A New Look at Architecture in Liechtenstein

From October 18-26 Liechtenstein participated for the first time in the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Italy. In an age of globalization, the event aimed at identifying the fundamental building styles of different countries and regions, as a basis for a critical survey of the modernism of the twentieth century.

Over the last 100 years, Liechtenstein has developed from one of the poorest and underdeveloped countries to one of the richest and most developed in Europe with some of the highest building standards. The dramatic economic, social and especially spatial transformation this small country has undergone in this time makes the search for "fundamentals" in its architecture a challenging adventure. Construction over time has been ubiquitous and the country's resulting building stock is almost entirely assembled from typologies and styles originating from foreign influences. The result is a pastiche of modern and post-modern architecture which, as an ensemble could almost be (mis-)read as the local building culture.

In Liechtenstein's exhibition titled "Once Upon a Time in Liechtenstein," which will be on display at the Kunstmuseum in Vaduz from November 7 through January 6, ten international students from University of Liechtenstein, including students from Japan, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Georgia and Iran, set out to discover characteristics of Liechtenstein building culture. Rather than concentrate on historic buildings they focused on the unobtrusive architectural offerings of everyday – as witnessed in petrol stations, banks, barns or private houses by the side of a country road. Their critical eye, informed by various cultures, emphasized building typologies and local peculiarities that many inhabitants of the Principality take for granted, but which in a global context may emerge to be typical of Liechtenstein. The exhibition looks into how globally prevalent building types have been adapted to a particular local condition. Rather than attempting to identify fundamentals in the form of original building components of a distant past, its goal is to discover how this adaptive process has generated fundamental principles and values that consist in a contemporary (and future) Liechtenstein building culture.

This resulted in 20 subtle animated pictures of typical Liechtenstein buildings, which only prove fictional when inspected at close quarters. They reflect the habits of society and its ways of relating to the constructed environment. The exhibition poses critical questions, and is aimed at stimulating debate on architecture and spatial development in the Principality.

"Once upon a time in Liechtenstein”, a Collateral Event of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia is a project of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture of Liechtenstein together with the University of Liechtenstein and Liechtenstein Marketing.

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