Deconstruction of Order

In countless writings, lectures, and texts throughout his working life, Günter Behnisch concerned himself with the concept of “order.” He distanced himself from the classic notions of orders that were dominated by hierarchies, as they no longer corresponded to the “modern, open social structures.” He was not interested in putting things “in order” or creating a stable order. Rather, he wanted to bring the things inherent in the orders out and into their own so that they could develop accordingly in terms of their essence: Günter Behnisch’s ideal notion of a free world designed by human hand was in keeping with a society of free individuals.

With the junior high school in Lorch in the early 1970s, Behnisch was already opting for individualized elements and structures, although he still merged them to form a harmonious whole. He termed this form of order “diversity in unity.” Subsequently, he opted for ever more differentiated components and elements, for example for the Central Library for the Catholic University in Eichstätt or for the comprehensive school in Lorch. He dissolved the order of the ground plans, structures, and edifices such that they could overlap as multilayered and complex architectural spaces and systems. 

The formal experiment that was the Hysolar Research and Institute building for the University of Stuttgart marked the climax of the process of differentiation. Prefabricated containers were inserted into a game of elements that was liberated from any underlying building structure and consisted solely of surfaces and lines. Formally speaking, there seem to be similarities here to Deconstructivism. However, in the Hysolar case, the design process retained an analytical character that factored in the place and the construction brief, and thus contrasted sharply with Deconstructivism, which championed a design process that was sensory, emotional, and free of outside compulsions.

“Things detach, they extract themselves from dominating, patronizing illusory orders, come into their own and, as individuals, become part of the whole.”
Günter Behnisch 1977

Central Library of the Catholic University Eichstätt

Behnisch & Partner

The design won 1st prize in the competition in 1980, with Behnisch & Partner opting against a downtown location and instead for a site in the midst of the meadows in the Altmühl valley. 

In the open landscape, it was possible to develop the building on the basis of its own regularities, embed it in nature, and interface the wings of the building with their surroundings. The three-story central hall constitutes a communicative heart and complex spatial focus at the intersection of lines of vision, paths, and structural axes. All the key functions are to be found here, such as the entrance, the lecture hall and reading room, the admin and faculty offices, and a cafeteria. 

Light and its deeper meaning was prioritized in the plan. The transparent building, suffused with light, boasts various qualities of light. The interplay of light and shadows supports and underlines the spatial diversity and vibrancy of the building.

Project architects:
Christian Kandzia, Joachim Zürn

“I do not try to define form, but rather to search for what wants to come about of its own accord. And I do not want to intervene too strongly there.”
Günter Behnisch 1981
“We have not simply reproduced phenomena from our everyday life. We have endeavored to uncover what is hidden, to let some things resonate that are otherwise silent, and to see and show poetry in the things that are in any case necessary.”
Günter Behnisch 1990
“The possibilities for formal orders tend to be unlimited. We can continually discover some-thing new. The Arts have shown us this: the balanced nature of a pile of straw, the harmony of a rubbish dump, the beauty of the chaotic.”
Günter Behnisch 1996

Hysolar Research and Institute Building at the University of Stuttgart

Behnisch & Partner

The client wanted a special building for a German-Saudi Arabian research project to create an architectural highlight on the expansive University of Stuttgart campus in Vaihingen – a small institute building in which extensive research could be conducted on the generation and use of hydrogen. 

A series of factors favored a formal experiment. As finished industrial products, prefabricated containers are grouped (staggered and across two stories) freely around a hall. The structure has no hierarchical order any longer, and each individual element is liberated from its context, shaped individually, and then reinserted into a collagelike overall structure. 

The dissolution of any formal order is no longer applied only to parts of the structure here but seems to include the entire building. 

Project architects:
Frank Stepper, Arnold Ehrhardt

“The fact is that the right angle is only one option among many and a restriction of the possibilities as well.”
Günter Behnisch 1996
“Intermediate chaos is the prerequisite for new orders. And chaos is the condition out of which a new order can develop.”
Günter Behnisch 1995
“As I said, in each task the formal should be developed according to the constellation of forces of the task identifying the order corresponding to this situation.”
Günter Behnisch 1996

Kindergarten Lotharstraße

Behnisch & Partner

When designing the kindergarten in Neugereut, Behnisch had already had the idea of converting a decommissioned barge from the Neckar River into a kindergarten. When in 1987 Behnisch & Partner was directly commissioned to design a kindergarten for the district of Luginsland, the architects returned to the idea of a ship. On the edge of a traditional residential district with detached and semi-detached houses, a wooden ship’s hull arose that looks as if it has been washed up in the vineyards. 

The objective was to create a children’s world, a fantasy world in contrast to the purposive rational everyday world. The children can immerse themselves in a fairytale-like foreign world of adventure.

“So what is the ship doing in the vineyards? What does the Little Prince wish for on the star? What does a gnome want in a dark corner and the nymph in clear, cool water? A bit of world that is lacking in our everyday lives.”

Günter Behnisch 1990

Project architect:
Sibylle Käppel-Klieber

“So, in fortuitous cases, a well-balanced bundle of all these effective forces emerges, reflecting a constellation of forces which, in especially fortunate instances, reflects the spirit of our time, our reality, but also, in the most fortunate cases, our desires, hopes and ideals.”
Günter Behnisch 1996
“I believe that culture should not only be a reproduction of our tribulations but should also comprise hopes and aspirations.”
Günter Behnisch 1977