Axel Braun - Fabian Saavedra-Lara – Introduction

Axel Braun’s project Zugunsten einer Gesellschaft von
morgen, für die wir heute schon bauen explores the
history and architecture of the federal state bank WestLB.
The artist’s architectural investigation focuses on the
bank’s former branch in Dortmund, which has been dominating
the cityscape since the late 1970s as one of its most
renowned and conspicuous buildings. This futuristicutopistic
colossus is the work of Harald Deilmann,
who used the same basic patterns to design the WestLB
branches in Münster, Luxembourg and, later, Düsseldorf.

The tension between image and language, between
architectural representation and corporate identity, is
the starting point for Braun’s artistic reflection on the
current problems in financial markets. Unfolding on
the backdrop of Dortmund’s cityscape, where this project
initiated, his examinations prompt a search for architectural
sediments in a city whose appearance is wholly
determined by economic or industrial processes and
transformations. Rather than attempting to integrate the
past, the city has relied (and continues to do so) on
massive remodelling as a way to respond to hopes for a
better economic future. The historic Hanseatic city
was thus slowly turned into an industrial town with an
identity rooted in steel production and coal mining.
When these industries relocated to other parts of the
world, they left behind huge wastelands and ruins
which were either preserved as monuments, converted
for cultural purposes or replaced by offices, the new
workplaces of the services and knowledge society.
The WestLB branch in the centre of town has been one
of the few constant landmarks in Dortmund’s cityscape
since the 1970s. Widely known for its sculptural architecture,
it routinely attracts curious glances from passersby.

Yet for most inhabitants of Dortmund, it has effectively
remained a kind of ‘black box’ for decades: because
it was a business rather than high-street bank, few people
ventured to take a closer look. The interior of this
architectural ‘spaceship’ in the centre of town therefore
remained hidden to the public at large. When the bank
was closed, the building was sold off to an investor who
is currently transforming it into a medical centre.
The redevelopment of this iconic and now heritage-listed
building (after it was introduced into the cycle of investments)
provides the artist with an opportunity to examine
the public identity and history of the company it used to
accommodate: WestLB.

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