Steely deal

Wallpaper - - December -

Hous­ing the art col­lec­tion of Swiss su­per-col­lec­tor Bruno Bischof­berger

For any­one who knows even a lit­tle about the 20th-cen­tury art busi­ness, Bruno Bischof­berger needs no in­tro­duc­tion. One of the most im­por­tant art deal­ers of the age, he is best known for his in­volve­ment with Andy Warhol and Jean-michel Basquiat, but he also dealt with Ju­lian Schn­abel and Jean Tinguely, brought Ger­hard Richter to the in­ter­na­tional stage, and was one of the first to show pop artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Licht­en­stein and Robert Rauschen­berg in Europe. So far, so fa­mous, but Bischof­berger is not just a dealer of A-list art – he is also an ex­traor­di­nar­ily avid col­lec­tor of just about any­thing that catches his eye. He has been amass­ing trea­sure since child­hood and his enor­mous col­lec­tions (yes, plu­ral) go way be­yond late 20th-cen­tury art. Swiss folk art, fur­ni­ture, glass­ware, ce­ram­ics, sil­ver­ware, painted Alpine ar­moires, stone axe heads, fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy – Bischof­berger owns thou­sands of beau­ti­ful pieces that have, un­til now, been stored in var­i­ous de­pots, pre­dom­i­nantly in his home town of Zurich.

Now 76, Bischof­berger has been con­sol­i­dat­ing his col­lec­tions since 2005 at a lo­ca­tion on Zurich’s so-called Gold Coast, on the sunny side of the lake. The 200,000 sq m site, a for­mer hy­draulics fac­tory he bought 15 years ago, is grad­u­ally be­ing trans­formed into a group of ex­hi­bi­tion, of­fice and stor­age spa­ces. Six have been built so far. The lat­est, the De­sign­halle, has just been com­pleted. An­other main stor­age space is un­der con­struc­tion and a large folk mu­seum is in the plan­ning stages. It is a huge un­der­tak­ing.

The gal­lerist con­sid­ered var­i­ous big-name Swiss ar­chi­tects for the task. His own house, a slate-clad, post­mod­ern one-off de­signed by Et­tore Sottsass in the 1990s, in­di­cates his taste in ar­chi­tec­ture is no less avant-garde than his taste in art. In the end, he en­trusted the task to hus­band-and-wife team Baier­bischof­berger Ar­chi­tects, led by his daugh­ter, Nina Baier-bischof­berger, and his son-in-law, Flo­rian Baier. This would sound like nepo­tism, and a gam­ble on a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced prac­tice, but one gets the feel­ing Bischof­berger is not driven by sen­ti­men­tal­ity when it comes to busi­ness.

Both ar­chi­tects came with cre­den­tials. Baier-bischof­berger stud­ied en­gi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture at MIT and Columbia in the US, and worked for Ce­cil Bal­mond at Arup. She also ‘grew up in gal­leries’ and un­der­stands the kind of en­vi­ron­ment art needs. Baier had a tech-heavy ar­chi­tec­tural ed­u­ca­tion at TU Darm­stadt in Ger­many, ETH Zurich and Columbia (where he met his wife). He worked for Asymp­tote Ar­chi­tec­ture in New York and Hor­den Cherry Lee Ar­chi­tects in Lon­don, be­fore re­turn­ing to Zurich with Baier­bischof­berger to set up prac­tice in 2005. Early projects in­cluded two ex­hi­bi­tion

spa­ces for the Grieder Con­tem­po­rary gallery and a loft con­ver­sion in Küs­nacht.

Bischof­berger’s trust has paid off. The ‘Fac­tory’ site, as Baier calls it, houses an ex­tra­or­di­nary set of build­ings, each con­verted be­yond recog­ni­tion from a for­mer in­dus­trial shed. The most strik­ing as­pect is the fa­cades. Three build­ings’ ex­te­ri­ors are in con­crete, twisted and poured into shapes that stretch the bound­aries of ma­te­rial cred­i­bil­ity. The other three are clad in alu­minium or steel, laser cut, punched, bent and tes­sel­lated into three di­men­sions. ‘What we have done with these build­ings is re-dress them by tak­ing tex­tile analo­gies and rein­ter­pret­ing them in con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als,’ ex­plains Baier-bischof­berger.

The De­sign­halle is a two-storey ex­hi­bi­tion space for the dec­o­ra­tive arts col­lec­tions. Sheathed in a haute cou­ture coat of shiny stain­less-steel strips, laser-cut and folded out­wards by a pur­pose-built pre­ci­sion ma­chine, it’s quite an eye-catcher. The ar­chi­tects call it their ‘hairy build­ing’. ‘It is a metal­lic fur, but in the warm glow of a sum­mer evening, it looks like a se­quined dress,’ says Baier. In­side, the build­ing is wait­ing to be filled with trea­sures, so for the mo­ment it is the ar­chi­tec­ture that draws the at­ten­tion. The lower floor is one huge


above, the v-shaped col­umns of the de­sign­halle’s lower level were in­spired by the work of ital­ian ar­chi­tect pier luigi nervi. dis­play cases be­neath are set to show dec­o­ra­tive arts col­lec­tions right, the ar­chi­tects, flo­rian baier and nina baier-bischof­berger, be­side the build­ing’s ‘metal­lic fur’ fa­cade

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