Manuel Herz's Legal/Illegal

In 2004 Manuel Herz did a project in Cologne, Germany that he called Legal/Illegal.  It was built in a neighborhood called Bayenthal, where a strict masterplan was devised that builders were expected to stick to.  The project was built in a very tight space between two other existing homes.  The basic form of the structure was taken directly from the building restriction limits that were set by the government. Herz used terraces on each level to step the building back in order to meet the volume limit of the site.  One could consider this the “legal” aspect of the project, since Manuel made an attempt here to completely follow the rules of the neighborhood.

There is a second volume of the project which can be considered the “illegal” part of the structure.  The floor area inside of this second volume exceeds the maximum area allowed in the rules of the masterplan.  It is a free formed body that twists its way around an existing arch to help complete the building.  Manuel Herz even disregarded fire regulations when it came to this structure.  It is also covered in a bright red polyurethane coating, something that was most definitely frowned upon by German planning law.  Since this second volume ignores much of the rules laid out in the masterplan for Bayenthal, it is therefore considered the “illegal” part of the structure. 

Section showing the contrasting volumes of the building

One thing I found very interesting about this project was that the rule breaking was not kept a secret at all.  Manuel Herz and his team explicitly laid out all of the irregularities of the project from the very beginning.  They even decided to use their meetings with the authorities about the project as inspiration for the overall concept of the structure.  The building was meant to be completely different from its surroundings, and was surprisingly accepted by the community and by the German planning division for this neighborhood.

Contrasting colors and forms

Contrasting colors and forms

What I chose to do my cuttings and analysis on, was the stark contrast of this structure with the buildings that surround it.  The first thing one would probably notice upon looking at this project is the fact that it is a bright red building among a bunch of white and grey buildings.  When you look a little closer there are a lot more things about the building that stand out from its surroundings.  The random patterns of windows is one of the most noticeable things.  Also the fact that it is not simply a rectangular form is interesting.  It is a very irregular form adding interest to the building.  

Irregularity among simplicity

Irregular window patterns

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