Contact

Menu

Article

"Art can inspire and excite, and can be without any primary meaning"

Art in architecture is intended to speak to viewers at an emotional level – at least, that is what Friederike Schmid aims to do. The curator has spent more than 25 years working with her clients to develop and supervise art projects, from selecting the artists through to creating the finished works. One example is the headquarters of Swissgrid in Aarau.

February 18, 2022

An interview with Friederike Schmid
Curator and project manager for art projects, Communication by Art

Ms. Schmid, art in architecture …

Friederike Schmid: … First things first, I'm not a big fan of the description "art in architecture." I prefer "art and architecture" because I firmly believe that architecture and art should be seen equally. Sadly, what happens all too often is that a property is almost finished when a search for an artist to complete the project is scheduled, almost as an afterthought. Time and again this causes tension, as all the spots in and around the property are already taken, so there is inevitably friction between the artist and the architect or landscape architect when the artist chooses a place for their own work. Handling this takes psychological insight. Thankfully, these days the approach tends to be to hold a competition to bring artists on board at an early stage so that construction can be planned collaboratively.

What can art contribute to a structure that architecture cannot?

Architecture must always fulfill a purpose, while art can be anything – even "without meaning." On the face of it, art doesn't have to fulfill any particular purpose. If it does have a purpose, this only becomes clear at a later stage when viewers engage with the work of art.

Why do we need art in and around buildings?

Art is an anchor that gives a soul and meaning to a site. I'll give you an example: The headquarters of Swissgrid – the national grid operator – is the home of the video art project by artist Katja Loher, which I supervised from the competition stage onwards. Ants follow video lines through the building and transform into electrons at the end of their journey. They are the artistic interpretation of the flow of electrons, which we call electrical current. The artist uses giant video bubbles to ask philosophical questions about the world of electricity. It's an unforgettable piece of art.

European architecture prize
for Swissgrid headquarters

The construction of the Swissgrid headquarters in Aarau won local architectural practice Schneider & Schneider the renowned European architecture prize "best architects 20" in 2020. The investment group CSA RES, which owns the property, views it as the flagship project in its portfolio. The Swiss high-voltage network is monitored and controlled from the headquarters of the national grid operator – a modern building that fulfills the most stringent safety and security requirements and was completed in 2018. The property, which meets the Minergie-P standard and holds the greenproperty Gold quality seal, has room for 450 employees.

European Architecture Award for Swissgrid headquarters
European Architecture Award for Swissgrid headquarters
European Architecture Award for Swissgrid headquarters

Photos: The video installations by artist Katja Loher adorn the Swissgrid headquarters, where they are an integral part of the architecture. They represent an artistic interpretation of the electron flow.

What is the significance of "art and architecture" in today's world?

We live in a world where municipalities, real estate developers, and urban planners recognize the importance of art. New construction standards – such as for sustainable construction – have been expanded in recent years to reflect sociocultural aspects. In today's world, "art and architecture" play an integral and essential role in modern district and urban planning, in the same way as sustainability and environmental considerations.

How has "art and architecture" evolved in recent years?

There has been a real boom from the 1990s onwards, partly down to increasing construction activity. I am delighted that people who had never previously engaged with art are getting involved with accessible art projects in less urban areas.

Which properties are particularly suited to this purpose?

Essentially, art is possible anywhere and everywhere, whatever its form. From an investor's point of view, buildings in their own portfolio are of particular interest – incorporating art into a property adds value.

Where can we see this added value?

Art adds emotions to a property and makes it more recognizable. The art in the Octavo building in Zurich – with pieces by sculptor Anselm Stalder – receives an almost unanimously enthusiastic response. The fact is that art can enrich the spaces we live in. These days, many people enjoy living in urban surroundings that are enhanced with art. Real estate developers are aware that tenant turnover is lower if the setting hits the right notes in terms of urban design.

Can this added value also be quantified?

That's a difficult question to answer. The length of the tenancy is one indicator. In public spaces, the frequency of visits can be used to draw conclusions. When art is displayed in healthcare settings, for example, scientific evidence indicates that people are more likely to reflect on their situation in life, feel a sense of positivity, and ultimately enjoy a speedier recovery.

Not all artworks inspire everybody. Many people find some pieces annoying. What would you say to them?

Art can do anything, apart from fail to provoke a response. Art should raise questions, trigger discussions, provoke reflection, and elicit emotions – and yes, even irritate people. That's the intention. Art only fulfills its purpose if it provokes a reaction. This is what gives the object a seal of quality. In other words, if art in and around properties elicits emotions, then it is "good" art.

Who decides which artists are considered?

The decision isn't down to one individual. As project manager, I lead a collaborative process where I work with the client and other stakeholders to develop the artistic vision and framework conditions. These then determine whether regional, national, or international artists are considered for the project in question, as well as potential themes and art forms. The final selection is made together. This approach is markedly different from the situation 50 years ago, when making decisions about works of art in and on buildings was reserved for a small group of influential people.

What do you hope will be the future of real estate art?

