Death of a Manifesto

“Architecture Must Blaze” is the title of a 1980 manifesto by Coop Himmelb(l)au. In it, the architects declare: “we don’t want to exclude everything that is disquieting.” A ‘wing’ suspended from a crane is set ablaze to mark the occasion.

Image courtesy
‘The Blazing Wing’ performance by Coop Himmelb(l)au, 1980. Image courtesy

35 years later, outside the ceremony for the opening of Frankfurt’s new € 1.3 billion (!) European Central Bank headquarters designed by these very same architects, Blockupy movement protesters violently set cars and barricades on fire while clashing with police. Hundreds injured, hundreds arrested. The new skyscraper has to be cordoned off with razor wire and riot cops to prevent it from being set ablaze by the angry mob. This time, the architects are not in the street.

Architectural manifestoes are such dead letters.

ECB protest
‘Blockupy’ protest outside the opening of the ECB headquarters designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au, 2015. Image courtesy

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  1. ¿Quemar esculturas en el espacio público? Nada nuevo. Las fallas valencianas existen desde mediados del siglo XVIII.

  2. Translation of Carmela’s comment: “Sculptures set ablaze in public space? Nothing new. The Valencian ‘Fallas’ [an annual festivity in which immense paper maché sculptures are burned in city streets] date back to the 1700s.”

  3. I’m a Korean student majoring in architecture, and I heard of this news recently from one of my friends who had been studying in Frankfurt. I found your post while googling about coop himmelblau ecb protest, and yours is like only one speaking about himmelblau’s defection… wonder why. anyway enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kris. Coop Himmelb(l)au are by far not the only architects whose deeds don’t match their words, alas.

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