Haus-Rucker-Co were a Viennese group founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner. Their work explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings using pneumatic structures or prosthetic devices that altered perceptions of space.
Such concerns fit with the utopian architectural experiments of the 1960s by groups such as Superstudio, Archizoom, Ant Farm and Coop Himmelb(l)au. Alongside these groups, Haus-Rucker-Co were exploring on the one hand, the potential of architecture as a form of critique, and on the other the possibility of creating designs for technically mediated experimental environments and utopian cities.
Taking their cue from the Situationist’s ideas of play as a means of engaging citizens, Haus-Rucker-Co created performances where viewers became participants and could influence their own environments, becoming more than just passive onlookers. These installations were usually made from pneumatic structures such as Oase No. 7 (1972), which was created for Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany. An inflatable structure emerged from the façade of an existing building creating a space for relaxation and play, of which contemporary echoes can be found in the ‘urban reserves’ of Santiago Cirugeda. The different versions of the Mind Expander series (1967-69), consisted of various helmets that could alter the perceptions of those wearing them, for example the ‘Fly Head’ disoriented the sight and hearing of the wearer to create an entirely new apprehension of reality; it also produced one of their most memorable images.
Haus-Rucker-Co’s installations served as a critique of the confined spaces of bourgeois life creating temporary, disposable architecture, whilst their prosthetic devices were designed to enhance sensory experience and highlight the taken-for-granted nature of our senses, seen also in the contemporaneous work of the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. Contemporary versions of such work can be found in the pneumatic structures favoured by Raumlabor and Exyzt.
After the foundation of Haus-Rucker-Co in 1967 by the architects Laurids Ortner and Günter Zamp Kelp and the painter Klaus Pinter,in Vienna, the group opened studios in Düsseldorf and New York in 1970. In 1971, Manfred Ortner, Laurids’ brother, joined. In 1972, Haus-Rucker-Co split into two independent studios: Haus-Rucker-Co in Dusseldorf, with the group members Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Manfred Ortner and Haus-Rucker-lnc. in New York with Klaus Pinter, Caroll Michels and other artists.
In 1977 the New York office, Haus-Rucker-lnc was dissolved and Klaus Pinter and Caroll Michels continued thei work as independent artists. In 1987, Manfred Ortner and Laurids Ortner opened their practice Ortner & Ortner. Günter Zamp Kelp also opened his own studio in order to devote himself to specific building projects. In 1992 Haus-Rucker-Co was dissolved.