Up till 2002, Munich’s ‘Mittlerer Ring’ motorway ring road had sliced a corridor through two city districts, allowing anonymous traffic to ­dicta­torially sever two residential areas linked ­only by a temporary footbridge. It was a public space of din, stench and hurtling speed.

The decision, precipitated by a citizens’ pressure group, to submerge a section of the ring road and cover it with a park, instantly doubled the public space available to local residents. Below ground: the battened-down inferno of the traffic; above: the future park idyll. A plateau was to be extended over the road and opened to use by people – at a more informal, slower and pleasurably aimless pace; communication is intrinsically related to people. This doubling of public space has shifted the area’s previously dismal margins into the centre of two districts, allowing residents to win back civic space from the hectic thoroughfare. What was once a zone of separation has now become a place of congregation.

The Petuelpark is not a park but a hybrid of public square, city garden and tree-lined street. With its modest 7.4 hectares, occupying a length of 900 metres and an average breadth of 80 metres, its point of reference is not open nature but the ­surrounding city districts and their motley of buildings.

The landscape design by Stefanie Jühling and Otto Bertram that won the Europe-wide competition succeeded in transforming the cost-induced handicap of the tunnel’s only partial submergence into the benefit of a two-tier concept: the generously proportioned elevated plateau and the lower-­lying belt of intimacy flanking the stream. The city garden is traversed by straight paths that widen out along the wall leading to the promenade. This deliberate emphasis of the terrain’s structural ­topography lends the park its inimitable profile.

Once the preliminary landscaping plans had been finalised, I was invited in 1999 by the city of Munich to participate in a competition for the park’s artistic design. The city had also stipulated the involvement of further artists.

I decided to allocate art in the park to separate ­locales. Consequently, what I had in mind was a number of individual works as opposed to a ­single collaborative work. Since I intended the various locales to add up to a complex overall composition without repetition or superfluousness, I needed to bring a variety of artistic terrains into play. These would cover a wide spectrum, broaden the horizon and generate greater curiosity. They would thrive on contradiction and, in their diversity, mirror the incoherence of public space.

I recall the ‘Engadin-Projekt’ from 1983. Eight artists, some now also involved in the Petuelpark project, were supposed to realise works com­missioned by me. With blithe youthful vigour, we spoke of the Saint-Simonists who tailored their clothes so they could be buttoned up only at the back – as a reminder while they were dressing that they were unable to exist as isolated individuals. We were working on an image of community. All individually-contributed works of art were meant to address the overarching idea of a shared house and result in an overall assembly of interlocking parts. Still too young and timid as a ‘client’, I constantly sought assurance from the participating group, much to the detriment of our fictitious client/contractor model. The ensuing endless, ­circular debates ultimately spelt the demise of the ‘Engadin-Projekt’.

Nonetheless, I treated this experience as a forerunner: my idea was to choose artists, partially award commissions and independently make ­decisions. The ‘Engadin’ image of community ­became the project to find an all-embracing communal image.

For my competition proposal I established a four-­part model as a means of grouping the individual works of art. The first section was called ‘Idyll and inferno’, describing the connection between the city garden and the tunnel; the second was ‘Social embrace’, to denote the knitting together of the city districts; the third was ‘World art and borough project’, which stood for the architectural proximity of different milieus; and the fourth was ‘Gleaming park / water music’, which addressed the concept’s ludic, pleasurable dimension.

With this generalised concept and, above all, my proposal of the following artists, I won the ­competition: Barbara Bloom, Bogomir Ecker, Raimund Kummer, Harald Klingelhöller, Aribert von Ostrowski, Tatsuo Miyashima, Alexandra Ranner, Pippilotti Rist, Roman Signer, Kiki Smith, Pia Stadtbäumer and Dietmar Tanterl, plus two ­additional, unnamed artists. One of these was ­later to be Rodney King, the other Hans van Houwelingen. The works proposed by Miyashima and Rist failed to be realised, partly for conceptual, partly for financial reasons.

So was I, Stephan Huber, the artist / curator heralded by the city? I think not. I do not see myself as a curator since I have never left my true habitat, never changed my intellectual strategy nor de­veloped a new network. Were the same opportun­ity to arise again, I would choose to work with the same artists and would not stage any sequel ­projects. It was as an artist that I conceived and shaped this project.

