“It’s so pink!”
“Yes, but by design, there’s a lot of green foliage integrated within and around the building.”
“But why is the building pink?”
“That colour irritates a few people, particularly some at the big bank next door and even some at state government offices nearby.”
Wouldn’t that be fitting for Hundertwasser, who declared straight lines as “godless” and called his final work “an oasis for humanity and nature in a sea of rational houses”?
In art and in architecture, there’s no mistaking an inevitable clash between what’s “fanciful” and what’s “functional”. Not only has this conflict always been around in some shape or form, it’s a sign there’s change, disruption, or rebellion against the staid of the contemporary. What’s also true is that what’s believed to be “common” has rarely been universal, by place or in time.
In the German “Otto city” of Magdeburg near the city’s Cathedral is an odd yet interesting building called the “Green Citadel” (Grüne Zitadelle), whose shape, colour, and form appear incompatible with the more conventional centuries-old architecture in nearby Cathedral Square. The Green Citadel was designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and “conventional” has rarely been used to describe Hundertwasser, his ideas, or his work. The Green Citadel was Hundertwasser’s final work before his death in 2000. Criticized initially for its overt discordance with “classical” architecture, the building took two years to build with completion in 2005 at an estimated cost of 27 million Euros.
Today, the building includes 55 apartments, shops, café, restaurants, and a hotel, a daycare centre and a community theatre. People live and work with the Green Citadel as their “third skin.” The clinical sharpness of straight lines are minimized, while soft curved surfaces dominate and undulate. No two pillars or doors appear the same. White “corrugated” domes are topped with shiny golden spheres. “Fensterrecht” or “the right of window” allows people within units to modify the space around the window in whatever manner is desired.
The Green Citadel is a soft whimsical touch to Magdeburg’s skyline, a visible testament that there’s more to the city’s millennium-long history, and that her people are ready to embrace a revised identity that isn’t bound to repressive one-party rule in the GDR/DDR. When I think of historical Magdeburg, it’s about the two Ottos and the Cathedral; when I consider modern Magdeburg, the pink curves by Hundertwasser is a key landmark.