City Lounge, St. Gallen
Urban living room
The concept breaks with common notions of public space. Analogous to the different areas of use of a lounge, the quarter presents itself as a succession of zones devoted to basic themes and functions such as the cloakroom, the reception, the business lounge or the foyer. The relation between interior and exterior seems to be inverted since the external fronts of the buildings may at the same time be understood as internal façades or wallpapers of the lounge.
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
The granulated rubber flooring unifies every square and spared spot of the Raiffeisen quarter into a homogeneous whole. A particularly identity-building feature is its function as a haptically pleasant, cosy red carpet, that unfolds over the entire furniture. With its soft, pleasing material haptics, the amorphous silhouettes of the furniture present a deliberate contrast to the hard precision of the built surroundings.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
The designers reactivated a previously underused space into a “city lounge,” as the name implies, by literally rolling out the red carpet. The application of a continuous surface of red granulated rubber across pedestrian, recreation and rest areas brings cohesion to an area of irregular and unconnected voids, slowing down movement and tempting pedestrians to slow down, stop and touch their surroundings. Exploiting the semiotic associations of carpet, in contrast with typical plaza surfaces of asphalt or stone, the soft texture provides comfort. It has the capacity to receive impressions, for the wear and tear of habitual use to be made evident on its surface.
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
The project is located in the city St. Gallen/Switzerland and was built in two stages. It started in 2004 and was finished in 2011.
Site: St. Gallen, Switzerland – planning period (1st stage): 2004-2005 – construction period (1st stage): 2005 – planning period (2nd stage): 2008-2009 – construction period (2nd stage): 2009-2011
PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
The surface is granulated red rubber, similar to the soft surface of a sports field.
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
Area: 4.600 m2
City Lounge, Public Space, Landscape, Furniture, Design, Red Carpet, Switzerland, St. Gallen
The concept of this project refrains from distinguishing between artistic intervention and urban space design. Hence, the idea of an urban lounge embodies the artistic exploration not only of the subjects of urban space and public life, but also of the specific features of a given place. It is not least by using the stylistic device of irony that the concept intends to call itself into question to a certain extent. As already mentioned, one of the fundamental principles of the concept is to break with common visual habits. This form of "subversion" is to be understood as the artistic axiom of calling up familiar associations while at the same time altering them in order to evoke new images in the visitor’s and user’s mind’s eye. For example, if you walk on the red granulated rubber floor of the Stadtlounge, you may at first think of a sports field, but as soon as you look at the downtown environment and the emphasised shapes of the public facilities, you will recall the image of a glitzy red carpet. Both sensations, combined, create a new, never experienced spatiality.
The polyvalency of such perceptions and memories arises from the a priori idea of encouraging every visitor to appropriate the spot intellectually – consciously or unconsciously – by interpreting its redesign in as many different, individual ways as possible. Far from didactic or programmatic ideologies, the project means to undermine any monistic, let alone "correct" interpretation.
The refined and thereby modified signs and signposts integrate just as seamlessly into the concept of subversion as does the car that has been covered with granulated rubber, making the parking space it occupies permanently "useless". The redefinition of space is accented here because the body of the car is designed to invite people to stay, sit or lie down. The once mobile object has turned into an immovable piece of furniture, its predominant role in urban space has been literally "swept under the carpet". Nevertheless, the recognisability of the car’s silhouette remains of importance as the use of a luxury object elicits, once again, ambiguity.
Analogous to the different areas of use of a lounge, the quarter presents itself as a succession of zones devoted to basic themes and functions such as the cloakroom, the reception, the business lounge or the foyer. Despite the compliance with a superordinate catalogue of measures aiming at a consistent redesign of the quarter, existing characteristics of partial spaces (e.g. outdoor spaces adjacent to buildings, trees, access roads, works of art) have been taken into account during the realisation of the project. Both the visual blurredness of the boundaries between spaces of leisure and traffic and the intrinsic value of the floor covering serve as a psychological brake for drivers because they draw the latters’ attention to the pedestrians and heighten the awareness of their own speed. Slowing down the flows of motion through sensitising traffic participants is, in turn, an essential means to increase the quality of the quarter’s outdoor space. In this regard, animating this piece of urban space by improving its quality results in interlocking it with the neighbouring districts. The Raiffeisen quarter now opens up to the outside by inviting the public to enter an urban living room in which no longer traffic, but man himself is the centre of attention.
TEAM MEMBERS (2) :
Architect: Carlos Martinez and Artist: Pipilotti Rist
#1: Photographer Hannes Thalmann, Bleicheli, 2008