Everything is already there, you only need to look closely – an interview with Tina Haase

Professor Tina Haase of the Technical University of Munich’s Faculty of Architecture has recently completed a project designing a kindergarten in the Garching area of Munich with a 26m long wall built of 250,000 Lego bricks. We were fascinated to discover how she came up with the idea.

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

What is your art/design philosophy?

I develop my work while searching for specific qualities in things, materials and places. The form I am looking for is one that evolves out of itself. It takes the shape of sculptures and mural works made of mostly recognizable, often colored, everyday objects.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everything is already there, you only need to look closely. Often I end up with something that has placed itself in my way, be it because it is so awful or because it is being flirtatious.

How do you choose the materials you use in your projects?

Actually, it is the materials that tell me which things they want to become.

How do you normally discover new materials?

I am chronically on my quest.

I see you’ve written about color – what’s your philosophy on the use of color?

I have written one article. “How much color can you bear” deals purely with questions of perception, how much of it is at all possible: how much can I take in at once, how much can I stand? And what happens when all colors are there at the same time and attack each other? It is marvellous how relative colors are, how they can transform their own identity and the identities of others, too. The best thing is their unpredictability, their evasiveness and waywardness.

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

What’s your philosophy on the use of visual surface effects? Which effect most inspires you right now?

Being an artist, I cannot judge “effects” detached from a concrete idea or application and practice. In the field of art and design, however, everything that has to do with light, air, fluorescence, transparency and so on, now seems very contemporary and up to date; departing from heavy, tangible material character towards intangibility, dematerialisation and virtuality. Ideally, we would be able to produce things in fog, or liquid light – i.e. with inconsistencies, outlines that are dissolving.

How did the Lego wall project come about?

I was asked whether I would like to contribute artistically to this kindergarten. Being a child is often much lovelier in the mind of a grown-up. Children live in a seamless unity of dream and reality. It is hard work learning to separate the two.

My intention was to interchange both worlds, i.e. childhood and adulthood, fantasy and reality, past and future, at an appropriate “interface” which here is the parapet wall in the entrance area.

Thus, the childhood dream of construction-kit-play slides into the real-fantasized grown-up world and, by this massive leap in scale, achieves a completely self-contained artistic quality.

How collaborative was the design process you went through?

The architect, Hermann Kaufmann, granted me complete freedom from the very beginning. The parapet was already there when I was invited to participate.

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

How did you decide on the design and how did you decide to use Lego bricks?

A few years ago, I had already used Lego because of its chromaticity, so the material was not all that far from hand. Nevertheless, I also chose Lego as it is a classic toy everyone can remember.

As a material that goes back to childhood, it awakens memories of old longings in us: wasn’t one always short of Lego bricks, in fact? In this wall, we retrieve this old fantasized dream in the real here-and-now. Entering the kindergarten, you are suddenly reconnected to your own childhood.

ABS is quite appropriate for outdoor use, actually. It will change slightly in hue and surface, but I am looking forward to that. This process will alter the work’s character a little and it will become softer.

What was the inspiration for the actual design of the wall?

All the rules for the design were transcribed on one A4 page. The panels were then prepared by various people. It was amazing how much the particular boards differed. In the end, I only produced the connecting panels in between the individual “manuscripts”. In this way, it all evolved or developed together.

Do you see yourself now more as an architect or as an artist?

I am an artist (I was trained at the Kunst-Akademie Duesseldorf). As an artist, I like good architecture.

How did you arrive at the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University of Munich?

The Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University of Munich promotes the artistic development and maturation of their students. With intent, they allow themselves an art professor (as used to be common in the past anyway), to permit room for experimentation and personal artistic development. I have been working there for three years, and I very much enjoy adapting ever-new forms of teaching to current subject matter.

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

I see from your website and your biography that you have been active in “Kunst am Bau” for many years. Interestingly, there is no direct English translation for Kunst am Bau (the indirect translation would be something like “art-in-architecture”, or “architectural art”) – how would you explain the phrase?

Kunst am Bau is a strange expression even in German, it reduces art to being a decorative application on an edifice. What is meant, though, is that an artwork has been conceived specifically for this building and reflects on either the identity of the edifice, its use or also its location. In the best of cases, the building and the artwork mutually “carry” each other.

[Translator’s comment: “art for architecture” seems the most common translation, if it is at all translated (and probably the most precise, with the same problem the German expression has, as described by Professor Haase).]

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am working on the catalogue for my next exhibition “ZweifelsGut” (best translated as “Commodity of Doubt”) at the gallery Ulrich Mueller. And I am working on the subject “zur eigenen Erbauung” (literally: “for one’s own edification”) with my students. That is really hard to translate without sounding too much like a spa resort or too architectural.

What’s your dream future project?

Being able to do exactly what I want also in the future.

Find out more about Professor Haase’s life and work at her website: www.tinahaase.de.

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

Kindergarten with Lego brick wall by Tina Haase © Tina Haase

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