The artist and architect Walter Pichler has died in Austria age 76. Pichler was born in 1936 in an area that escaped fighting during the war. He was raised in Deutschnofen, South Tyrol, an area previously part of Austria, later studying at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna. Pichler Lived in St. Martin/Burgland and Vienna.
In the 1960s he worked in the border zone between sculpture and architecture, specializing in architectural designs for utopian city-planning projects and three-dimensional models confronting space and individual perception. In 1967, he presented the Prototypes, a.o.the TV Helmet (Tragbares Wohnzimmer) (1967), pneumatic sculpture Großer Raum (Large Space), symbolically charged paraphrases of furniture and apparatuses as body extensions. Together with Hans Hollein he demanded that architecture be free from the constraints of construction and that sculpture be free from the limits of abstraction.
In a text dedicated to Pichler, Oswald Wiener had developed the phantasy of a cyborg as an apparatus which would free consciousness from its organic base, the body.
Pichler was one of Austria’s most important visionary artists. He conceived of art as a program. Sculpture and architecture’s immanent interplay and the act of repetition the motif of the endless combine to form the narrative thread that runs through his oeuvre. Pichler’s production of art began in his probing of the 1960s zeitgeist for innovative strategies; he borrowed from the auto and aerospace industries, employed new materials such as plastic, aluminum and pneumatic elements and prefabricated spatial cells, and dealt ironically and critically with new technologies, media, forms of communication and science fiction. The lion’s share of his objects and environments were intended for some sort of actual use, with the human body functioning as a design parameter. These applications and applied forms elicit a great deal of resonance in the fields of architecture and art. In the 1970s, Pichler who maintained a studio in Vienna chose St. Martin an der Raab in the Province of Burgenland as a location where he could continue his architectural analyses and escape the dynamics of contemporary art production. He conceived of and created a laboratory-like sculptural art facility, adapting and expanding the conventional building stock. Pichler found on site as a hybrid area in which to work, live and present. There, his interests in sculpture, architecture and nature came together to form a Gesamtkunstwerk or comprehensive work of art, and he has since continued with this approach in his various architectural projects elsewhere. Shifting his artistic work to the country influenced Pichler’s specific choice of materials, a fact testified to by his use of found wood, mud, stone and bones, the connotations of which make reference to the concept of social sculpture. Pichler treated sculptures as cultic objects. His many beautiful drawings and models for sculpture and architecture are his greatest legacy.