potential which constitutes the actual magic of making a magazine. This value in the long run is the reason why we personally prefer the term periodical opposed to magazine or journal. What has not changed over the years, however, is that we attempt to maintain the dialogue between young and renowned architects. With Superposition we solely try to use material that has not been published yet. Which is, so to speak, not always the easiest, to get the offices to either generate new material or dig into their archives. The team behind Superposition is much smaller now than it was during Planphase. At the same time, we are super happy that we’ve got photographer Max Creasy in our team now.
We also decided to bring guest editors on board for each issue. This is basically a strategic move to outsmart ourselves, to not get lost in our own tunnel visions and make space for different perspectives. For Hardcore Home we’ve got Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen. Both are trained as art historians, but they started curating exhibitions from very early on. Currently they are working on the exhibition concept at the gta at the ETH Zurich.
How did you get to know them?!
As it is the case among architects, I got to know Niels through another architect friend. We immediately clicked. When the time finally came, we knew instinctively that we wanted to work with Niels and Fredi as our first guest editors. They contributed the Home Stories running throughout the issue. It always fascinates me how easily you get lost in these stories. Mainly, because they constantly move between these two disciplines – art and architecture.
Legend has it that Superposition is diving into the human side of architecture. Did the human get out of focus within the field?!
Architecture is always centered around the human. All these norms that you have to observe ensure that you don’t forget about the people inhabiting the building. Every height, every depth, the stairs, every elevator, even the toilet is geared towards a maximum of ergonomy. The human is everything in this respect. What we mean by the human side of architecture are the everyday narratives happening around or in the house. Working as an architect can be super monotonous sometimes, but these stories are killing it! No matter how precisely you plan a house, you never know what will happen to it in the end. You just can’t plan it. After all, people do what they want anyway. Which is good. But it also can be very frustrating. Especially when you find one of these IKEA classics hanging on the wall, this black-white shot of New York with the bright yellow cab or the red double decker meandering through the narrow streets of London’s Piccadilly Circus…
Hardcore Home is filled with a diverse range of human narratives within and around architecture. Which of these stories stuck with you?!
Take, for instance, Reba Maybury’s essay ‚Her Divinity’s Sweet Nectar Encased in a Mason Jar’. It is hard-core in every sense. She makes her living as artist, writer, feminist…but also works as political dominatrix. Her story is set in the home of one of her submissives in New York. It quickly turns out that he is this kind of guy-guy, a fact that prevents her from feeling any kind of sexual arousement. Everything in his flat, the furniture, the extra book section for female literature, but also his Instagram account with endless photos of his tattoo (the tongue of the Rolling Stones), it all cries out for toxic masculinity. For her, all this disgust and surrogate shame culminates in a particular object: The Mason Jar. A very kinky story since you can find that jar in every café these days. With its closure it is highly impractical and just not made for drinking and yet it is so incredible en vogue. For Reba, the glass represents everything what is wrong with this man in a nutshell. And so, this totally generic downtown flat suddenly gets extremely charged with political statements. Gender inequality, toxic masculinity all represented within one glass. Her essay shows what the habitus of our homes actually says about us.
The fact that your home is stylised as an integral part of your identity, its interior as an expression of your innermost self seems natural, even mandatory when you think of Interior Magazines as Schöner Wohnen, AD Digest or Ideat. Isn’t that absurd in a way?!
Yes, exactly! But it still varies from culture to culture, though. In Italy, for example, everything is happening outside in the streets. My time in Venice was like that. You live in an extremely grubby flat, but it doesn’t matter because you spend the whole day on Campo or in a bar. In America, however, the home is more like a status symbol. Take a detached house with an accurately cut lawn, a nice car and you get the Suburban Nuclear Family Dream of the 50s. In Japan between inside and outside there is still far more space for intimacy and privacy. Hardcore Home means exactly that!
The endless stories about home.
The Italian Design and Architecture Magazine Terrazzo plays a big part evolving the idea of Superposition. How did this endeavour begin?!
It all started when Ellena and I went on a trip to Japan. You have to know that if you’re looking for any kind of book, which you can’t get in Europe anymore these days: In Japan you will definitely find it! So we got lost in this bookstore in Kyoto…Well, actually they sold all kind of stuff – and books. At one point Ellena took this large, blue velvet colored magazine out of the shelf. It turned out to be issue #6 of Ettore Sottsass’ and Barbara Radice’s Terrazzo. Imagine that! Back in Switzerland we were asked to participate in several events revolving around print and publishing. That was the point when we started to have a closer look at the magazine, beginning from the layout and typography but also how it is structured content-wise.
What was so alluring?!
The magazine was founded post-Memphis by Ettore Sottsass in conjunction with Barbara Radice, Christoph Radl, Anna Wagner and Santi Caleca. I think they made 13 issues – 10 regular and 3 special issues total, spanning from 1988 to 1996. It has to be said, though, that Ettore Sottsass was the figurehead, and yet the real work – as it was often the case in those days and maybe still is – was actually done by his wife Barbara Radice. One part of their concept was to produce all print advertisement in-house. They had such a unified concept of design and architecture that it didn’t stop at advertising. On the contrary, for them advertising was an essential part of design practice itself. And that’s why in Terrazzo you have the most beautiful advertising ever made for a magazine!
Every time we looked into these issues we were overwhelmed by all the things overlapping, things we had in mind, too – only with a time lag of 20 years…The most obvious is of course the close relationship to Italy. Architectural teaching in Munich, especially at the Technische Universität but also the architecture discourse in Zurich, is very much oriented towards Italy. Plus: Dominic is an expert when it comes to Italian design, I spent a year in Venice and Leo a native Italian. On the other hand, we all agreed for some reason on Terrazzo. Normally this is not the case with anything. At least not that easily. It’s a magazine we would have loved to have done ourselves. Our graphic designers Daly & Lyon was our driving force when it finally came to translate our needs and ideas. In the end, of course, everything became much more expensive than they had planned in the first place. Another similarity to Superposition…But we do have very generous sponsors who are supporting us through and through. One is Caruso St John Architects where three of us work, but also the office of Roger Boltshauser. It’s a great thing when you get unconditional support for something you love doing.