The Wehrhahn Line is an underground railway line in Düsseldorf’s city centre that was developed in close cooperation by architects, artists, engineers and the city administration. We saw this metro miracle for ourselves, and we are impressed and inspired.
No “Buy us!” No “Rent us!” No “Click us!” Instead, I find rigorous concentration, and an absence of advertising anxiety. The descent into Düsseldorf’s underground world is an ascent into a holistic platform of traffic culture. Sensuality, the muses and the arts are all a part of the concept of the Wehrhahn Line, as are comprehensible signage and orientation systems, and the clear division of the architectural spaces. The new underground line, with its six stations, has resulted from the continual collaboration of architects, engineers, artists and the municipal administration over a decade and a half. The Darmstadt practise of netzwerkarchitekten with the artist Heike Klussmann, won a two-phase, European Union-wide competition for the project in 2001, with their concept of the train line as an art line. Art was henceforth an integral part of the building work; it had an impact on the architecture, and intervened in every level, space and stairwell. The unifying element of all six stations is their light, relief-like net structure, with the diamond shape as its basic unit. It is generated by the joints of the building parts and is constantly varied, so that the platform walls have a spatial function and seem to shift. The fascinating thing about the movement of the rhombuses and the six art spaces: One can pause to take in the effect of the train stations as traffic galleries, with ambitious art and state-of-the-art technology – or not. Even when one heedlessly hurries through the art-architectural spaces, these things will not be ineffective. And it so happens that the train stations seem pleasant and aesthetic. The passenger will have all the buy/rent/click stuff on their smartphones anyway, or shortly after leaving the Wehrhahn Line, so it is worth immersing oneself for a short ride in these other worlds. In this overview, we will show you how this looks.
Kirchplatz Station – Enne Haehnle Spur X
"Enne Haehnle’s textual sculpture is both communication and self-communication; it constructs language and with her playful formations returns to the intention of signs and drawings, the communication of information."
Heidi Stecker, author, art historian
They arch and writhe, they climb up the height of the wall and creep around the next corner. These red bands are lyric poetry. For the design of her train station, Enne Haehnle wrote original poetic texts. From these texts, she forged strands of steel glowing red that indicate no directions – a game of perspectives and (il)legibility.
"What could also be perceived as disruptive, i.e. the streaks on the wall that can be unpleasantly associated with pollution or mold, is in aesthetic terms ultimately the actual experience."
Ludwig Seyfarth, author and curator
Graf-Adolf-Platz Station: Manuel Franke – Agate (Achat)
They flow, and form a greenish-black world. The lines meander and fall off here and there in this green cosmos. The station at Graf-Adolf-Platz is in the form of a quartz crystal, agate being a form of the mineral quartz. In agate, crystallisation forms a striped design. Manuel Franke, on the station: "The descent to the tracks correlates to a plunge to the depths of a layer of stone."
"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."
Star Trek, introductory speech
Benrather Straße Station: Thomas Stricker – Heaven above, heaven below
They fly in boundlessness and are plunged into the depths, they create a pattern and defy categorisation. The embossed designs of the silver shimmering stainless steel panels in the spaceship of this station do (and do not) act as a symbol for over and under, for right and left. The levels and spaces spill over into one another and, in the end, are fixed: a Thomas Stricker universe has been created in the underground. Powerful, oppressive, space-sleek.
Heinrich-Heine-Allee Station: Ralf Brög – Three Model Spaces (Drei Modellräume)
They tremble and float, they vibrate and swing through the underground spaces, and the best parts are the irritations and the questions: Are these sounds coming from here? Or am I imagining it? In the Heinrich-Heine-Allee station, the artist Ralf Brög has installed three different sound corridors at the three entrances: “Theatre,” “Laboratory” and “Auditorium.” Three spaces with highly sophisticated sound systems, with visual effects and sound sculptures and materials. Whoever has the answer to the original source of the sounds, finds himself confronted with the next question: Should I continue on my journey, or simply abandon myself to these three sound- and installation-universes?
Schadowerstraße Station: Ursula Damm - Turnstile
They walk or run, they move and are marked as energy points. “They” are passersby, passengers and commuters in the interactive installation Turnstile, by the artist Ursula Damm. The core element is the LED projection screens that are programmed to transmit the movements of people on the surface in real time. Pictures of people become kinetic energies, framed by the geometries of the blue glass walls of the station.
"At Pempelforter Strasse space and image alternate, the flatness of the black and white is made spatial by the overlapping and collision of the bands. As directed superscriptions on public space, the bands simulate pathways that extend absurdly into infinity - or gay, if the idea is continued in spectral terms."
Anja Schürmann, art historian
Pempelforter Straße Station: Heike Klussmann – Surround
They stick through the walls and hang from the ceilings, they are angular, squared off and play with here and there, with here and now. The Pempelforter Straße station, by Heike Klussmann, is a sculpture with sculptures. The artist measured out the station and translated it into a 3D model with graphic banding. She laid white stripes over enameled walls, aluminum ceilings and concrete floors. The floor is black. White bands float through the five station entrances, through all the spaces, overlapping and joining up. A station in which floors, walls and ceilings seem to be woven into one another and which just repeats the idea: here and there, here and now.
"The art does not serve to distract. It turns our awareness back to the very journey on which we find ourselves. Station after station."
Gerrit Gohlke, author and curator
Wehrhahn Line by Kerber Verlag
The Wehrhahn Line is a length of the underground railway that was communally developed from the beginning, by architects, artists, engineers and the municipal administration in the centre of Düsseldorf. The project has a reputation for cooperative, holistic construction. The substantively and (photo)graphically sophisticated publication illuminates in detail the background of this unusual and exemplary cooperation. This book, with 240 pages, is divided into the chapters “Bau, Kunst, Architektur” (“Building, Art, Architecture”), “Kontinuum / Tunnel” (“Continuum / Tunnel”) and “Schnitt / Stationen” (“Section / Stations”). Even the boldly, delicately engraved cardboard cover illustrates the aspiration that the editors and designers have for the content and graphics. They realize the whole with the possibilities of publicity at the fore: interviews, essays, factual reports in conjunction with architectural photography, drawings and plans. In this way, the book shows the reader the way for future and similarly disposed projects that can develop into such traffic culture platforms, if everything goes as planned and the parties involved do not lose sight of the goal.
"Architecture and art can inextricably combine, such that they respond to each other in a process of cross-fertilization and mutual enhancement. Together, they can influence how we experience space."