Where I’m At: August, 2010 – Essen

On the trail of artists and architects in Germany

From Budapest I took a flight to Weeze in the West of Germany. It worked out much cheaper to do this than to fly directly to Amsterdam, which was my next stop. Flying to Weeze kept my remarkable run of visits to Germany intact, and it also gave me a chance to visit a building of an architect I admire.

Weeze was a cold-war era RAF base which has since been converted into a commercial airport, of the variety as favoured by low cost airlines. Good old Ryanair call Weeze “Dusseldorf”, even though it is 70 km’s away. I flew to Weeze for its proximity to the Netherlands. Before continuing onto Amsterdam though, I took a detour to nearby Essen.

My shuttle bus from the airport was supposed to take me to Essen, but due to roadworks on the freeway we were dropped off at Duisburg. Rather than going straight through on the local train I had a wander around town. Afterall when I am ever going to be in Duisburg again?

Duisburg is in the industrial Ruhr region so I wasn’t expecting much. Walking around the city I stumbled upon an artist I have seen before in my travels, Niki de Saint Phalle.


This lively installation – Lifesaver – is by de Saint Phalle and her husband Jean Tingeuly.

In my travels around Europe over the last 10 years I have come to notice several artists that reoccur in different cities. de Saint Phalle is one of those artists. She has an instantly recognizable style and I have seen her work in Zurich, Paris, Luxembourg and now Duisburg. Maybe I have seen her work elsewhere, before I was aware of who she was.

Tinguely also has a style of his own that can be spotted as a Tinguely a mile away. His specialty was mechanical sculpture, and he often collaborated with his wife. If you have been to Paris then you may recognize their work from the Stravinsky Fountain at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

In Essen I had come to see a building by Austrian painter and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. His work is prominent in his home city of Vienna, where there are three buildings which have been remodelled in his style.

Hundertwasserhaus Essen

Hundertwasserhaus Essen is tucked away in a suburban park and it is a Ronald McDonald House. The building is classic Hundertwasser, with a onion domed tower, bright colours and the structure blending into the surrounding environment.

I seem to have a thing for architects with an artistic background, such as Hundertwasser, as I am also drawn to the likes of Bruno Weber and Antoni Gaudi. If any of their works are near to where I am visiting, I will go on the architectural pilgrimage to see their work.

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