Frei Otto – Thinking by Modeling

Frei Otto – Thinking by Modeling

The book “Frei Otto – Thinking by Modeling” has been published by Spector Books and is the catalogue to the exhibition at the ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. This publication is the first time the models of Frei Otto have appeared in print, and is geared to the special significance of modeling for the work of the architect. It is a visually high-quality and sophisticated coffee table book.


Significant architect of the 20th century

Until his death in March 2015, Frei Otto was counted as one of Germany’s most internationally renowned and innovative architects. Thanks to his ground-breaking works in lightweight construction, he became a pioneer of organic architecture and thus shaped the appearance of the young German Federal Republic in Germany and abroad. The distinctive designs of Frei Otto became a symbol of renewal and of the opening up of the Bonn Republic after World War 2. These include among others the tent roof for the Tanzbrunnen venue in Cologne from 1957 as well as the German Pavilion at the World Expo in Montreal in 1967, which he designed together with Rolf Gutbrod. His most famous projects include Mannheim Multihalle (1975), collaboration on the Japanese Expo Pavilion in Hanover (2000) and the roof landscape for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. 72,800 square metres in size, it still spans the Olympic site and is just as impressive today. In March 2015, he was awarded what is considered the Nobel Prize for Architecture, the Pritzker Architecture Prize, for his work. Frei Otto is only the second German architect, after Gottfried Böhm, to have this honour bestowed on him.


Detailed exploration of Frei Otto’s models

The basis for the exhibition in Karlsruhe and for the publication is the archive of works by Frei Otto with more than 400 models. It is located in the Archive for Architecture and Engineering in Southwest Germany (saai) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The exhibition presented all of the models on an approximately 50-metre long table construction. It was an imposing staging that allowed visitors to get a comprehensive insight into his work. The publication thus provides the scope for a detailed exploration of the individual designs. The models and elements were showcased against a black background and photographed from different angles. Supplementary close-up photographs as well as numerous aerial views allow readers to research the models precisely over 200 colour high-gloss pages. The reception of the models is also an aesthetic pleasure, as many photographs unveil their materiality and their sculptural nature. The same applies to the page-filling black-and-silver photographs that surround the main part of the book in a high-quality finish. Student works and realised projects are presented with black-and-white archive photographs.


Four essays explain the approach of the architect

Four essays also provide an insight into the works of Frei Otto. Among other things, they discuss the social and political significance of his designs, but above all else highlight the relevance of the model as a basis for his experimental culture, which incorporates technology, science, power of imagination and artistic approaches. The related thought and development processes become transparent through the visual power of “Frei Otto – Thinking in Modeling” and are supported by the archive photos, for example when Frei Otto is shown himself taking photos of his models, or when we see how models are tilted in front of a light machine in order to study the resulting shadows.


About Spector Books

Spector Books publishers are based in Leipzig and are known for publications on the interface between art, theory and design. The publisher considers books as a medium as a stage for interplay between the content, design and materiality of a book. This is why every production is based on an intensive exchange of artists, authors, book designers, lithographers, printers and bookbinders. This results in books that regularly win national and international awards, as has the volume “Frei Otto – Thinking in Modeling”, which was awarded the DAM Architectural Book Award at the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair.

Frei Otto – Thinking by Modeling*

Posted on 03.01.2018

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