Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics
René Schmidt: Commission at University of Southern Denmark
The artist René Schmidt has made a commission of cast concrete reliefs as a part of a constructive bearing of the 'mountain', which is one of the main elements of the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark.
AF CAMILLA HEDEGAARD MØLLER
Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics
University of Southern Denmark
Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M
'The carpet, The mountain, and The screen' are the main elements of the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark. The names refer to the lower part of the buildings, three heavy vertical cores and the enclosing climate screen. The house designed by Dall & Lindhardtsen A/S is situated close to the existing building complex on campus.
The decoration by artist René Schmidt is a part of the load-bearing construction of the 'mountain' and consist of two decorations, the one on the side of a 4-storey staircase core, the other on a 3-storey continuous wall, both in connection with the new building through which daylight enters the house.
The walls are as casted concrete reliefs ranging up vertically made of the same type of concrete as the rest of the concrete core, 'the mountain'. The walls, cast on the site in a new molding technique and in special design, invite the users of the house to climb, explore and move around. Thus they are simultaneously a climbing wall, a supporting structure and tall, crystalline, artistic reliefs.
About the decoration's relation to the Institute's field René states: "We do not exhibit art, but we let the art be born with the rest of the house in collaboration with the architects. Thus we hope to let go of the artificial along the way and become a part of the physics instead. There are in fact two reliefs which comes out of the concrete. Molded of the same concrete and in the same manner as the whole house. Reliefs with a geometry that unites the mechanical and organic nature, and thus point to our own inner biometrics.
I'm modeling our own internal building blocks, so they point to the universe's basic structures – like that it feels like looking at a rock wall. Stone, lime and minerals that are pressed together by the black substance. The reliefs expression comes from all of these structures, the cell, the molecule, the atom, the quark and the black substance. At the same time they are meant to reflect both our way to explore and to understand all of this.
I mean the method or the methodological approach by which we see the world, and here is the digital expression very precise, as it may contain both terms, the digital complexity will resemble the organic structure/the nature. So I try to create rock walls with digital weathered diversity. "
- a conversation with the artist René Schmidt
The site of the decoration
At the beginning of the process René Schmidt was interested in the public space outside the house and in those crystalline forms, he had previously seen and perhaps even misunderstood on the architects' drawings. But at first the Arts Committee nominated another place for the decoration, "the problematic place" to be shined up. From having had a lot of ideas, it was disheartening and distressing to have been awarded a place like a light shaft that had the character of being the "back end" of the building. Despite the slightly tightening start René found a way through the economy of the project to expand from one to two places. Thus the decoration is not just in one place, but a part of - and in dialogue with the house as a whole.
The academic area of the Department has been crucial to the development of the decoration. René experiencing himself as academically well-chosen, mentions that aspects such as biomechanics, the anthropogenic nature, the mountains physicality, the body, climbing, building with mathematics and inspiration from muscles as important elements in the work. From the beginning, René wanted to create something "in scale with the house." The first study was carried out in relation to the inner light shaft, which he most of all perceived as a closed and big box, which he had difficulties in imagining integrated with art. The idea of a large skull in the light shaft stressed the claustrophobic. Human figures were tested inside and outside, but it still seemed too "deployed". René emphasizes that the decoration should not be "artificial" but function as an integrated part of both the physics of the building and how it is used. Not only the academic area of the department but also the university as a whole construction of concrete and steel led the process forward. Visits at the Danish Technological Institute and past experiences of converting digital models into concrete molds resulted in the concrete relief was chosen as form.
René mentions the cooperation with both users and architects as open and solution-oriented. It has been positive to join the table and the equalilty in the cooperation has been important. Although it is not quite that simple, it has also been an overwhelming situation to work as a one-man company in relation to a whole building project. As if being a "satellite with other money." The decoration has been sketched digitally in a 3D model at the same time as the architects continually modeled the house. Everybody and especially René himself could in this way all the time evaluate the decoration relative to the entire house. Besides being crucial as a collaboration platform, it is also important for the production technique concerning the concrete molds, since they are made directly from the 3D model.
Besides finding out what was economically possible, the main challenge has been that the decoration should not be more perfectly made than the rest of the construction. It has been discussed in depth if the climbing walls should be cast lying or not, and as elements or on site. It was complicated because the climbing walls was referred to as art and René have had to make an effort to communicate his own vision, that the climbing walls were made the same way and at the same time as the rest of the house. In addition, that they are made to be used and that they in the future may bear the imprint of it.
René would have liked to be involved earlier in the process, "not to draw the house, but to understand it better", because artists "can have an input in many other aspects". Rather than have designated a place, René would have liked to take part of the previous discussions and the designation of the place or places for decoration. "It's a shame if art should just be hung up" and he points out that it can be experienced as a paradox that the artist's sketch process is offset from the architects' if you really want to create integrated art.