Wilhelm Klauser

After I left the restaurant I went to the library near-by. At the reference desk sat a slender young woman with long black hair engrossed in a paperback book. “Do you have any reference materials pertaining to the mammalian skull?” I asked ... referring in an apparent but nevertheless shy manner to a book of Haruki Murakami I had read recently.

Lets assume that there might be another place which would allow you to live. Possibly for example you would never have entered a library to find it out but as it turned out and the library was there I entered. I do not say that necessarily this area might have been at the beginning a favorite spot. But assume that over the time you might even have come to the point where you could like it. At least this area could be quite convenient. Walking the dog for example - such an ugly pet - or in the evenings we could look at the girls on the streets. Maybe it is a convenient area, I thought when I was crossing the courtyard. I am not really afraid of such kind of buildings it is just that it seems strange to me that they pretend that there is still history hidden within, I mean: how can they pretend, that there is any relationship left between me and this building? And if so at all - what kind of relationship would it be? And furthermore how would I react if somebody would give me exact data and possibly would explain - with all the best intentions - this relation? Could I trust him?

I did not have the wish to go to the library at first. But the idea of a place which would work like a self-service station was convincing. I had wound up my purchases and pulled into my convenient neighborhood fast-food restaurant. I ordered shrimp salad, onion rings, and a beer.

“ A regular burger and a beer,” I said, referring again to the same book I was currently reading.
“I am sorry, but we don’t serve beer,” said the waitress.
“A regular burger and a coke,” I corrected myself. What was I thinking?
That is when I decided to visit the library instead.

At eleven o’clock, I headed for the supermarket near the station, stopping next at the liquor store for some red wine, soda water and orange juice. At the cleaners I claimed a jacket and two shirts; at the stationery shop I purchased a pen, envelopes and letter paper. It just did not seem somehow alienating to me that those shops were wide awake in the middle of the night, I tend to take things as they are. You know, I am born in Germany and things are quite fixed there and I accept this, too.

“This is an extraordinary building”, the girl explained to me, as we cut across the large, open floor. “Everybody in the building has some secret that needs protecting. They check you at the door then they watch you with TV cameras to make sure that you reach your room...

Outside it was dark, it was drizzling, and the streets were filled with people going home from work. Finally, I thought, somebody was picking up those words I had given away so freely. She read Murakami as well!

“Come on,” she said and laughed at me. “I mean the security of all this is a part of it! Isn’t it? I mean you always play the fool maintaining that you do not need security.”

She was a chubby girl, just as Murakami promised and “Do they know”, I asked her, “that your grandfather dug a tunnel through all of this?” I mean I suppose it is rather difficult to dig a tunnel through a building which was so overly secure. And besides this I really did not like the way she used the term security, “Of course not”, she said. “ I assume that they imagined it to be kind of an elevator shaft. But don’t you like the idea that within this building there is this kind of hidden sensation?” A horizontal elevator shaft?

Thoughts on the run, literaly, as I chased after the chubby girl. Her pink skirt poked out from under the olive drab GI jacket. Her earrings sparkled, a pair of fireflies flitting about her. The building was enormous. She never checked to see if I was following; she simply forged ahead with girl scout intensity. She stopped only when she came to a fork in the path where she pulled out the map and held it under the light. The walls around us were covered with beautiful drawings of hunting dogs and trees and mountains, as far as I could recognize, the light was not good at all. “It must be over there,” she said as she moved on.

The knowledge that the contemporary landscape for the most part is artificial is striking... that is the urban dweller within this environment is not a victim needing compensation. On the contrary: he is self-assured and exploratory. By means of basic ingredients such as ecology, infrastructure, weather conditions, building programs or people he is capable of organizing this landscape. That it´s identity is not fixed in advance is neither good nor bad, it is just a fact.

Aktaion, the handsom hunter who was haunted by Artemis, after he saw her bathing naked, as far as I know he became a stag and was killed by his own dogs. “This must be the Aktaion-corridor”, I said to myself, as I tried to follow her. I wished that I never had bought all this stuff. It suddenly seemed ridiculous that I found myself clutching such things as a bottle of Bordeaux.

Thus architecture would be (Beetsky thinks) a collage of forms gathered together from the world around it rather than the invention of something new (Beetsky thinks). For reasons that are only too obvious (Beetsky thinks), we must recycle and reuse. In order to make forms that all those who are not architects do not see as merely alien, we must collect from the culture around us, rather than against it (Beetsky thinks)...we must understand our statements as re-statements (Beetsky thinks). Finally, we may have to accept the fact that architecture is not building (Beetsky thinks)....Architecture has an effective place in the organization of information in such a way that it just does not only communicate...

“In either case,” she said, “ it would be an alien world if you would discover your old, wet dreams. There should be something more to it than mere refitting. ” Being not really fond of this kind of sedimentation, either, I imagined the buildings as an enormous gate, an element which just forces you to enter without unveiling possible sensations you might discover beyond the threshold. Entering the “Bibliotheque National”, for example, I found myself all of a sudden in an enormous reading hall that an enormously famous architect had built two centuries ago. All the bookshelves were empty, the gridiron-construction not yet covered in spider’s webs. I sat down at a table staring at a huge vaulted glass window. Behind all was black. Apparently even the book-stock was gone. “You understand”, the young lady said in the library, “we are not really collecting mammalian skulls - or at least if you could find some in here it is still up to you to read their dreams in your own specific way. ”

Wilhelm Klauser, Oct. 2000

WILHELM KLAUSER, Architekt und Kritiker, lebt und arbeitet in Paris