Curiously, when John Hejduk was asked by his friend Stanley Tigerman to write an afterword to a book of his, he wrote about plans. Equally, when HHF was asked by their friend Ai WeiWei to make a building in a master-plan of his, they made a plan. Both acts seem simple and stupid and maybe even a little bit next to the point. But we have good reason to believe it was rather not. Hejduk did not know how to deal with the architecture of his friend. He had no clue what to say about these crazy incarnations of form his friend got caught into. So he decided to stay on safe ground and avoid the fuss. Tigerman's plans were fine!
Again, HHF was facing a similar dilemma, being slightly experienced with the craziness of the context and worried to make another bizarre building in an equally specific master-plan. They skillfully avoided the trap of too much and reduced their 1000m2 palace into an updated warehouse: a shed. As one can imagine: creating another incarnation of capricious architecture in an allotment where most of the neighbors seemed busy with exactly this, felt like a dead end. So no specifics. A big house is a big roof. A big roof is a big shed with a lot of things inside. So is HHF's house. It is essentially the reduction of shelter in this specific context – inner mongolia – to its most industrialized self.
The shed has no real features, it stands on the site. It has no real architecture, or nothing more than the minimum necessary: a concrete structure with a brick infill and some simple openings. HHF did not invent these tectonics, that language. It is something which is all around, especially in China, and is used by their friend WeiWei in his own artist colony, and his architecture elsewhere. They bounce back the challenge. It is as if they seem to say – rightly, i believe – that a site that bizarre and tough, with a master-plan that specific and dense, needs nothing else but buildings, blunt and simple.
Inside, all the features of the warehouse cum palazzo are carefully arranged, using the cartesian grid the building system provided them with. Ultimately, the only odd program element, the pool, organizes the shed inside, again putting attention on its anomaly. With one simple gesture the shed becomes sophisticated, but it still avoids the glamour so often projected on exotic projects far, far away.
No architectonic tour de force, no signature. And then again the contrary, as HHF house carries its name in its very organization. The plan, or better, the image of the plan, proudly carries (as an insignia) that what building in the bizarre virtual context of Ordos seems to be all about: signature. HHF House bears its signature as most tattoos: always there, yet invisible for most. As the roof-sheds spell their name, they wink incessantly to that other context, as a decorated shed.
Text: "The Decorated shed" by Kersten Geers
Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China
HERLACH HARTMANN FROMMENWILER
with Christian Weyell and Nicole Baron, Daichi Takano, Kohsuke Uesugi
Ordos Jiang Yuan Water Engineering Co.,Ltd
Ai Weiwei | Art Architecture
Markus Tretter, HHF