Competition organised by the City of Bern (Capital of Switzerland)
for the rearrangement of the Federal Square.
Architectural consultant: Paul Marti, Geneva
With the conjunction of the buildings marking its limits (Federal Palace on one side, banks all around) and the permanently changing presence of the passers by, this particular space offers the look of a 'collision' between the solemn manifestation of political and economic power and the anonymous crowd of citizens and visitors. The idea is, in this project, to establish a link between those two quite distant but complementary worlds.
Graphic representation of the initiative journey, of the Quest, the Labyrinth represents the place of an ultimate challenge. It could lead to death (encounter with the Minotaur) but also to consciousness (towards the centre of the self). To find the way out of it marks an evolution to a richer self due to a lived experience. One can try to elevate for a better perception of its geography but flying too high could be dangerous (Icarus, Daedalus). Help could also come from outside (Ariadne).
Starting from the 'House/Gate', its complex route progresses around the centre towards the Chair, affirmation, for the individual, of the consciousness of his responsibility amongst the collectivity.
Like a discreet filigree, the Labyrinth, embedded in the paving, is composed of curved elements of matt stainless steel (2x4cm in section).
Its elliptic shape responds to the baroque elements of some of the surrounding architecture (notably frontons). Its main axis is parallel to the Federal Palace facade. The walking journey, between the gate and the chair, represents a distance of 565m.
It is the search for an elevated vision, allowing a better understanding of the labyrinth's mystery, that justified the flight of Icarus and Daedalus. Here, it is the 'House', with all its attached symbolism, that flies over the site. The viewer can imagine himself in it, discovering the whole place from above. It's then quite logical for this elevated 'dwelling' to also be the 'gate' giving access to the Labyrinth.
If the House/Gate marks a vertical connection with the 'high' (the sky), the 'Gold' marks a relation, also vertical, with the earth, the buried, the esoteric. The centre of the Labyrinth is marked with a neutral space. The path just goes around, it doesn't lead to it. Underneath this elliptic stone slab, as deep as possible, a small gold nugget is buried. We never will see it, we just know it's there. Only a small circle engraved in the porphyry marks its location. This part of the piece suggests a dialogue between the 'material' gold that the banks, surrounding the square, stock in their underground vaults and the 'alchemical' gold, which renews the ties with some esoteric traditions of the city of Bern. This conjunction illustrates, by the means of the same metal, the complementarity of spirituality and materialism.
A very normal chair, with no specific style, stands on a low plinth facing the entrance of the Federal Palace. A slight rotation avoids a too strong feeling of confrontation.
It is the 'Chair' of every Swiss citizen in the Capital.
The traditional statuary often represents a subject sitting on a chair. Here, only the chair is present. The role of the subject is held by the visitor himself who, sitting on it, becomes an integral part of the 'sculpture'. He or she is invited to take part in the square's life in the same way that, as a citizen, he or she participates in the life of the country.
If it could suggest a sentiment of isolation for the individual facing the governmental 'machine', the chair aims to make every member of the community aware that, in reality or symbolically, he is represented there. In the square, at home in any part of the country or even anywhere on earth, the citizen knows that he has his place in this highly significant site. It is a sheaf of attentions that, from anywhere, focuses on the Chair, giving it a particular strength and meaning.
Observed from the Federal Palace, the chair, even empty, is the evocation of the potential presence of every citizen, hence of all.
The ground is composed of porphyry slabs, 50cm in width and of variable length. Oriented north/south, they inscribe the site in a planetary context. On pavements, the slabs are placed perpendicularly to the adjacent buildings. The plinth for the chair and the curbs are made of the same stone. The House/Gate and the Chair are made of patinated bronze..