Situated near the small city of Neuss, slightly to the west of the buzzing German city of Düsseldorf, Insel Hombroich and the Raketenstation are harbours of stillness and contemplation. Insel Hombroich, an open air museum that was designed to combine architecture, art and nature, is truly one of the most enchanted places in Germany. The symmetry of the pavilions designed by architect Erwin Heerich at the Insel – the German word for island – forms a stark but beautiful contrast with the wild and lush landscape that embraces these buildings. The park consists of over 60 acres of gently sloping archaic meadowland and forested areas that make you forget about the fact that only forty years ago this landscape was just a desolate post-industrial area.
The remains of this post-industrial environment can be found right across the road that leads to the Insel, where a Cold War rocket station and its hangars have been preserved and turned into artists’ studios. Around these studios, several other buildings designed by Heerich and Per Kirkeby can be found. Also located at the so-called Raketenstation is the museum of the Langen Foundation, which was designed by the well-known Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
In this beautifully austere environment I conceived the first concepts of my latest series of compositions for strings, in which the sober plucking of the strings resonates with the character of bare concrete. If you ever find yourself in the German Ruhr area, the industrialised area around the cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Dortmund, make sure to visit the Insel and the Raketenstation to experience these oasis of tranquillity. ■