Coop Himmelblau was founded by Wolf D. Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michael Holzer in Vienna, Austria in 1968. Their approach is similar to that of Haus-Rucker-Co, based on the Austrian heritage of Freud's psychoanalytic approach, which led them to explore the relationships between the architectural environment and our individual perceptions of it. Their early work leading up to the late 1970s consisted of performative installations and actions involving the spectators as participants.
A response to the work of architect, Hans Hollein and influenced by media theorist Marshall McLuhan and cybernetics in general, Coop Himmelblau produced work that explored the use of new technologies to create early versions of responsive interactive environments. The project Hard Space (1968) used the heartbeats of three people to trigger a series of explosions across Vienna, whilst Soft Space (1970) filled a street in soap bubbles. They also used inflatables and the potential of pneumatic structures for interaction in public space; these early projects exploring the city as a stage for experimental inhabitation. From the 1980s onwards the practice increasingly moved into the mainstream of architecture, with formally flamboyant buildings that appear to have lost a socially experimental edge.
Noah Chasin, 'The Fall and Rise of Austrian Architecture: The Redemptive Strategies of Coop Himmelblau and Hans Hollein', Brickhaus, http://www.brickhaus.com/amoore/magazine/austr.html [accessed 13 July 2010].
Marc Dessauce (ed.), The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in '68 (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).
Chris Salter and Peter Sellars, 'Performative Architectures', in Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (MIT Press, 2010).
Michael Sorkin, 'Post rock Propter Rock: A Short History of the Himmelblau', in Exquisite corpse: writing on buildings (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 339-350.
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