Section Through a Firm in Transition

Christian Wassmann, Int’l Assoc. AIA, presents at Axor NYC.

Eve Dilworth Rosen

Fibonacci Spiral

Christian Wassmann and threeASFOUR


Christian Wassmann and Michael Portnoy

Documenta elevation

Christian Wassmann and Michael Portnoy

Event: Presentation by Christian Wassmann
Location: Axor NYC, 12.13.12
Speakers: Chris Leong, Assoc. AIA, and Philipp von Dalwig, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, Co-chairs, New Practices Committee; Christian Wassmann, Int’l Assoc. AIA, principal, Christian Wassmann
Organizers: New Practices Committee, AIA New York Chapter
Underwriters: Axor Hansgrohe; NRI
Patrons: Sure Iron Works; Thornton Tomasetti
Supporter: Samson Rope
Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper

Christian Wassmann, Int’l Assoc. AIA, is operating a studio in transition. Up to this point, his office has tackled the panoply of typologies traditionally associated with a young practice: temporary installations, apartment renovations, boutique commercial spaces, and competitions. However, buoyed by a recent series of prominent and successful small-scale projects, Wassmann appears poised on the cusp of his first major commission. Or perhaps something altogether less conventional awaits him…

As with many emerging practitioners, Wassmann has cultivated formative relationships within a very specific industry. In this case, the arts world has allowed his firm the latitude to explore a host of unorthodox ideas. Whether for fashion designers, practicing artists, or gallerists, Wassmann’s concepts often emerge from playful explorations of pure or idealized geometry. The Fibonacci spiral, long a source of architectural curiosity, provided the inspiration for the backdrop of an outdoor fashion show in New York City, displaying the clothing designs of threeASFOUR. In another example, the concept of concentric spheres sparked the idea for a novel platform for the performance art of Michael Portnoy at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany.

Wassmann acknowledged, however, that he is intrigued by the idea of designing more enduring structures. He indicated that the acclaimed temporary installations – “architectural one-night stands,” as he referred to them – allow his office to generate a compositional and formal language without the challenge of permanence. The implication being, of course, that Wassmann seeks to apply that language to architecture of a greater scale.

Again, as with many emerging designers, Wassmann has turned to competitions to establish his credentials as a designer of monumental civic or cultural structures. One such instance is his studio’s proposal for an art museum in Maribor, Slovenia, which continued his signature geometric inquiries on a building-wide scale. He continues to enter competitions.

When a major commission for a permanent, ground-up edifice is awarded to Wassmann, he believes that it will come from – or directly relate to – the arts world. He is not disappointed that his office has yet to cross that Rubicon, though. He seems to relish the adrenaline rush associated with swift projects that present him with a minimal budget. It is clear that his firm is transforming, but it is not obvious what the end result will be. One hopes to see Wassmann and his collaborators muddle through the process a bit longer: his ideas are too potent and engaging to be watered down by the strictures of a conventional path to fame and fortune.