a touring exhibition co-curated with Soledad Gutiérrez and Łukasz Ronduda, presented at MACBA, Barcelona, 10.07.2014–6.01.2015; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, 30.01–3.05.2015; Yale School of Architecture, 1.09–17.12.2016; Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 15.09–29.10.2017; Nacionalinė Dailės Galerija, Vilnius, 28.12.2017–25.02.2018

The exhibition of Oskar and Zofia Hansen’s legacy showcased various aspects of the Open Form theory, which was the axis of their architectural, artistic and educational work. First presented as Oskar Hansen: Open Form and redesigned for every venue, the exhibition became a four-year learning process that helped us better understand Hansen’s spatial tactics and strategies of display, and the role of Zofia Hansen in the design duo.

Presented by Oskar Hansen during the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) held in Otterlo in 1959, the theory of Open Form proposed to open architecture up to its users and allow them to co-create it. Hansen fought against what he defined as Closed Form, that is fully designed structures leaving no space for users’ creativity and constituting rather a monument to their authors than a comfortable living space. Instead, Hansen put forward a radical change in the perception of the architect’s role which, in his opinion, should consist in creating a passepartout, a background for everyday life. The mission of architecture should be showcasing people and the richness of their daily activity in space. Architecture should highlight subjectivity and create a framework for individual expression, become an instrument that can be used and transformed by its users and that can easily adapt to their changing needs.

Oskar Hansen expanded on the concept of Open Form in projects of varying scale: from designs of temporary exhibition pavilions and residential estates to the Linear Continuous System, a design of linear cities stretching across the entire territory of Poland, from the Baltic to the Tatras. His wife, Zofia Garlińska-Hansen (1924–2013), was the co-author of many of these designs, in particular the residential estates that were built. Affiliated with the Warsaw Residential Cooperative, she typically remained in her husband’s shadow, but he often stressed her involvement in creating Open Form.The exhibition displays various areas and scales of creative activity in which Open Form was applied. “Background of Events” focuses on designs for exhibitions and pavilions, which offered an ideal ground for theoretical experiments due to their ephemeral character. “Politics of Scale” focuses on Oskar Hansen’s urban planning projects, displaying their socio-political dimension. “The Individual in the Collective” treats the Hansens’ realized residential estates in Warsaw and Lublin, presenting their lesser-known, often unpreserved details. “Architecture as an Instrument” focuses on designs for public buildings: museum, gallery, theatre, recording studio – whose shape was to be determined by the users. “Active Negative” shows the private space of the Hansens and the concept associated with them of sculptural presentation of architectural interiors. “Anti-monument” describes the space-time design for the “Road” memorial to the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a group work that became the sculptural reflection of Open Form. Exercises from Hansen’s studio at the Faculty of Sculpture at the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy are mixed into parts of the exhibition. Hansen taught at the academy for 30 years, promoting the tenets of Open Form among his students.

Exhibition design by Centrala (Małgorzata Kuciewicz, Simone De Iacobis) aimed at reconstructing Hansen’s own strategies of display: from direct quotes included in the first presentations to original designs based on Hansen’s ‘grammar of display’. You can read more about the exhibition design on their website.

MACBA, Barcelona, 10.07.2014–6.01.2015, photos: Simone De Iacobis

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, 30.01–3.05.2015, photos: Simone De Iacobis

Yale School of Architecture, 1.09–17.12.2016, photos: Rich House Photography / Yale Architecture Gallery. Full documentation available here.

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 15.09–29.10.2017, photos: Bartosz Stawiarski / Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Full documentation available here.