Mobility & Design

House & Car: Of shapes, driving and living

Parking Day? We can do that sometime. But if we are going to decelerate our cars and bring them to a standstill, then please do so in a beautiful way. And Andreas K. Vetter has summarised the most beautiful parking options in his book "Haus und Auto" (House and Car). We spoke with the professor of art and cultural history.

  • Interview
    Iris Soltau & Marko Knab
  • Photo
    BoysPlayNice, entnommen aus »Haus & Auto«, 2022 erschienen im Callwey Verlag
Professor Vetter, what made you look at the tension between sedentariness and mobility?

Because there is usually a strict separation: either it's about architecture or automobility. Yet the point of contact, namely the privately used parking space that lies in between, is an important and also cost-intensive aspect of everyday life for many people. That was worth a closer look.

Which parking solution surprised you the most during your research? And is there any ingenious trick that you have "copied" for yourself at home?

What I found in the U.S. was a panel in front of the garage door that automatically shifts to compensate for the entrance to a basement or underground garage, which is sometimes too steep for a sports car. For those who don't have this available, the hardware store method is recommended: I am helping myself with hard rubber wedges.

Photo: Millimeter Interior Design Ltd.
Photo: Millimeter Interior Design Ltd.
Many of the vehicles shown in the photobook are staged like works of art by means of their surroundings - how important is driving pleasure to the owners anyway?

Very. Besides, driving fun doesn't necessarily have to be associated with a hot trackday. Sometimes it can also be a leisurely drive in a Bentley. Driving pleasure is certainly experienced by all. Of course, this also includes other, quasi-liturgical activities - in the case of classic cars, the maintenance beforehand and the washing or wiping down after the drive.

Cars and architecture are a direct expression of the self. What can vehicle and accommodation reveal about a person?

I think that above all the range of solutions shown in the book documents how differently the occupants deal with them. In addition, there is the specific nature of the collection. Some were created intuitively from the compilation of emotional favorites, which can include a small Fiat or even an old Land Rover. Other collectors put the top products of technology in their garage, like a Lamborghini Aventador, and still others enjoy the classics - they want to admire their Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta from a leather armchair.

What does your own garage look like? What does it tell us about you?

Since it's a shared underground garage, it remains technically neutral, in a matter-of-fact concrete gray. Almost magical, however, is that in their garage space you can sometimes hear the piano playing from the music academy across the street, while outside you didn't notice it - a hint to perhaps pay attention to the acoustic dimension of architecture for once. 


What stood out while studying your book: The concepts and detailed solutions for integrating the cars are decidedly refined and detail oriented. Why do people get particularly creative here?

The most interesting architectural solutions almost always emerge when the design has to address a complex or conflicting context - a tight inner-city lot, for example, or rigid building codes in a landscape conservation area. Then you think about a special car lift solution or a hidden underground garage. And this is then given a colorful interior design to provide an appropriate quality of stay. So let's give thanks for all the basic difficulties in building - they force architecture to come up with creative ideas.

Photo: EV+A Lab Atelier d'Architettura e Interior Design.
Photo: EV+A Lab Atelier d'Architettura e Interior Design.
Do vehicles and houses of a single owner actually show a convergence, especially with regard to design and style?

The decisive factor is certainly whether the vehicles are used in everyday life, are only driven under ideal conditions in leisure time, or are actually experienced without exception as an automotive work of art. Assuming an intense affection for each vehicle, everyday cars such as a multifunctional G-model or a low-maintenance AMG GT are certainly closer to actual life and personality than a museum-quality selection that often follows a collector's canon: Ferrari F40, 300 SL Gullwing, Carrera RS 2.7 ...

Automobiles and architecture also reflect the respective current zeitgeist. What is your opinion of the current state of the world?

Since automobiles are often in use for more than thirty years and often belong to different owners, and since they are used in specific designs and in the most diverse geographical zones of the world - desert, alpine region, big city, village - it is probably not possible to make a reliable assessment.

For me, an automobile is not only the brand-new one, but always also the one that has been used for a long time - think of the countless W123 Mercedes sedans of the 1980s, which were first washed on Saturdays in front of German suburban garages for ten years, and which today have been leaving the backyard of an Egyptian cab driver for their day trips every morning for twenty years. One can only hope that, despite sensible further development of technology, we will continue to succeed in building automobiles for people that can be operated for a long time even with simple maintenance - that is socially fair and also sustainable.
Sustainability is a hot topic in the construction industry right now - but it's also a hot topic for car manufacturers. Do you have any examples of innovations where both areas go hand in hand?

Ideally, buildings are equipped with their own energy production, for example solar cells or wind power rotors, which can then also be used to charge hybrid or electric vehicles via a wall box. And it also works the other way around: Ford recently produced a spectacular campaign for its new F-150 Lightning, which was understood all too well in the natural disaster-stricken USA - if the hurricane cuts the overhead power line, the pickup supplies the house with its battery.