It was also as an artist that I intuitively chose artists from my own generation, with the exception of Ranner and Houwelingen. In simple terms, my generation fully redefined visual language in the 1980s and relativised the conceptual predominance of the 1970s by injecting it with a fresh zest for images.

Discourse, domains of work and interests are now second nature to me. I trusted in colleagues whose work I have followed and discussed over many years. I didn’t personally know Rodney Graham and Roman Signer but had nonetheless long been familiar with their artistic output. Hans van Houwelingen was recommended to me by Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen. My choice of artists was founded on the quality of their work and not on friendship, besides which their respective ­areas of work also had to match my progressively crystallising vision of the park.

The genesis of this project, described here in an empirical train of thought, was in reality more like a convoluted rhizome. Flowers sprouted all over, only to vanish very quickly, while the subterranean roots were impossible to detect as they ceaselessly proliferated. The simultaneity of chaos and logical order has characterised this project to the present day. So this account cannot fully reflect my intuitive, though intellectually underpinned, procedure.

Taking as my starting-point my four-part framework and the vision of giving contemporary ­expression to the classical features of the nineteenth-century park, I began putting my ideas ­into practice.

Bogomir Ecker was requested to concoct a way of connecting above and below, of linking the park and the tunnel, similar to his ‘Stalactite Machine’ in the Hamburger Kunsthalle. A device that penetrates and merges spaces, a device from his field of work with all its funnels, pipes and resonance chambers. I was certain that with his surreal single-­mindedness and egocentric spirit of discovery he would come up with a solution to this task. Ecker holds a both claustrophobic and idealistic view of communication: on the one hand, it is eavesdropping, bugging and surveillance, on the other, taking somebody into one’s confidence, explaining oneself, being an attentive listener.

He soon unveiled a design for his intriguing device, an inverted periscope through which the viewer can bring the subterranean inferno of the road up into the idyll of the park. Far from enjoying a touristic view of the garden’s beauty, what we get is an insight into a velocity machine hurtling ­beneath our feet like a medium-sized electron ­accelerator. In the Petuelpark Ecker has set up an observation post to observe this velocity machine. Building regulations imposed constraints on where it could be installed. To protect his red device from the adjacent playgrounds we decided to place it inside a hedged enclosure; this would afford greater concentration and calm, thereby intensify­ing the effect of the infernal ­scenario reproduced on the lens of the optical instrument.

Given our lack of a shared past I treated Roman Signer with ‘greater care’. He was not given a ­defined commission but asked to come up with a proposal based on his dancing, water-spouting walking stick and his fountain-on-wheels resembling a Piaggo. He made two suggestions: one, a field of flags on a large meadow as an above-ground response to the below-ground traffic; the other, a kind of waterwheel made of rubber boots installed in the stream.

But in the meantime, the landscape architects and I had already concluded that art should not be installed in open areas of grass and that any emphasis of the existing axes was to be avoided; instead, the works would stand in discreet and thus surprising locations. So Signer’s field of flags fell victim to our decision; this was not the only case where I found it hard to reject a convincingly elaborated work of art because it was incompatible with my overall idea of what the park should be. On each occasion I tried to explain my reasons in a detailed and collegial way. Thereupon Roman Signer altered his initial rubber-boot design into a fountain based on a film still of water exploding out of a boot: a pair of such boots is now standing –­  as if forgotten and left behind – on a small, ­artificial island in the stream, with spouts of water up to seven metres high erupting from them at irregular intervals. In sight of this, close by a ­footpath some 150 metres away, is another pair of boots venting jets of air.

Combining ironic humour reminiscent of Karl Valentin with minimalist simplicity, this is one of those small, hidden works of art of the kind that the Petuelpark had called for; a work of art which is barely visible, yet now and then – as announced by the ephemeral water – swells up with unexpected monumentality, only to instantly collapse back into a dribbling nothing: a permanently ­explosive park event.

Initially, a wooded grove with a number of benches as a meeting place had been planned for the area on the west side of the Feuchtwanger-Gymnasium grammar school. In lieu of this, however, the landscape architects were persuaded to let Harald Klingelhöller devise an idea for this site. Klingelhöller was specifically asked to design lecterns with inbuilt drinking fountains, a combin­ation he had already produced for a schoolyard in Thessaloniki. Given the way he works, such ­variations are not simple repetition but further elaboration, so there was no danger of our getting a copy of an already existing work.

