Personal Space: Laurids Ortner on Expanding Space

Architecture was a pioneering discipline that even ventured into territories never explored before: the moon. The arts were shaped by sci-fi fantasy and introduced into architecture a kind of future thinking that left the present far behind. And it was the Haus-Rucker-Co in particular, made up by Laurids Ortner, Manfred Ortner and Günther Zamp Kelp, who engaged in reflections on new cognitive spaces.

"In the late sixties, the Haus-Rucker-Co produced a rather unshapely apparatus, the "Mind Expander": a shell seating two persons, with a fold-down hood made up of a plexiglass dome with an air-borne balloon. Different patterns of blue and red reflecting foils were glued to the two planes of plexiglass and foil casing. For the two viewers, this effect produced an overlapping picture that would jump back and forth depending on the focus. At a time of budding experimentation with hot hallucigenous drugs on a large scale, we wanted to create a device for ‘cold’ expansion of the mind – as a counterpart to the fledgling discoveries in outer space: We wanted to explore our inner, personal space of perception by technical means."

Today, Ortner&Ortner Baukunst of Laurids and Manfred Ortner have taken part in a few major building projects implemented in Europe over the past few years, including Vienna’s Museumsquartier, or the "Alex Berlin" shopping complex, which is still under construction. Nevertheless, Ortner seems at no risk of becoming sheer pragmatic executors of large-scale projects. "While the apparatus we designed in those days was conceived as an utopian object, even in its visual impact, our buildings today are meant to create an atmosphere of subtle influence on the user. But while the design looks almost normal, there is always a slight shift away from familiar patterns. This is how we create a magic of suspense and draw the viewer into an intermediate layer, whose nearly imperceptible displacements give it a strange and enigmatic appearance."



Lilli Hollein