That it becomes a matter of course again – like it was from classical antiquity through to modern times. We should engage once again with the unpredictable and often priceless nature of contemporary art as part of our everyday lives.

What is the significance of "art and architecture" in today's world?

We live in a world where municipalities, real estate developers, and urban planners recognize the importance of art. New construction standards – such as for sustainable construction – have been expanded in recent years to reflect sociocultural aspects. In today's world, "art and architecture" play an integral and essential role in modern district and urban planning, in the same way as sustainability and environmental considerations.

How has "art and architecture" evolved in recent years?

There has been a real boom from the 1990s onwards, partly down to increasing construction activity. I am delighted that people who had never previously engaged with art are getting involved with accessible art projects in less urban areas.

Which properties are particularly suited to this purpose?

Essentially, art is possible anywhere and everywhere, whatever its form. From an investor's point of view, buildings in their own portfolio are of particular interest – incorporating art into a property adds value.

Where can we see this added value?

Art adds emotions to a property and makes it more recognizable. The art in the Octavo building in Zurich – with pieces by sculptor Anselm Stalder – receives an almost unanimously enthusiastic response. The fact is that art can enrich the spaces we live in. These days, many people enjoy living in urban surroundings that are enhanced with art. Real estate developers are aware that tenant turnover is lower if the setting hits the right notes in terms of urban design.

Can this added value also be quantified?

That's a difficult question to answer. The length of the tenancy is one indicator. In public spaces, the frequency of visits can be used to draw conclusions. When art is displayed in healthcare settings, for example, scientific evidence indicates that people are more likely to reflect on their situation in life, feel a sense of positivity, and ultimately enjoy a speedier recovery.

Not all artworks inspire everybody. Many people find some pieces annoying. What would you say to them?

Art can do anything, apart from fail to provoke a response. Art should raise questions, trigger discussions, provoke reflection, and elicit emotions – and yes, even irritate people. That's the intention. Art only fulfills its purpose if it provokes a reaction. This is what gives the object a seal of quality. In other words, if art in and around properties elicits emotions, then it is "good" art.

Who decides which artists are considered?

The decision isn't down to one individual. As project manager, I lead a collaborative process where I work with the client and other stakeholders to develop the artistic vision and framework conditions. These then determine whether regional, national, or international artists are considered for the project in question, as well as potential themes and art forms. The final selection is made together. This approach is markedly different from the situation 50 years ago, when making decisions about works of art in and on buildings was reserved for a small group of influential people.

What do you hope will be the future of real estate art?

That it becomes a matter of course again – like it was from classical antiquity through to modern times. We should engage once again with the unpredictable and often priceless nature of contemporary art as part of our everyday lives.

Friederike Schmid

Get in touch

Contact us for information about investment opportunities and to find out how we can help you achieve your investment goals.

Get in touch

Contact us for information about investment opportunities and to learn how we can help you achieve your investment goals.

This material has been prepared by CREDIT SUISSE GROUP AG and/or its affiliates (“Credit Suisse”).
It is provided for informational and illustrative purposes only, does not constitute an advertisement, appraisal, investment research, research recommendations, investment recommendations or information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy, and it does not contain financial analysis. Moreover it does not constitute an invitation or an offer to the public or on a private basis to subscribe for or purchase products or services. Benchmarks, to the extent mentioned, are used solely for purposes of comparison. The information contained in this document has been provided as a general commentary only and does not constitute any form of personal recommendation, investment advice, legal, tax, accounting or other advice or recommendation or any other financial service. It does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs, or knowledge and experience of any persons. The information provided is not intended to constitute any kind of basis on which to make an investment, divestment or retention decision. Credit Suisse recommends that any person potentially interested in the elements described in this document shall seek to obtain relevant information and advice (including but not limited to risks) prior to taking any investment decision.
The information contained herein was provided as at the date of writing, and may no longer be up to date on the date on which the reader may receive or access the information. It may change at any time without notice and with no obligation to update.
To the extent that this material contains statements about future performance, such statements are forward looking and subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. It should be noted that historical returns, past performance and financial market scenarios are no reliable indicator of future performance. Significant losses are always possible.
This material is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of, or is located in, any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to applicable law or regulation, or which would subject Credit Suisse to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction.
The recipient is informed that a possible business connection may exist between a legal entity referenced in the present document and an entity part of Credit Suisse and that it may not be excluded that potential conflict of interests may result from such connection.
This document has been prepared from sources Credit Suisse believes to be reliable but does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.
Credit Suisse may be providing, or have provided within the previous 12 months, significant advice or investment services in relation to any company or issuer mentioned.
This document may provide the addresses of, or contain hyperlinks to, websites. Credit Suisse has not reviewed the linked site and takes no responsibility for the content contained therein. Such address or hyperlink (including addresses or hyperlinks to Credit Suisse’s own website material) is provided solely for your convenience and information and the content of the linked site does not in any way form part of this document. Accessing such website or following such link through this document or Credit Suisse’s website shall be at your own risk.
This document is intended only for the person to whom it is issued by Credit Suisse. It may not be reproduced either in whole, or in part, without Credit Suisse’s prior written permission.