Harald Klingelhöller proposed six ingeniously constructed lecterns in contrasting black and white granite sections; a button to release water and a small basin carved into the top stone turned the edifice into a drinking fountain. These thirst-quenching lecterns are arranged so that their construction and position simulate various speaking situations and enable new rhetorical ­exercises. Sixteen trees planted in a square will, hopefully, soon produce a dense canopy of leaves.

The title of this work, ‘Rhetorisches Wäldchen’ (Rhetorical grove), conjugates a number of metaphors: the black and white of the granite suggests thesis and antithesis in public speaking; talking and drinking alludes to intellectual and physical nourishment; the sizes and forms of the lecterns hint at various ages in life; the formation of the desks expresses the possibility of different intellectual points of view. As an ensemble, ‘Rhetorisches Wäldchen’ is also of practical use, even if its general feel and formal ingenuity and elegance might imply a strong leaning towards abstract sculpture and autonomy from utility. What at first appears to be the park’s most austere work in fact offers the broadest range of free ­intellectual play.

By now, three coordinates had been chosen for our plateau: Klingelhöller, Ecker and Signer. Other positions were then selected, shifted around and determined in relation to the field of energy set up by the works of these three artists. Parallel to our development of the various works of art we also began holding public meetings to keep local residents abreast of our plans for the park and its art. In my experience of art in public spaces, people’s aversion to contemporary art stems in most cases from a sheer lack of mediation and information. Whenever such art meets public approval, this has crucially been the fruit of this very kind of preliminary ‘art pedagogical’ work.

The commission originally awarded to Pia Stadt­bäumer was for a variation on her ‘bad children’. They were meant to be seated on a wall staring into the classrooms of the Lion-Feucht­wanger-Gymnasium opposite, thus placing her work in relation to the adjacent grammar school.

Pia Stadtbäumer’s reaction to our idea was somewhat subdued: this group of sculptures had already been reproduced and exhibited far too often. Instead, she began working on an alternative idea: a horse and rider. Hers was certainly not to be a classical equestrian statue, steeped in allegory celebrating Germany’s erudite middle-classes, military successes or colonial heroes, but just simply a boy seated on a mule. A contemporary transformation, a dedication to a nameless adolescent here and now. No pathos, no nobility, just a piece of brashly colourful trash culture. Slowly and unspectacularly the mule and boy revolve, with the animal now and again braying like a horse or donkey. The school lends the youthful rider a context, iconographically linking the sculpture to comics, TV serial heroes and children’s literature.

With this, Pia Stadtbäumer addresses the canon of classical figuration. But in doing so, she dismantles it, availing herself of the ensuing unlimited possibilities. Her amalgamation of popular culture, folk art, craftsmanship and contemporary sculptural issues offers sensually conveyed perceptions even for people unfamiliar with art discourse – an ­avenue of access that from the very start was a key paradigm of our project’s concept.

My first wish from Rodney Graham was a walk-in, mobile camera obscura, similar to the mail coach he made in 1996. He, however, began working on a fragment of Heinrich von Kleist’s drama ‘The Prince of Homburg’, featuring himself as the main protagonist – as he has done in many of his video pieces. He envisaged some kind of nocturnal projection. But Rodney Graham did not pursue this idea any further. What he finally came up with instead was a square enclosure, a ‘hortus conclusus’, surrounded by a high yew hedge with two entrances at both ends of a diagonal axis. Standing inside this garden room were seven chairs like those in the Jardin du Luxembourg, the mother of all literary and cinematic park idealisations, from Proust to Jean-Pierre Léaud. Concealed in the hedge walls is a sound system that at fixed times of the day plays an adaptation of the Kinks song ‘I am on an Island’. Being a musician as well as an artist, Rodney Graham fuses these two realms of activity in his garden enclosure. To me, taking a song from pop culture as his point of ­departure felt entirely right, as opposed to using a Kleist fragment which, in view of its complexity, would be better executed in a museum space.

Graham’s ‘natural space’ is neither a white cube nor a black box but a green room of self-awareness, both open and closed at once. ‘Musical folly’, the title of his work, is our version of a spa concert –  not one concocted from a mélange of fairytales and soft classics but rooted in pop culture and ­accompanied by the hedonistic question as to one’s own identity. Rodney Graham’s work has always dealt with issues related to the subconscious and psychoanalysis; here, in an elegant and simple manner, he succeeds in creating an environment for self-awareness.

