Ian Ritchie Architects

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Oberhausen Gasometer

Oberhausen Gasometer - etching

Our exhibition concept for Gasometer GmbH was selected for installation inside their 110m high gasometer – Europe’s tallest.

Three teams were invited and interviewed – Siemens, Sony and Ian Ritchie.

The design concept was based upon water. Water is a condition for all life. We, food and the earth are all mostly water. Of all the water in the earth’s biosphere only 3% is fresh water, the rest is salt water. And 87% of the fresh water is locked up in the polar ice caps, leaving only 0.4% of the earth’s water accessible for humans, crops and animals.

Providing healthy drinkable water to everyone, both in industrialised and developing countries is a phenomenal challenge for mankind in the 21st century.

In most places throughout the world, water is carried in plastic bottles or jars. It does not come out of a tap. Safe, potable water is the gold of the 21st century.

We sought to communicate the purity of water, expressed through the phase states of water – ice, water and steam – to convey its beauty, preciousness and sounds – an immersive sensory experience.

Our original intention was for visitors to enter the first of many corridors within an illuminated carved cylindrical block of ‘Blue Gold’ ice symbolising the polar ice caps experience. This was eventually rejected because the melt rate was a bit too quick to last the three months of the exhibition (ironic given the state of the Arctic today). This idea was ‘flipped’ and visitors entered through a desert setting – the absence of water. Nearly a thousand tons of fine, dry sand formed a thick undulating floor covering. Within the sand were a range of objects to be discovered as well as objects upon it – all associated with water, including a water cannon.

On the next level we invited the Australian artist Paul Schütze to envisage a video installation. He delivered a 180 metre panorama in which the water flowed upwards on 22 projection surfaces with text flowing through the inverted waterfalls.

Above, was the spectacular climax of the exhibition, a 50 metre high, dramatically illuminated Kevlar inflated cone of water standing in the middle of a lake, with 7,500 litres of icy cold recycling water flowing down its outer skin.

The exhibition was a huge success and was extended, eventually running for nearly six months from autumn 2001 until spring 2002, and enjoyed by more than 300,000 visitors.

Ian Ritchie Architects invited Andreas Hoffmann and Inger-Johanne Tollaas of Tollaas- Hoffmann Architekten, a Ritchie Net practice in Berlin, to work with us on its development alongside Wolfgang Volz, exhibition manager and curator. Wolfgang was also the project manager and photographer for Christo (Javacheff ) and Jean Claud (Denat de Guillebon) projects, including the sensuous Pont Neuf Wrapped in Paris (1985), The spectacular Reistag Wrap in Berlin (1995). They also delivered ‘The Wall’ in the Gasometer in 1999, and later Christo created ‘The Big Air Package’ in 2013 with Wolfgang as Project Director.

We were also assisted by Ulrike Brandi Licht (Hamburg) and Schmidt Reuter (Cologne) environmental engineers.

“What in water did Bloom, water lover, drawer of water, water carrier returning to the range, admire? Its universality: its democratic quality.” (James Joyce, Ulysses)

Journal Articles
10/2001 WELTBILD
10/2001 SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG
10/2001 SAARBRUCKER ZEITUNG
10/2001 NEUES DEUTSCHLAND
10/2001 FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG
10/2001 DIE ZEIT
03/2000 ARCHITECTS' JOURNAL

Oberhausen Gasometer

Oberhausen, Germany

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