Experimental structural solutions and fantastic modernist forms have taken over Gallery NTK at the Czech National Library of Technology in Prague, for a survey of Israeli architect Alfred Neumann. Curated by the Ostrava-based Cabinet of Architecture in collaboration with MIT’s Rafi Segal, the show is the first major international attempt to present the work of Neumann.
The exhibition gives a comprehensive overview of Neumann’s life and career. Born in 1900 in Vienna, Neumann moved to Brno in Czechoslovakia, where his father operated small carpentry workshop. In 1922, he enrolled at the Vienna Academy, where he studied under Peter Behrens, going on to design furniture and interiors.1
Space Packing Architecture: the Life and Work of Alfred Neumann is the first-ever exhibition on the work of Alfred Neumann (1900–1968). Active in Israel in the 1960s, Neumann’s highly original architecture stands apart from the canon of International Style Modernism from this time: eschewing functionalist and orthogonal expressions, Neumann opted instead for polyhedral geometries that blended traditional architectural principles with new modes of expression. Through a unique display of his most renowned built works, this exhibition brings to light Neumann’s expressive architecture and design methodology. It will tell a story about Neumann’s architecture through various means, and will bring together never-before-seen photographs, architectural drawings, and large- and small-scale models fabricated especially for the show. Four life-size spatial modules, taken directly from Neumann’s most renowned projects, will be built at full scale in the gallery, where visitors can walk among them and experience for themselves an authentic impression of Neumann’s architectural geometries and spaces.
Small-scale architectural models of these same buildings in their entirety will provide context for the life-size spatial modules, and will demonstrate how Neumann worked harmoniously among scales and elements to create unifi ed patterns in his designs. In addition an account of Neumann’s life will be presented through personal correspondences, photographs, paintings, and sketches. The exhibition balances historical documentation with reconstructed architectural elements in space to provide both an informative account of Neumann’s architecture and allow for a real, embodied experience of it. Unveiling Neumann’s work provides insight into the creative power of a highly individual architect and thinker who developed and relentlessly pursued a unique architectural language, despite confronting much resistance and hardship over his lifetime. Neumann’s contribution to the theory and practice of architecture in the middle of the twentieth century, has yet to be fully comprehended; this show is a first step in doing so.