In the meantime, five works of art had been ­de­veloped and positioned in such a way that, through an intriguing balance of formal differences and competing dramaturgical thrusts, their arrangement would generate tension and curiosity. For instance, Klingelhöller’s ostensibly abstract sculptural ensemble cuts across the sequence of narrative and eventful forms produced by Stadt­bäumer, Signer and Graham. Similarly, Stadtbäumer’s colourful, exuberant sculpture formulates a response to Klingelhöller’s conceptual and represen­tative ‘Rhetorical grove’. And by the same token, alongside Klingelhöller’s open terrain Graham’s ‘space of subjectivity’ appears to intimately cocoon itself in yew hedges.

Hans van Houwelingen was asked to explore the new connection between the previously severed city districts – a work of art addressing a local context, developed with the critical distance of an artist from Amsterdam.

He had already been to Munich in 2000 and concerned himself with the immediate vicinity of the Petuelpark. I tried to convey to him the special character of the neighbourhood, but generally of Munich, too, since Houwelingen largely bases his sculptures on local sociological structures and the attendant needs of the residents. His first proposal was to swap crucifixes from the two churches ­located respectively on the north and the south sides of the park; removed from their customary surroundings, the crosses would serve as signposts marking the two entrances on the park’s north-south axis. I myself knew that local people were insufficiently informed about the crosses’ origins in either district to properly grasp the significance of their exchange. My description of Catholicism’s firm grip on people’s minds had clearly not been precise enough. What I was referring to was the overall mentality and way of life rather than a ­detailed knowledge of the church furnishings.

I also turned down, albeit with a lengthy written explanation, Houwelingen’s second suggestion, a work based on fragments of Hitler’s skull that were allegedly discovered in 2001. To me, it felt too speculatively provocative and would have sparked a new fascism controversy, which not only do I find very tedious within art, but would also have cast its shadow on all the other works.

But his third proposal instantly won my support: ‘Maria, Quell des Lebens’ (Mary, fount of life). An enlarged Madonna figure from the eighteenth century is standing on a basin, with water trickling out of the stigma on the hand of the infant Jesus. The white Madonna statue was shifted from the plateau and, similar to a wayside cross, is positioned close to the Barlachstrasse, its gaze directed at the park. After consulting Reverend Zielinski of St. George’s church in Milbersthofen, Hans van Houwelingen gained his consent for the Madonna to be blessed and visited (especially in the month of May) as a site of Holy Communion. This gave the sculpture an unambiguous, commanding function. It switched from being a ­­self-referential gesture of artistic, art-critical immanence to being a sculpture endowed with cult in the service of religious worship. Through its ­consecration Houwelingen invests it with binding, invariable meaning and shields it from criticism of the here and now – even though ‘Maria, Quell des Lebens’ is equally part of a contemporary sculpture project.

Kiki Smith and Raimund Kummer were scheduled for a collaborative work located on the park’s western edge between two planned pavilions – one for exhibitions, the other with a social function. The idea behind this was to create a triadic cadence between the two architectural works and the work of art. Their sculpture was meant as a rudimentary complement to the buildings, but at the same time to contrast with them, acting as the middle voice in the triad. The reified representative gestures Kummer frequently performs were to be allied with Smith’s mystical human images; the impression of formal perfection in Kummer’s work would clash with Smith’s seemingly impromptu craftsmanship; the forceful energy of his execution would be balanced against her highly fragile forms. A daunting endeavour made possible only by the close friendship between these two artists.

Inspiration for their considerations came from the Daphne myth reinvented in the park as a contemporary legend: Smith and Kummer envisaged pink rose petals raining down from the hands of a figure perched on top of a huge tree trunk, which later evolved into a monumental tree torso. An exact cast of a solitary tree in Munich’s Englischer Garten, the trunk would have stood six and a half metres high in its finished state. A roof over the torso would have been formed by a number of pink glazed doors and windows interlocked and laid flat. The tree trunk and the roof were meant to act as a support and shelter for a small bird house mounted on the upper third of the trunk. Cherry trees would then have been planted around this strange tree house and between the two buildings. Alice in Wonderland, an improvised hippie homestead, Schloss Pillnitz and a Japanese garden all in one: a work capable of bundling ­numerous allusions and references.

But the park’s entire western section was slipping out of my grasp. The exhibition pavilion dis­appeared, leaving the ‘generation pavilion’ as a solitary edifice – but I’ll return to this later. I was unable to drum up any sponsorship for Kummer and Smith: the so-called economic crisis put a spoke in our wheels. This was my first setback in the project. I held out until summer 2003, clutching onto the hope that I might still get the necessary funding. But on realising this was not to be, I had to disband the Kummer/Smith team.

