The Donut, 2013 | Assemblage, Sydney

The Donut is a large-scale object installation, which was tested in a vacant warehouse in Sydney in 2013.

The object is based on a bar in the former Akademie der Künste in Berlin. To put the project in context, the former Academy is located in the Hansaviertel, a district known for its Modernist architecture. Iconic buildings by architects to rebuild Berlin’s devastated post-war landscape, and improve workers’ lives through “good design”.

German architect, Werner Düttman (1921-1983) who took part in the planning of the Hansaviertel, was later engaged to design the Academy (built 1958-1960) according to the post-war Modernist style. On one of the lower floors of the Düttman designed Academie stood a bar; and it is this structure from which The Donut takes shape, a perfect small-scale Modernist exemplar, formal, geometric, and stern. On the one seemingly weighted quite heavily to the ground, and on other appearing to hover as it stands on its small but precisely engineered base.1/ 2

The Donut plays with ideas of the replica and a certain contemporary longing for another place and time. The bar has virtually no online footprint, so it is with a single postcard image that Donut comes into being.In order to translate the image into the scaled object, the postcard has been imported into CAD to determine the bar’s original scale. In the bar’s first manifestation, these dimensions were additionally adjusted to work with the dimensions of the Sydney warehouse space. This would be similarly considered for any further versions of the project.

This means that the The Donut is less a replica of Düttman’s bar, and more a fictional re- staging of the memory of it. It’s dimensions are a mash-up, and the materials are rather cheap.3 The structure is made from primed pine lengths and the outer shell is clad in wafer-thin masonite that has been left uncovered in parts to reveal its skeleton. The work has been designed in order that it comes apart as a kit, and may be packed and stacked. It might acknowledge minimalist boxes or the IKEA flatpack, which stands as a contemporary metaphor for economising skill, money and effort, perhaps more timely conceptions of “good design”.

The work, in its first iteration, was built over a period of three months and included a one-night open bar performance. A tailored version for another space could see it used again as functioning bar, performance piece, and installation-- again recited/re-sited.

1 This is a visual trick used often, and proudly by the Modernist architects, as new engineering feats were tested and accomplished
2 In the archival image (top right corner of the CAD plan) the lighting in the overhead track lends the object a further dramatic quality.
3 going somewhat against high-grade modernist materials like glass and stone inextricable to the works of Mies van der Rohe et al.

Text by Bonita Bub and Nadia Wagner