Publicising Plastic and Plasticising Public in Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte’s ‘Indapt System’ (1970-72)

Alexander Davidson

Abstract


In architecture, external factors are often seen as the cause of a work not being brought to completion. I believe that often the reasons for a scheme not being implemented are to be found not externally but rather in the fine detail of the job itself. I will consider the case of Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte’s ‘Indapt System’ (1970-72) and show how the contributors, the work produced, and the research project’s structure may have contributed to BASF’s decision not to build the plastics megastructure. This decision has been attributed to the Oil Crisis of 1973. Instead, I will outline a causal relationship between the protagonists - Schüler, Schüler-Witte, Robert Jungk, Norbert Adrian and Otto Walter Haseloff - and their plans for modular plastics housing, and their failure to instruct BASF on what type of polymer to use. With that, the group members proposed a view of plastic less as architectural material and more as social ideal, something also reflected in the contributors’ various specialisms. The ‘Indapt System’’s model had greatest impact outside the architectural community. Interpreting this finding, the work will end by contending that, rather than producing architectural knowledge, the principle aim of architectural research should be to create public knowledge of architecture through communication or restoring publicness in architecture.

Keywords


Ralf Schüler, Ursulina Schüler-Witte, Robert Jungk, future workshops, plastics architecture, megastructure, modular architecture, ‘Indapt System’, BASF

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