Quick decisions had to follow: Kiki Smith was ­allocated a new site inside the café. Raimund Kummer was commissioned to devise a greenhouse containing glass eyes. He was asked to ­develop a new work using two elements from his stock of materials. Suspended from the roof of an octagonal pavilion two and a half metres high and designed by Raimund Kummer are two monumental, green, glass eyes, hanging from their sinews and with their pupils pointing downwards. These at once beautiful and monstrous glass eyes stand in beguiling analogy to both plant and ­anthropomorphic forms. So does the greenhouse protect this fragile being from us, or shield us from these monstrous creatures? The pupils ­hovering just above the ground offer concave ­reflections of parts of the surrounding scenery. Inscribed into this metaphor of seeing is a dismembered view of the gardens: the pupil focuses the park. Kummer’s work has become both the eye and the mirror of the park.

Kummer’s glass pergola was erected on the western side of our plateau, close to where the trees were originally meant to stand. In the same area of the park I had initially envisaged a small, white, floating cloud that would rain for a few minutes every day at 4 p.m. But I pursued this idea with little conviction once I realised that there were too few large trees to provide support and a backdrop for the cloud. Besides which, it struck me that by ­introducing a work of art of my own I would ­undermine my role as a ‘director’. For all my deep emotional involvement, I also need to find a ‘cool’ perspective and maintain a certain intellectual distance to the overall project so as not to get bogged down in individual problems. To have ­included a work of my own would have been counterproductive.

By now eight works of art stood in correspondence with one another; gradually, an overall profile was emerging. Two overarching structures were required to underpin the general effect: the park’s illumination and the café.

From the very start I was adamantly against ­using standard catalogue lighting, and was looking instead for artificial light or light art specially ­designed for the park which could only be seen here. I hoped to avoid any kind of similarity or comparison with other places. Dietmar Tanterl and Tatsuo Miyashima were asked to explore ways of establishing vectors of illumination leading from the park’s periphery into its centre. But after lengthy consideration I decided against this bipartisan nocturnal venture and opted for Dietmar Tanterl alone.

Tanterl suggested working with car headlights. This approach instantly won my approval since it turned what seemed to be solely a design issue into a metaphorical link to the subterranean ­tunnel and its traffic. Seventy stainless steel posts were used to mount the light sources in the park. The light emitted from the columns at the usual height of car headlamps lends the park’s terrain an intriguing modulation. Some of the columns have been fitted with additional light sources somewhat higher up so as to illuminate broader stretches of the grounds or the trees – an idea that will properly come into effect in several years hence when the trees are fully grown. Tanterl’s light sources are supremely technological, immaculately finished and, in conceptual terms, utterly thought-through sculptures whose forceful impact stems from the artist’s lucid understanding of the medium and the emotional radiance of light. His illumination succeeds in creating differentiated perceptions of space, raising his work from being merely a design to ensure visibility to an act of artistic intervention. At night the main paths and open areas in the Petuelpark are now illuminated, but not the works of art.

In the middle of the park where the Klopstock Strasse becomes the Torquato Tasso Strasse, its central hub is marked by a café which, from the outset, as its heart and meeting place, represented a utopian but desirable component of the project’s artistic concept. The architect was Uwe Kiessler. I chose him for the way his architectural language is tuned into classical modernism – timeless and elegant. I did not want biomorphic architectural sculptures with an agonising expiry date; I was looking for a building which would confidently stake its claim as contemporary architecture – a symbol, but not one that draws its symbolic ­eloquence from the formal repertoire of fine art. The local district authorities demonstrated their generous support by passing a council resolution granting us additional funding for the building. But this was soon followed by a bureaucratic and organisational hell-ride: too expensive, planning alterations; tenant is found, tenant backs out; new tenant, tenant backs out again. Planning changes because of changed circumstances. Everything downsized…. This dragged on for two years. Possibly, maybe, yes, but…. Without the help of Horst Haffner, the then planning officer for Munich, and his enthusiasm for the Petuelpark project, the café would never have been built. But now, having been in operation since June 2005, it has already proved its worth as a cultural magnet and constantly breathes new life into our plateau.

