“Honey, I shrunk the architecture.” For its wonderfully whimsical exhibition at Berlin’s Aedes Architecture Forum, New York design firm HWKN presented a metropolis in miniature, using nine five-metre-high towers to depict a range of different building typologies. Several of these bore passing resemblance to past HWKN projects, such as New York’s 25 Kent and Munich’s Die Macherei.
Each of the downsized buildings was given a human name that spoke to its inherent identity: Blake was an outgoing skyscraper with an inviting public market at its base, while Skyler was a nurturing residential tower designed to support multiple generations. Intriguing glows emanating from deep within each tower accented the playfully futuristic, crisp white exhibition design. A mirror-clad wall reflected the room’s clean three-by-three grid arrangement to create an even more expansive skyline.
Upon entry, visitors were invited to choose a character from a selection of toys and imagine how it might move through daily life in the spaces depicted, all the while posing the figure for social media. Speech-bubble sticky notes also prompted people to post their reflections to the gallery’s walls, creating a rich architectural dialogue.
In this way, the designers inspired Berliners to think about their own interactions with the city’s buildings — seeing them not just as something to look at but as something to engage with on a more personal level. By showcasing the strong possibilities of inviting, open public realms, the installation also highlighted the importance of developing skyscrapers that are more than just insular monoliths. Moving through the city, we spend a lot of time looking at architecture as a sculptural form. But what about the inner lives of the landmarks we dart past? Fusing storybook wonder with civic engagement, HWKN successfully turned the urban realm into its own main character.
Team Matthias Hollwich with Dorin Baul, Jessica Knobloch, Robert May and Olga Snowden
Fusing storybook wonder with civic engagement, HWKN successfully turned the urban realm into its own main character.