Blue Sky Architecture
Coop Himmelblau was founded in 1968 by architects Wolf D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Rainer Michael Holzer. In its early days, the firm was based in Vienna, but moved to Los Angeles in the 1980’s. Their early experimental works included a series of installations in which people played key roles. These experiments included inflatable spaces that could fit into a suitcase. These particular experiments were small enough that they were represented in full scale. However most of their earlier work was represented by large-scale models. Coop Himmelb(l)au paid attention to extreme detail, creating interior models, many times, at a scale of 1:10.
Their work was inherently performative, a couple of examples being “Soul Flipper”, a face helmet that is sensitized to react to movements of facial muscle and skin to transmit optical and acoustical signals and ‘Hard Space’, an event in which heart microphones were attached to the three group-members and electronicallv connected to three explosive charges two kilometers away. The transmission of the three heartbeats activated the explosions, and three “instant” (and very temporary) spaces were realized.
The name “Coop Himmelblau” is German for “Blue-Sky Cooperative” and reflects the firm’s design intent to make architecture that alludes to cloud-like and heavenly imagery through complex angular forms that create dynamic and airy spaces, as well as their extensive use of glass and steel in their projects.
Some of Coop Himmelblau’s recent projects which best exemplify this design intention are the BMW welt in Munich, the Cinema Center in Busan, South Korea, and particularly the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio, completed in 2007.