The café’s interior design was assigned to Barbara Bloom. Given her preoccupation with forms of beauty and issues of presentation and represen­tation, with spaces of memory and fragments from numerous interiors, she seemed predestined for this task. She began by working on an overall design based on round dots ranging from depictions of the smallest atom to images of the biggest constellation in the cosmos. This expansive pattern was to be spread over absolutely everything, over walls, tables, floors, fabrics and crockery.

But before she could put her idea into practice a renewed one-year planning delay rendered all further development of her work pointless. This was yet another setback, for I felt the artists deserved to work under clearly defined conditions and receive the same treatment I myself would have expected. This, however, was often beyond my control. The final go-ahead for the building did not come until late 2003, and it was for a smaller version with a different room layout. Bloom’s original, spacious conception could not be pursued any further due to a lack of time, space and also – by now – funds. In the meantime, the exhibition pavilion had been merged with the café, while planning mishaps meant that Kiki Smith and Alexandra Ranner had to be accommodated in the park’s central building. Barbara Bloom was given a new commission to design the café’s stairwell. What she came up with was a ­series of screens mounted flush to the wall and resembling a handful of pixels scattered across its surface; they show variously coloured skirts performing a swirling dance. As visitors ascend the steps they are flanked by colourful and animated ornaments; this dervish-like energy casts a vertical axis through the entire shaft of the stairwell.

Kiki Smith enhanced the interior wall of the café’s upper floor with two star clusters and a rose bush. Cut from bronze and hovering just in front of the wall, these forms act both as a decorative eye-catcher and a metaphor for the correspondence between the park’s various works of art. The work is a cross between visual dynamism and an abstracted logo, between a Lufthansa ­office and German Romanticism. A veritable sign of the ­zodiac for our park.

I turned to Alexandra Ranner for a variation on her café vitrine, reconstructed from a photograph of a Parisian patisserie. I suggested she insert this display directly into the building’s north-facing glass front, almost as if it were a part of the café’s furnishings. Her cake display cabinet has been ­fitted into the glass façade with beautiful precision, ­looking as though it had always been there. Only on closer inspection do the misshapen cakes strike one as artificial constructs that, rather than signal­ling the café’s location, self-referentially advertise themselves as sculptures on display ­inside their own custom-made space. Alexandra Ranner’s work is a beguilingly unspectacular ­interface ­bet­ween virtuality and reality, teetering ambi­va­lently between our taste buds and optic nerves.

Parallel to the exhausting construction process of the café and its interior design came my de­cision – as ever in consultation with the landscape ­architects – to approach Aribert von Ostrowski for a work involving parts of the rose pergola. ‘Erzähle die Geschichte selbst’ (Tell history yourself) is his message inscribed on the pergola, both a conceptual and a poetic challenge to visitors to appropriate this idyll for their own needs, but also to relativate it. This piece was originally supposed to be installed along the long, red wall that divides the park into two levels. Working with fragments of text and image, Ostrowski had intended using its surface as a kind of ‘wall newspaper’ to formulate a visual commentary on the park. But since the wall had been earmarked by the landscape architects as a backdrop for their thematic garden designs and was already part-covered with ­creepers, we were worried about it being formally overloaded and so decided against this version of Ostrowski’s proposal.

By now, twelve works of art had come to life on, in and around the plateau, gradually spinning a web of metaphors, narratives and sensory expe­ri­ence over the Petuelpark. What remains to be told is the story of the two planned buildings in the park’s western section which we considered vital elements of the project’s artistic concept. One was envisaged as an exhibition space for young, contemporary art. It was to be a subsidiary arm of one of the city’s major museums, reaching out into a hitherto culturally deprived part of town. The obvious candidate for such a partnership was the Lenbachhaus, seeing how its director, Helmut Friedl, had for years followed and promoted many of the artists participating in the park. In our view, working hand in hand with a well-known mu­seum, weaving a network between the per­iphery and the centre, would also greatly strengthen our project.

A ‘generation pavilion’ had initially been planned to stand opposite the exhibition pavilion and be run by the Milbertshofen community centre; neighbourliness in all its facets was regarded as an integral part of the art project. Quite automatically, the original idea of performing social work with borderline adolescents ultimately grew into a ­garden of the generations, in other words a place of congregation linked to a small, communally tended garden. The pavilion itself would host talks and lectures related to social issues.

