Walter Pichler, Nucleus and Underground Building

Walter Pichler
Vienna, Austria
48°12′N, 16°22′E

Walter Pichler was an Austrian artist who produced a large number of drawings and sculptures, with the aim of exploring the relationship between object and space. Very influenced by the archaic civilizations he designed many projects of underground buildings articulated around nucleus, making these constructions real machines.

An avant-garde sculptor-architect

Walter Pichler (1936-2012) was an Austrian artist, particularly striking for his almost permanent association of sculpture and architectural space. Very influential and at the forefront of the spatial experimentations of the 1970s, he produced a large number of sculptures and drawings marked by a spiritual approach to the object or architectural space. In the 1960s, he began to produce series of architectural projects in which questions of plasticity, symmetry and form were addressed at the antipodes of functionalism. He joined forces with Austrian architects such as Hans Hollein and Raimund Abraham to pursue his anti-rationalist and conceptual approach. In 1963, his collaboration with Hollein led to the manifesto exhibition Architektur at the nächst St. Stephan Gallery in Vienna, the main platform of the Austrian avant-garde at the time. This became the birthplace of the Viennese experimental scene, from which groups such as Coop Himme(l)bau and Haus-Rucker-Co emerged.
Mainly known as a sculptor, Walter Pichler will however have an impact on the architectural production of his contemporaries. He constantly challenged the convictions of the sculptors, architects and designers of the time by continuing to create architectural objects, spatial installations, drawings of utopian cities by playing with perception, space and by freeing himself from the constraint of construction. This is undoubtedly why he sometimes took several years to build his sculptures, multiplying drawings, plans, preparatory models.

Lost civilizations and abandoned dwellings

Following a trip to the United States and Mexico, Walter Pichler oriented his production towards more and more radical architectural and urbanistic proposals such as the Compact City project (1963). With a series of prototypes, he also demonstrated the absurdities of the consumer society. Finally he ended his life in a farmhouse bought in the south of Austria in the 70s. There he experimented with the construction of ritualized places in which the human being is subjected to the power of objects. Each sculpture is built in an architectural space also constructed to resonate with the object. All these installations are built around his studio, a spatial and intellectual nucleus, a theme dear to the artist allowing the sensitive and spatial integration of architecture and sculpture.

Very attracted by archaic civilizations, the Mayan temples he visited during his trip to Mexico had a considerable influence on his work. As in Underground Building Project (1963), he designed numerous machine cities articulated around a nucleus, which represented lost, underground civilizations. Or architectural objects, sometimes buried, witnesses of a long forgotten and isolated civilization. The representation in plan, in perspective, in isometry asserts a culture and an assumed architectural reference.

Underground Building, project (Isometric), 1963
Underground Building, project (Isometric) Walter Pichler
Nucleus of an Underground Building, Perspective, 1962
Nucleus of an Underground Building, project, Perspective Walter Pichler
Observatory Project, Perspective, 1974
Observatory Project, Perspective
Large Figure with an Organ Project, Axonometric, 1977
Source: MoMA, FRAC

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