Culture Space A&T 5-10

The new cultural space A&T 5-10 in the main building of the European Patent Office

© Photo: Christian Kain

Inaugurated in October 2023, this huge area of 3 000 m2 in the headquarters of the European Patent Office showcases a range of contrasting views from contemporary artists. Fascinating insights into the world of media art are provided in the exhibition Catalyst Lab & Deep vision, curated by the Linz-based Ars Electronica Institute. The exhibition Sustaining life. Art in the climate emergency features works by 37 artists from 20 countries that address the globally relevant issue of sustainability. In the open storage area, visitors can get a close-up look at works from the EPO's art collection. An area for Next generation statements showcases an installation by a young Ukrainian artist commissioned for the site, while the Cosmic bar was specially designed by artist Esther Stocker. In "The European Patent Journey", visitors can discover the history and architecture of the European Patent Office from 1969 to the present day. The large basement area of the main EPO building has been transformed to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the European Patent Convention in Munich.

Catalyst lab & Deep vision

To mark the 50th anniversary of the European Patent Convention, the European Patent Office (EPO) has invited Ars Electronica, the Linz Institute for New Media Art, to guest curate a central space in the basement of the EPO's headquarters. The space – almost 1 000 m² – originally housed the registry for patent applications but when patent granting procedures were digitalised, it was no longer needed for this purpose. In the course of repurposing the basement, we worked with Ars Electronica to develop a forward-looking concept for the use of the space that both preserves the original DNA of a patent archive and creates a special place for our staff and visitors to enjoy.

The European Patent Journey

As the first industrial revolution gets underway in Europe at the end of the 18th century, innovation emerges as a driving force behind the economy and, more broadly, social and cultural developments. Making sure that inventors are fairly rewarded for their efforts seems an obvious choice. Beyond protecting their rights, patents are also seen as the best way of ensuring the long-term wellbeing, prosperity and security to which society aspires. So nations gradually adopt a broad range of industrial property laws between the end of the 18th century and the start of the 20th century. Although these laws differ, they are based on common fundamental principles. In the same way as minting money, control over the intellectual property system becomes an attribute of national sovereignty. 

Sustaining life. Art in the climate emergency

When the 3 000 m2 basement in the headquarters of the European Patent Office (EPO) was refurbished, a project space was also created for special exhibitions of contemporary art. This 400 marea was formerly used for the printing of official documents. During its redevelopment, the ceiling, walls, floors and layout were preserved or re-exposed. Details such as the yellow cube-shaped sockets for the copying and printing machines, and the floor-to-ceiling wall tiles of the adjoining rooms, have been deliberately left in place and displayed as design elements. While the old walls provide clues about the space’s previous use, new exhibition panels offer maximum flexibility within the new layout. It was also vital that views of the surrounding greenery should not be lost after the conversion and so the long glass façade was retained too.

Next generation statements

From the technology enthusiast's garage to the inventor's laboratory and the artist's studio, sites of creativity have invariably offered fascinating glimpses into human innovation. The 170 m2 studio in the refurbished basement at the headquarters of the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of these cherished sites. The aim is to provide a space for collaborative practices at the interface between art and science: where creativity and contemporary discourse meet, encouraging reflection on the issues that will shape the future. Next-generation artists will be invited to realise their works during studio residencies with scientists as mentors. The results of this collaboration will be displayed in a series of exhibitions entitled "Next generation statements."

Open storage

During the conversion of the 3 000 m2 basement in the headquarters of the European Patent Office (EPO), a new form of open storage was developed, enabling works from the EPO art collection to be exhibited in the smallest of spaces and made easily accessible to all. In the art business, works that are not on display are normally packed in crates and stored in an art depot. The synthesis of exhibition and storage, which are traditionally mutually exclusive activities, gave rise to the concept of open storage, in which works are simultaneously stored and shown "out of the box". Located between the artists' studio, in which the next generation of up-and-coming artists produce new works, and the co-working space, where furniture from throughout the EPO’s history is combined with a new, industrial-look design, the open storage space offers an opportunity to (re)discover old and new highlights of the EPO collection while browsing in an innovative set-up in an area of just under 200 m2.

Cosmic bar

Artist Esther Stocker (*1974 Silandro, Italy) has crafted a bespoke concept for the European Patent Office's brand-new cafeteria: the COSMIC BAR. The crumpled, almost cloud-like sculptures that adorn the space serve both as decoration and as furniture or lighting fixtures. Their irregular forms contrast starkly with the precision of the linear black-and-white patterns on their surfaces, and with the geometry of the cafeteria’s interior too, inviting the imagination to take flight over a coffee or perhaps inspiring a surprising turn in visitors’ conversation. The design of the COSMIC BAR is seamlessly aligned with Stocker's broader artistic practice, which frequently explores the interplay between spaces, order and patterns. Her predominantly monochromatic works – Stocker seldom employs color – often incorporate overlaid grids.