Inspired by space and nature
German installation artist Markus Heinsdorff has dedicated much of his life exploring the potential of natural material. Starting his career in 1977 as a goldsmith, Heinsdorff travelled across Europe during his early days, but soon realised there was more to explore.
He started working as a goldsmith at a young age and even started a school to impart the technique. “Because my grandmother was a fabric producer, my affinity for membranes became evident quite early on. Two of my aunts worked as weavers too and I had a wonderful time watching them work on chairs, carpets and other things. I worked a lot in Italy, studied sculpture, also dealt with photography and architecture, but finally realised that space and nature inspire me and till date they have been my biggest inspirations,” he says in his thick German accent.
Having worked on several international projects for the German government, Heinsdorff is on his first trip to a country he calls his ‘second home’. The official architect of the eco-friendly pavilions at the Indo-German Urban Mela from October 27 to November 4 in Delhi, Hensdorff says, India inspired him to explore his creativity. “I try to bring the themes of various cultures together. It is not so much a fusion but simply bringing elements from both cultures into the same space,” he says.
After researching on the country for about three months, Heinsdorff set out to build the pavilions which would be a reflection of the culture and its modernism. “While I was researching, I found how interestingly jute was used in this country. This inspired me to create mobile architecture. So we started working on the construction of a piece of membrane developed from glue, concrete, jute, rice ash and rice. This is a 3mm flexible material and absolutely organic,” he says.
The thematic focus of the pavilions is ‘StadtRäume – CitySpaces’. Travelling across five metropolitans of the country, these pavilions have already been exhibited in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai and are on their fourth stop. “The focus of my creations is working with urban spaces. The unique approach lies in identifying the architectural element in nature and enhancing it. While I’ve used membranes in my work before, this will be the first time that Indian fabric will be a prominent feature in the construction,” he says.
His pavilions will examine the impact of rapid urbanisation and challenges posed by the pace of change in Indian and German cities today. “Issues like mobility, energy, sustainable urban development, architecture, cultural space, education and urban art are prominently featured through a prism of genres such as the performing and visual arts, science, education, technology and business. It creates a unique “city-space” in the heart of the city, promising to entertain, challenge and engage the residents of the city it travels to,” says Heinsdorff.
The artist says he wanted to retain the traditional aspects of Indian design and mould them into sustainable architectural solutions. He says, “Steel and membrane are the physical components of my work, while the sculptural motifs are part of the guiding principles. Technology is not limited to machines. The intricacy and rigour that go into weaving fabric in India ia also a kind of technology. I have used the same method in my architectural construct as well.”
Interestingly, Heinsdorff is working on a $10 house concept. “I am very inspired by the immigrants and their way of living. People here travel for over four hours just to reach office and back and it struck me ‘How convenient would it be to carry your house with you everyday’,” he quips. Heinsdorff will be using natural material for this house based on the principles of recycling. “I want it to be low-cost and environment-friendly. It’s a new concept and quite doable. I will be exhibiting it in the next city tour,” he says.
His journey in the country has been nothing but enriching. Meeting new artists and understanding the way of life here has further helped Heinsdorff in developing workable systems. “I am looking forward to coming back again and doing more work here,” he signs off.