I was interested in a rapprochement of these two divergent milieus, art and social work, without ­either of them having to renounce its authenticity. My aim was to place thematic focus on social problems in the areas surrounding the park, but not through standard artistic solutions. In my view, whenever art is harnessed to social services (with its attendant subservience to sociological concerns), the outcome is always a model of weakness in which art is instrumentalised to voice instructions for moral use. Some participating artists have castigated my desire to conjoin these two domains in partnership as contrived and naive. Further discussion of this, however, soon became idle conjecture since, in the end, things turned out quite differently from what we had imagined. After two years of planning, financial constraints caused the Lenbachhaus exhibition space to seek refuge in the café. The ‘generation pavilion’ was all that remained and was designed by Uwe Kiessler as a solitary edifice. My original idea had become completely watered down. As an ­isolated feature the ‘generation pavilion’ might easily seem like an alien body torn from its original context, lacking any evident connection to the overall art project. To me, all the buildings in the park suddenly felt like a kind of bureaucratic / financial / leaden conspiracy that had succeeded in grinding down my initially much-trumpeted claim: “I will only do this project on my con­ditions”, into the question: “Is this possible?”

My dismay with the development of the west-lying ensemble of buildings was matched only by my disillusion with the first results of the planting. The trees are small and held up by stakes, while the hedge enclosures still have not reached full size.

Sometimes our infant plateau, deprived as it is of the aura of a naturally matured park, reminds me of the annual national garden festival. Yet Signer’s and Houwelingen’s sculptures, set among the older trees on the park’s lower level, manage to intimate the aesthetically and visually compelling future of our landscape of ideas; landscape architecture requires an ability to wait.

It is also conceivable, however, that precisely the slow growth of gradual development offers an ­opportunity to constantly reanimate and replenish the evolving park. Such stimulation is already provided by the café with its lively cultural programme.

Our plateau bears a heavy load. The numerous wishes of local residents, requirements made by the city, the demands of art, interests voiced by the garden architects – all must be taken into ­consideration. In fruitful cooperation with the landscape architects we have done our utmost to satisfy all these varying needs. With so many ­divergent milieus bearing down on such a small space, one might expect art to be under greater threat than in the big classical parks; previously institutionalised sites are invested with an aura which is missing here. Our park has to hold its own within a complex coalition of contrasting uses and interests. It receives none of the shelter and ennobling prestige enjoyed by works of art in a museum context. We have built hedged spaces for some works to shield them or set them apart from nearby playgrounds, which these days themselves resemble abstract sculpture. And we resisted creating areas such as themed gardens in which garden architects tend to express themselves in a highly formative and artistic fashion. But ­ultimately, I believe we have succeeded in giving the art in this park a suitably natural habitat, sites in which the works are both collectively integrated and individually outstanding.

An earnest game on a raised plateau has begun. The works of art are both exuberant and weighty; they feel utterly natural yet give rise to irritation. What we have created is unpredictable and full of surprise, but never didactic or moralising. Nowhere is art an instrument of political supremacy over aesthetic form. Our plateau has become a forum for art in public spaces and not a surrogate of museum presentation. The art in this park is there for the whole of society and not for a specialised group of connoisseurs. Here, intuitive discoveries can be made by people who are not familiar with discourse about contemporary art. But, by the same token, each individual work can also stake its claim within current art discourse.

Our city garden has become a modern landscape of ideas. Its art stems from the milieu of urbanity, from the florid disorder and diversity of the entire social fabric – and from the vast reservoir of contemporary art concerned with these phenomena. The ideas of ruptured harmony and spaces of ­intimacy were adopted from the classical utopias of garden art and reformulated in our own profane garden.

Through this synthesis of garden architecture and art, whose impact is felt both in the park’s immediate neighbourhood and in an inter­national context, the Petuelpark has become a place of unique character. Its broad acceptance in the population shows that, if properly considered and precisely enacted, art in public spaces can ­indeed invest places with identity and thereby create a foil for projecting identification. For the many people taking walks in the Petuelpark there is plenty to see: areas of secret gestures, islands of irony, greenhouses of memory, rooms of self-awareness, territories of comedy, pourings of ­sacred water, lines of deep lights, pipes leading to the inferno, astral constellations, swirling skirts and cakes from Paris.

This account is a shortened and slightly modified version of the lecture I gave at the symposium ‘Kunstprojekt Petuelpark’ (Art project Petuelpark). The symposium was held in February 2004 in ­Munich and included presentations by all the ­participating artists of their work.

s/w druckerfreundlich