When architects design buildings and urban planners imagine urban life they are accompanied by a great many regulations. Who makes these rules, what do they say about our society, and was the situation really any better in the past?
“From a fire safety standpoint it doesn’t matter whether a fire breaks out in an existing building or in a newly completed one.” Irmgard Eder, MA 37, Baupolizei, KSB
The exhibition ‘Form follows Rule’ brings to the fore the rulebooks without which nothing would be possible in the architecture sector. Acts, ordinances, guidelines and standards have become key participating factors in the design of the built environment. Clearly visible and concrete, critical and in some instances also inadvertently comical, the survey reveals the otherwise invisible backgrounds to architecture and urban development.
Case studies, explanations of terminology, historical examples and comparisons with other countries show that similar challenges can be addressed with very different regulations. Do German children shout louder than Austrian kids, or are the legs shorter somewhere else? 1:1 installations render these differences physically tangible and suggest the question: What do a country’s regulatory bodies say about its society?
Interviews with architects, project developers, technical experts and building authority representatives convey the complexity of and contradictions in the current situation, and explore the interpretational leeway that also features in numerous workarounds.
The exhibition shows that the line between the desire for more freedom and the need for safety and reliability is a fine one. So the Vienna Building Code of 1930 shifted the focus onto citizen protection and the function of caring for the weakest in society. But what happens when fences get higher and doors heavier, and personal responsibility is replaced by warning signs? Taking the field of architecture as a starting point, the exhibition aims to provoke a broad public debate, as the profusion of official dos and don’ts is the expression of a development that we all bear the responsibility for.
Curators: Martina Frühwirth, Karoline Mayer, Katharina Ritter, all Az W