The large banner over the fair’s central square read: “Switzerland is just next door.” However, where in previous years visitors encountered a pavilion on the Obeliskenhof for the Swiss guest of honor, now a red carpet led them underneath the banner into an unassuming hall that usually serves as warehouse. The move to Hall 7 and the use of an intervention to create the exhibition space sent the signal that Switzerland was using its presence at the Book Fair to shape its identity. Displacing the “Swiss Hall” from the fair’s center further underscored this self-reflective attitude, while the slogan “Switzerland is just next door” encouraged visitors to reevaluate their relationship and connection to Switzerland. Moving the Swiss contribution gave expression to Switzerland’s current situation as a federal state and its role as a neighbor with special privilege.
Making use of what is available created unfamiliar architectural possibilities. The hall, with its spatial and material dimensions, welcomed visitors. Colorful curtains hung from the ceiling and divided the space into seven sections. Each section related to the next, both acoustically and visually, without obscuring the space and the function of the industrial hall.
A large library marked the center. Fluorescent lighting still adorned the ceiling of the warehouse. Two long tables, modeled on reading desks, drew the attention of the visitors. 1400 books in single colored bindings covered the tables in many layers: books either written by Swiss authors, published by Swiss publishers, or discussing the subject of Switzerland. Four of the colors indicated the official language the book was written and the fifth color indicated any other language. Limiting and standardizing the binding of the books to focus merely on a few details freed the content from the promotional material. Unbound second copies filled the shelves lining the wall. This created a “temporary storage space for Swiss Literature” set off against the real backdrop of “Switzerland as a transshipment center for intellectual and material goods” (Peter Suter).
Narrow passageways created a second layer of space between the adjoining rooms. These housed a television studio, a restaurant, lecture halls, as well as an installation of Hans Peter Lischer’s Reading Machine.
The curtains delimit sites that are clearly open to change and exchange. The presentation of Switzerland itself embodied innumerable profound analogies for how the country both perceives itself and is perceived from outside.
in cooperation with Peter Suter
Client: Bundesamt für Kultur und Christoph Vitali, Haus der Kunst, Munich
Location: Book Fair, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 2.300 m²
Use / Function: entrance hall, warderobe, cafè, TV studio, library, auditorium, exhibition "Reading-Machine" Peter Lischer
Steel Construction and Textile Fashioning: Stahl & Traumfabrik