Hans-Walter Müller


The Plateau / Frac Île-de-France is developing several experimental projects in which the production and distribution of the collection are being combined in offerings made directly to the public throughout Île-de-France. Abitacollection is a roaming exhibition conceived by Xavier Franceschi, director, with Élodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel, guest curators for the 2011-1012 season. Taking place in an inflatable bubble that architect Hans-Walter Müller produced especially for the occasion, this project illustrates the position of an art venue that places itself resolutely at the crossroads.

Since 2010, the Plateau / FRAC Île-de-France devises each year a new project of a migrant exhibition, for a closeness audience.
The FRAC Ile-de-France collection is setting off again on the region’s roads inside a new moveable structure.  

For Abitacollection, the Plateau / FRAC Ile-de-France has invited Hans-Walter Müller, a pioneer since the 1960s of “architecture in motion”, to come up with one of his famous inflatable volumes to accommodate an exhibition of works from the collection.  The event took place over several days in different communes of the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis.  The project has been devised by Xavier Franceschi in collaboration with Élodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel, associate curators at the FRAC Ile-de-France/Le Plateau for 2011-2013, based on the collection of the FRAC Ile-de-France and that of the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis.

What Abitacollection involves is the presentation of contemporary works in a non-institutional context.
The Plateau / FRAC Ile-de-France has made a wager for this exhibition in an inflatable module: creating favourable conditions for friendly and passionate discussions and exchanges with visitors around the works on view.
The travelling show Abitacollection is thus taking as its point of departure an inflatable module, at once nomadic and ephemeral, made by Hans-Walter Müller, representing both an artwork and a space to experience.  
The works thus reflect the interest of artists of different nationalities and generations in questions connected with architecture and design, and, more generally, with the fact of living in and using a space, be it public or private, real or fantasy.  They offer us a line of thinking about our immediate environment and our patterns of behaviour as users, and they play with a discrepancy between use and representation, function and decor, in a circuit seen as an “inhabitable landscape”, to use Hans-Walter Müller’s expression.

With works by Stanislas Amand, Michel Blazy, Véronique Joumard, Bertrand Lavier, Didier Marcel, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mathieu Mercier, Bruno Munari, Bill Owens, Bruno Persat, Philippe Ramette, Josef Robakowski, Vladimir Skoda, Ulrike Weizsäcker & Joanna Borderie

In Villepinte and Romainville, October 2012
In partnership with the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis, the cities of Romainville and Villepinte
With the support of the foundation PSA Peugeot-Citroën and the foundation EDF
© Julien Crépieux


Abitacollection, interview with Hans-Walter Müller at La Ferté Allais, 30th august 2012

Yoann Gourmel:  You’re an architect and an engineer, who graduated from the Darmstadt Polytechnic in 1961. You then continued your studies in Paris. Would you talk a bit about your career?

Hans-Walter Müller: In the 1960s, I was among the kinetic artists who experimented with the idea of movement in the work of art. That was—and still is—my main preoccupation, even though I describe myself as an architect. For me, architecture is the prime art. I make no distinction between art and architecture, they’ve always been one.

Élodie Royer: Since the beginning of your work, everything is connected: kinetic art, light, the projection of moving images, and architecture to accommodate these projections. To get back to the origins of your work and your research, what was the first inflatable volume you came up with?

HWM: In 1967 I took part in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art [in Paris] called Lumière et Mouvement/Light and Movement. For it, I constructed a room devoted to the projection of moving images based on a kinetic machine which I’d designed. That was one of my concerns as an architect, to be able to see everything in three dimensions: not looking at a wall to see everything in a one-directional way, but a bit like in front of frescoes, being in the image. I had the idea of making a ball, projecting on to it, and sitting inside it to see the projections all round me and being aware of being in the projection. So that was really the beginning of the inflatables.

YG: Could you describe the process of designing the inflatables?

HWM: Like any architect, I work to specifications. A theatre, for example, is going to need a certain height, there mustn’t be any daylight in it, and it must sometimes include transparent parts, along with plenty of other parameters. The specifications are the starting point of a line of thinking that will become something daily, and be developed by the work through different stages, drawings, models and computer tools. In my work’s praxis, you have to be acquainted with geometry, but above all you must always be curious.

ÉR:  Could you talk to us about the choice of materials and colours, and the interplay you create between opaqueness and transparency?

HWM: That’s part of my work as an architect. For example, in the volume that I’m in the process of devising for the exhibition Abitacollection, the light comes from below. There’s something magic about it, which also enables you to see the works very well. As for materials, I have to be regarded practically like a tailor, a tailor of architecture. If I have a commission, I set off like an explorer, visiting factories to find a fabric. You need beautiful fabrics for beautiful dresses! Unfortunately, in the technical range of the fabrics I use, there aren’t a lot of colours. It’s always white, white, white! But I like colour and if I want to get a coloured fabric of my choice, I have to have it specially made, which is only possible if I buy a very large quantity. So there are different colour periods in my work. Like Picasso’s blue and pink periods, I’m currently in my yellow period.

YG:  How do you define an inflatable?

HWM:  I define it by its construction technique. It’s an architecture made of fluids. The construction is based on the principle of fluid mechanics, as defined by Blaise Pascal. In this architecture there’s more depth.  A difference in pressure is created between inside and out. Inside there’s slightly more pressure than outside, and this slight overpressure produces a tension in the canvas. This tension provides all the construction’s resistance and stability. That’s what’s essential. In a traditional construction, you have to make foundations. An inflatable construction doesn’t have any foundation because it isn’t subject to the law of gravity. On the contrary, it wants to rise upwards, and it has to be held back. Contrary to what people think, an inflatable doesn’t need much energy. But it does require an electric motor which must run all the time, even if it doesn’t use much energy. Nowadays, however, nobody wants something to run all the time. Except love, in brackets. Now what’s even madder and more paradoxical—and it just so happens that Blaise Pascal revealed the paradox of fluid mechanics: forces are increased in relation to the surface—is that the bigger an inflatable is, the less energy it needs. I’m not giving you this explanation because I want to defend myself. It’s the reality.

ÉR: It’s also a paradox for an architect to construct ephemeral buildings. Was that also a decision in relation to classical architecture, to move towards a type of ephemeral architecture that can be modulated?

HWM:  Yes, but hold on. Inflatables are often used in ephemeral situations, but they can also be permanent. They have both capacities. On the one hand, I absolutely don’t think that the inflatable is going to replace traditional architecture. It’s a complement that can be added to traditional architecture. It’s an architecture of our sensational day and age, which can rather emphasize the construction of the past, and vice versa. Incidentally, I’m in no way an inflatable specialist. I’m first and foremost an architect who uses inflatables. A very interesting phenomenon in architecture is to think about a wall which rises to the ceiling, and continues uninterrupted. In curves, the eye can move without being interrupted. In this way it can go as far as possible.

ÉR: Could you talk about the inflatable you’ve made for the show?

HWM:  What’s very important in an art exhibition is that there’s a contact between the inside and the outside, a continuity. But without feeling that you’re outside. So the modular floor in the exhibition doesn’t touch the inflatable at all, it’s like an island.

YG: You were a conjurer when you were fourteen, and I was wondering what influence this had on your architecture?

HWM: Yes, of course, appearance, disappearance. I was a conjurer when I was a student, and on a professional basis, I was on stage every weekend. I like things that are almost not possible.