Architecture Born under a Lucky Star

by Anna Soucek20 March 23

Ostentatious festival buildings that vanish without a trace once the show’s over? Not in the case of Endboss. Anna Soucek introduces the collective from Hannover: In a team effort, Endboss devises intriguingly smart building alternatives that emphasise interaction and democratic empowerment. Coming soon to St. Pölten!

Credit: Romana Schroll
Credit: Romana Schroll

“We realize urban parallel worlds and tell three-dimensional stories by keeping ourselves and others on the go. Because the city belongs to all of us. That’s why we like to get our hands dirty.”


Coming from architecture and urban planning, from visual arts and literature, from social sciences, economics, and construction, this Hannover-based formation of design rebels against social injustice and inhumane urban planning was invited by Christoph Gurk, the artistic director of Tangente, to develop a festival centre. Not just to build, but to actually develop, in exchange with the festival team and, above all, with the residents of St Pölten, a centre that emerges from the needs of the city.

Credit: Sven-Julien Kanclerski
Credit: Sven-Julien Kanclerski
Credit: Elisabeth Groihofer
Credit: Elisabeth Groihofer

“We all know the standard festival architecture,” says Robin Höning, co-founder of Endboss, “a temporary pavilion is set up for an event, which naturally must be dismantled once again when it is over.” A summer-long event, including an architecturally eye-catching festival headquarters with a funfair appeal on the main square of the given city; and what remains but a few slick photos and a pile of building materials to be disposed of. That’s not Endboss’s game plan. Their strategy is to tap into little-known places and unfamiliar settings and initiate processes that might only really unfold by the end of the festival. Ivana Rohr: “We start on location with the existing building fabric, and if the situation on site doesn’t offer anything, we try using material in a clever way so that it is already recycled from the outset or can be recycled after the festival. When it comes to sustainability, festival architecture is always born under an unlucky star – we want to work against that. Not just in terms of materials but the interaction with the people from the city. Our goal is to create a dynamic place with social relevance and resonance.”

One example from Endboss’s practice:

the Festival Theaterformen in the Lower Saxony city of Hannover, where the collective is based. For Theaterformen 2021, Endboss implemented a plan that was as bold as it was visionary. A section of an elevated four-lane bridge, essentially a highway, was closed to automobile traffic for the month-long duration of the festival and transformed into a festival venue. Without forcing the city in a traffic predicament, the Raschplatzhochbrücke, which otherwise belongs to the cars passing through, was rededicated to the urban community for performances, concerts, chance visits, unexpected views of the city, parties, and conversations. According to Ivana Rohr and Robin Höning, it was the talk of the town during the festival; the jaw-dropping intervention in Hannover even made it into the Bild Zeitung tabloid. As Ivana Rohr recounts, the Endboss team was proud to take part in the many discussions on so many levels: “Suddenly, everyone had an opinion. Whether it was ‘okay for culture to just take the street space like that’ or why ‘they don’t just make theatre in the theatre building they already have. No one has anything against culture, not at all, but was this really necessary…’”

Credit: Romana Schroll
Credit: Romana Schroll

Endboss projects are not about causing a stir or grabbing headlines: on the contrary – it’s about taking matters of our living environment into our own hands without much ado and without normative approval. After all, this is what architecture and urban planning are all about: shaping your immediate surroundings, taking responsibility, and getting down to business instead of waiting for top-down decisions. “It doesn’t take a genius to help create a city,” says Ivana Rohr, “and it’s fun, too. When you know how to do it and which levers you can pull. I also see it as a democratic approach, as work that strengthens democracy.”

Let’s take a look at the origins of Endboss:

They started with DIY (“Do It Yourself”) skateparks; ones that are built collectively and can be extended – even without instructions. For and with a social group that has neither the right to vote nor any purchasing power of its own, and is therefore paid little attention or even ignored by both politicians and business representatives: the youth. The Endboss crew has been involved in a number of skateparks, and one currently under construction is barrier-free. As the legend goes, the group name Endboss came into being during such a project – in Bolivia, when 120 people from different countries were working together, and someone in the hustle and bustle asked for an “endboss,” a person with overall responsibility.

For Tangente 2024, Endboss zoomed in on the tranquil city of St. Pölten. Not only on the map, but with several stays on site, in keeping with their style. The superiority and geographical proximity of the cultural metropolis Vienna are irrelevant: “We can identify with St. Pölten quite well because we know the fate. Hannover has the reputation of being a city with no reputation – the most average city in Germany. You just drive through and past it. That’s why we’re acquainted with the advantages of such an overlooked city: there are only positive surprises.”

Their first visits to St. Pölten painted an incoherent picture. “It’s such an odd mosaic,” remarks Ivana Rohr, “and it was quite difficult for me to keep track of where is what in the city. That took a bit of time.” A bicycle tour remedied the situation, as did meeting local residents. “In such cities, where there is not so much going on, you find a very committed scene working to make the city more beautiful. That’s where this engagement is rooted, where Tangente came from – you can really feel it.”

And here Rohr sees another parallel with the Festival Theaterformen in Hannover: “We refrain from making a commissioned architectural design along the lines of an artistic director’s request: ‘Here’s my programme, can you please build a box for it?’ Rather, it is an exchange from the get-go.” An exchange with the festival organisers, the artists, and with the city, in particular. What is already available and what is needed there. Even when the festival is over.

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