An Olympic Universe

Sober exhibition design or inventive scenography? Opinions differ on this point among exhibition makers. And sometimes it’s the ambiguous concepts somewhere in between that particularly captivate us, because they give exhibits space and simultaneously integrate them into visual narratives. 

The exhibition team led by Irene Meißner was faced with an Olympic-sized mountain of material when designing the anniversary show about the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich at the city’s Architecture Museum. The buildings, infrastructures, and design projects are as manifold as the stories about their creation, planning, and continued use—a fantastic universe that the curatorial team (sometimes in unbelievable detective work) ventured into.

The result: a wonderful pastiche in Aicherian colors, in its aesthetics sometimes not unalike the bright (and also the first ever color) scenes of the “cheerful” games of 1972. Under a suspended tent roof made of green hardware store bird netting stand—freely placed in space—long tables with models and brochures. Plinths with texts and interviews recall the event rosters distributed throughout the city back then. Orange chairs (the rumored originals from the Schleißheim regatta course) echo the “Munich City Chair” designed by Bernhard Winkler as part of the new inner-city pedestrian zone. As if to balance out such scenographic playfulness, all other furniture is made of restrained slim aluminum angle profiles—due to the tight budget, but above all not to steal the show from the 500 exhibits.

The most surprising discovery was made at the venerable Willibaldsburg Castle in Eichstätt, a branch of the Bavarian State Archives. No one knew that the dusty models of the second, third and fourth places from the design competition for the Olympic site had been dozing there for decades. Meanwhile, the model of the first place by Behnisch & Partner, which the city of Munich retained after the competition, is lost. Another version of the famous “sock model” from the collection of the Architecture Museum is on display—including the nylon stockings of Fritz Auer’s wife. No fun fact remains unmentioned.



The Olympic City of Munich, Architekturmuseum der TUM, Munich


07/07/2022 – 01/08/2023