For many, their garage is a kind of playground, for others even a second home. Why is such a border area between movement and security so important for people?

Strictly speaking, it isn't, because the vast majority of garages in the world are pure storage rooms, into which you sometimes have to literally squeeze to maneuver your car out. However, as soon as one has discovered this parking space as a sphere of action for the cars through an architectural office or one's own claim, many actually experience that living has been wonderfully expanded by an additional spatial aspect. But all those who have already tinkered and serviced their vehicles don't need to be told about this, because they have already discovered the unbeatably authentic living space of an automobile for themselves: the workshop.

You are a proven expert in architectural history and art history. Can passionate topics like the house and the car actually be brought together and studied in a scientific way?

It becomes scientific when, for example, you take a historical approach to the history of garages, as I have already done in the introductory sections of the two previous Callwey books on the same subject, or when you approach it from the point of view of architectural theory, for example by examining the modernist concept of 'movement': Architects such as Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier already reacted to the driving motion of automobiles in the 1920s/30s with curved ground plan lines. Corbusier, incidentally, was a lover of the French brand Voisin.

Is there a similar symbiosis between building and passion in history? And: What was considered a status symbol before the invention of the car, do you have one or two examples?

Individual planning with specific design preferences can be well documented in cultural history from modern times onwards, i.e. the Renaissance. In particular, the painterly and sculptural designs of the rooms and facades of palaces, villas and castles are planned and implemented with great dedication and also reflection on content. Among the earliest status symbols were the cabinets of curiosities and art or mirror cabinets of the 15th-18th centuries, where spectacular collections were assembled and presented. After that, many so-called artists' houses would also have to be mentioned, such as those of Salvador Dalí or Günther Domenig. Architecturally relevant status symbols are certainly the painting collections with their long gallery rooms, but also - as predecessors of the coach house and garage - the stately stables. In this respect, the Palazzo del Te in Mantova is famous.

Foto: Taira Katsuya / Fujiwaramuro Architects.
Foto: Taira Katsuya / Fujiwaramuro Architects.
Is something intangible like aesthetics or personal taste calculable - perhaps even measurable?

The question is obvious. But why ask it? Then it would presumably be a question of bigger and smaller or better and worse. Viewed the other way around, the phenomenon of diversity seems much more interesting to me. Even in museums, it is boring to see only the same selection of classics in the painting collections of Berlin, Vienna, or Paris. Unpredictability and idiosyncrasy are more exciting because they irritate, surprise and generate discourse: a purist Austin-Healy Sprite, an elegantly opened DS Cabriolet or a bright red 356. So you look twice.

Andreas K. Vetter:
»Haus & Auto«. Callwey. 59,95 €. Published September 2022.
What role does the idea of luxury play here?

It depends on the definition. If luxury means mere abundance, then I would certainly have little positive to write about it. But if luxury expresses the fact that things are built and collected with self-expenditure in mind, that one tries to avoid compromises, selects what is excellent and does everything for it, then the conceptual meaning moves in the direction of a very high demand for quality. And a lot can be said about that - both in terms of outstanding architecture and in terms of automotive culture. Monetary costs are relative here, because collectors invest much more: endless time for acquiring the necessary expertise, for research, and finally for acquisition and possibly restoration and care. The high quality of the contents is also not luxurious in the financial sense, because what is special in the perfectly designed garage house does not have to have been expensive, but just exceptionally good - and that can be a Fiat Nuova 500 just as much as a Countach.

And how influential are geographical location and cultural background? Are there any major differences here from your point of view?

I always notice that in Asian countries, both design worlds - house and car - are more playful and colorful, while the Central Europeans like it more formally discreet. However, this is certainly also due to the strict building regulations, especially in German-speaking countries. It is also worth mentioning that only small car collections can be placed in the context of a villa or penthouse. There are, of course, large collections everywhere. However, for this purpose the owners almost exclusively use industrial halls. The architectural claim is then no longer effective.

Do you also have a favorite among the house-car combinations shown?

For me, an imaginative and also humanly very likeable solution is the Basic House of the Korn Thongtour family in Bangkok with its collection of colorful classics: there is a playground for the children next to the show garage, which is by no means off-limits to them - and the family bedroom, from which the view falls on the car collection. That's how you ensure a new generation of car enthusiasts.

Walter Röhrl once said: "A garage without a Porsche 911 is a dreary, empty hole after all!" Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Of course I agree, because I experience it myself time and again. What's more, Röhrl wasn't just referring to the stunning looks, but also to the boxer sound, which is ideally amplified in the garage and for which one likes to roll down the windows when entering and exiting the car. For a comparable high with other vehicles, however, you have to improve the design of the garage - but there are enough suggestions for that now in 'Haus und Auto'!

Shop now:

callwey.de

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