CHRIST & GANTENBEIN – 21 models
Exhibition of architectural firm Christ & Gantenbein
Gallery of Contemporary Art and Architecture – České Budějovice House of Art
Exhibition opening and guided tour with the exhibiting architects: Thursday 12 October 2023 at 6pm
Exhibition dates: 13 October to 19 November 2023
Exhibition curator: Michal Škoda
With its penultimate exhibition of the year, the Gallery of Contemporary Art and Architecture presents leading Swiss architectural firm Christ & Gantenbein.
The firm was founded in 1998 in Basel by Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein. Their work emphasizes sustainability – not from the perspective of the latest trends but in terms of the sustainability of forms, with a sensitive and multifaceted understanding of material, an attempt at continuity, and great emphasis on relating to the past.
The work of Christ & Gantenbein recognizes the significance of the buildings which we use and traverse and which form an important part of the city. There's a profound sense of responsibilty engrained in their work, aiming to create architectures that will remain relevant and functional for future generations.
As Gantenbein says, “We try to connect our buildings with the intellectual history and with the physical reality of the given setting. We like to say that if we do it with all seriousness and generosity, then these buildings will last more than a hundred years.”
Christ and Gantenbein do not prioritize immediate contemporaneity, instead they seek to do architecture that seems timeless, with a focus on the relationship to history, bringing cultural heritage into the future. Their practice resonates with the work of Adolf Loos, who believed modernity arises not from an obsession with novelty but from eschewing constant reinvention.
In addition to their work as architects, Christ and Gantenbein are also actively engaged in teaching activities. Here, too, we find a typical aspect of their work: the interweaving of research with practice.
Both have held professorships in architecture and design at Zurich’s prestigious ETH since 2018 and have taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They also taught at the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio (2004, 2006, 2009) and at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in 2008.
Christ & Gantenbein has completed many projects, most of them on the basis of architectural competitions. They always try to see opportunity in the fact that they are following on “something.” They perceive historical architecture not merely as "old", but as artifacts approached with the utmost sensitivity. Perfect examples of this approach are the firm’s transformation of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, as well as expansion projects such as the new building of the Kunstmuseum Basel.
Other notable works include Lindt Home Chocolate, a monumental multipurpose building for Lindt & Sprüngli in Zurich completed in 2020, and a multifunctional workspace for Roche in Germany that was opened in 2021. The office is currently working on a number of projects throughout Europe, including the just completed social housing in Paris, an extension of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, a residential and office building in a historical part of Hamburg, and an extension of the MACBA museum of art in Barcelona. A highly anticipated project is the university hospital in Zurich, exemplifying the architects’ diverse portfolio. The project promises to revitalize an entire neighborhood in Switzerland’s most populous city while providing a new home for medical research.
In relation to the firm’s successful participation in architectural competitions, we should also mention the many prestigious awards it has earned, such as Dezeen Architects of the Year and the Wieneberger Brick Award both in 2018, Gold Medal “Best Architects” in 2017, and the Essence Award and The Red Dot: Best of the Best award in 2016.
Christ & Gantenbein has showed its work at various exhibitions, including More than a Hundred Years at the 2016 Venice Biennale, which explored the idea that the present day is not the end of history but merely a point between the past and the future in which architecture must meet not just current criteria but also explore the past and point to the future.
In 2019, they opened their first monographic exhibition, The Last Act of Design, in Tokyo. With this exhibition project, they took a deeper look at their work while also exploring the tools available for communicating architecture – be it drawings, photography, or models.
“Models,” in fact, are the main subject of this exhibition which highlights enduring themes in Christ & Gantenbein’s work, now taking on new dimensions such as building with and within what is already existing, architecture as a technical discipline, sustainable urbanism, typology and the city, and creating spaces for art. These tangible challenges are embodied in objects of modest yet evocative beauty, showcasing architectural models as representations of a particular reality while igniting the imagination of alternate possibilities. In an era where artificial intelligence challenges our perception and our relation with authenticity, the physical architectural model becomes a tribute to the limitless potential for interpretation.
At the České Budějovice House of Art, Christ & Gantenbein invites visitors to explore the open-ended narratives woven into each model. Among the projects featured in this showcase are notable landmarks such as the Kunstmuseum Basel or the University Hospital in Zurich, providing a glimpse into an architectural journey over the years.