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The Pit

—A dialogue with nature. By Peter Noever.

A wine cellar as foundation for a land art project—an unusual yet unique concept. The project in Breitenbrunn on Lake Neusiedl, built since the early 1970s by Peter Noever, reflects the zeitgeist of the area at the time—according to Noever, Burgenland was the only province in Austria that attracted artists like a magnet in the 1960s and 1970s, as it was the “freest province”. So free, in fact, that in the late 1960s Noever bought the old wine cellar, which was then hidden deep under the ground.

Noever, not a traditional architect, allows art to meet architecture in this project. He is his own builder and can therefore work like an artist. To access the outside from the wine cellar at that time, he excavated an eight-meter-deep pit and opened the northern end of the sandstone wall of the 200-year-old wine cellar to a huge earthen funnel. The result was a vaulted room, sheltered from the wind, with benches and tables built of sandstone. Adjacent to this is the actual pit, a grassy funnel with a diameter of 20 meters. The angle of the grass slope is more than 50 degrees. In the hermetic cone of grass one can sit down below in the open air on the sandstone ashlars. The wing-shaped stairs complete this spectacular landscape intervention. There is no end. For Noever, it is important to emphasize this. After all, every end is terrible.

The project has been deliberately developed as a work in progress. Therefore, new ways of intervention by artists take place on this site repeatedly. A normal process, after all, Noever does not see himself as an architect who, in contrast, already has to make all the decisions in an instant. The stone pit that adjoins Noever’s project was in operation until the 1930s. Throughout, the pits and paths along which the stones were once transported are still recognizable. Noever is particularly interested in nature made by man and criticizes the way nature is treated in architecture today. According to Noever, green roofs are not needed. Nature and architecture are opposites, otherwise there would be no culture.

 

“… a dialogue with a fascinating place, an intellectual and building process developed gradually step by step, whose logic can only be comprehended through an understanding of the place. The land-art-project THE PIT contains a considerable potential of amorosity in a place as well as enough aggressions to be culminating in sheer self-determination.”

— Friedrich Achleitner, 1983

The work includes, among many other objects, two concrete buildings. The structure Cubus XXXVII is habitable, while the other contains a two-seater lavatory. Noever intentionally avoided windows facing Lake Neusiedl – he wanted to spare the residents a view of what he saw as a thoroughly unsuccessful new housing development in Breitenbrunn. In another place, 36 concrete cubes were placed and carefully aligned. The arrangement is intended as a reminder of the site’s former use as a stone pit. There are also “seating pits” that Noever concreted together with Walter Pichler.
Noever’s project is described as a unique synthesis of the arts in the notice issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments: “The fact is that Peter Noever’s Breitenbrunn complex, sandwiched between the historic wine cellar overgrown by nature (grass roof) and the stone quarry walls created by Young Tertiary deposits, but shaped by the extraction of human hands, is an ingenious creation that breaks the boundaries of architecture and sculpture, but also interweaves nature and what the artist has created, while at the same time setting them apart from each other, without giving preference to proximity or distance.”

Now there is an exhibition in nearby Eisenstadt promoting the continuation of the project. Noever is in fact planning, for example, a mixture of lodge, experimental station, archive, exhibition space and communication center under the name House with Boat. out ̅of the blue – Art + Architecture Out There opened on Thursday, November 4, 2021 – an exhibition of Peter Noever in the architecture gallery RAUMBURGENLAND contemporary. The show presents models, objects, plans, drawings and photos made especially for this occasion until May 20, 2022.

 

Built in the 1970s
—but developed
as a work in
progress.

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