Post-event report | Vienna - StudioVlayStreeruwitz: Of architecture and urbanism09.11.2021
With their lecture “INSIDE OUT/OUTSIDE IN – Tracing complicities in architecture and urban space”, Lina Streeruwitz and Bernd Vlay of StudioVlayStreeruwitz (Vienna) took their audience on a journey between architecture and urbanism. Their work primarily focuses on urban spaces and typologies that form the interiors of buildings, an open interaction with the conditions they find, a love for productive wilderness and the confident handling of scale as a tool. “It is impossible to say where the city stops and architecture begins”, explain the architects, who then go on to present competition entries – both successful and unsuccessful ones – from prior years.
Under the title “On the fringe”, Lina Streeruwitz and Bernd Vlay present projects that exist on the periphery and for which terms such as “interior” and “exterior” seem like picture puzzles. The competition “City Beach” for the “Copa Cagrana Neu” on the banks of the New Danube in Vienna can be contextualised by several peripheral and transitional situations. The area itself is a combination of flat office towers and a local working class culture, an isolated urban area and domesticated nature. StudioVlayStreeruwitz began with a close look at the competition brief and immediately identified a contradiction between the separation of functions and the requirement for open, green spaces. The first step to meet this challenge: Zoom out all the way to study the entire course of the Danube up to the Black Sea, and then back into the city. The design’s slogan “City on the beach!” was also a challenge: Because Vienna has never actually been on the river. The design combines an analysis of the different tempos of the environment, as well as the height of the water level (as an echo of the Danube), to form an extremely precise topography; a type of “productive surreality” that brings a touch of wildness back to the public space.
The competition for the front of the urban development area “Village im Dritten” on the heavily trafficked, six-lane Gürtelstraße began with an unusual approach: A kinetic facade made from prefabricated wooden elements whose rhythm was based on the perception of the motorists. The architects call it “Vienna’s longest curtain” and a “programmatic force field”. The content addresses the approaches of the productive city and classifies them in a matrix of uses. Here, gradations of intensity and spatial size overlap while hardware, software and orgware are all brought together. The result: a building as an object with a strong identity. The roof of the lightly curved, elongated structure boasts a thriving green wilderness.
During the second part of the lecture entitled “Outside in: Invasive Landscapes”, StudioVlayStreeruwitz presented concepts that scrutinise the perception of places and traditional planning terms, for example the competition “Freie Mitte – vielseitiger Rand” on the old railway of Vienna’s Nordbahnhof. Here, the architects discovered that the tracks had become overgrown with wilderness. This gave rise to the idea of viewing this naturally developed landscape as a new public space in its own right, rather than having to clean it up. StudioVlayStreeruwitz shifted the development to the edge of the area, and compacted it there. A reduced area for road infrastructure costing EUR 8.7 million and double the required amount of free space were supposed to convince the city's decision makers. A key question that always comes to the fore at StudioVlayStreeruwitz is: Who will take care of the space during its implementation and after its completion? Because the architects are certain that “the best ideas can fail if nobody feels a sense of responsibility in everyday life”.
How can the potential of this completely new type of wilderness be adequately conveyed if it served as a source of irritation for some members of the city administration? StudioVlayStreeruwitz chose suggestive, small-scale models that clearly illustrated the various possibilities as well as the atmosphere. In order to allow for management by the city authorities, a new dedication category was even agreed upon: A recreational space deep-rooted in nature. The project is currently being implemented, and the competitions for the plots have already been concluded.
The competition submission ECO.RED.or.ES also dealt assertively with the conditions the architects found on site – a large area on the outskirts of Barcelona. Located here were motorway junctions, roads, large commercial spaces and logistics areas. The site was “placeless and connected to the territorial network of the infrastructure”, explain the duo. They decided not to densify or “urbanise” this area, choosing instead to establish a confluence between the landscape and the issue of mobility. As a result, they made the infrastructure their primary focus and installed a new pedestrian bridge, the “magic stick”, in a crucial spot. This multiplied the number of transfer points between the linear transport axes.
The Florasdorf residential complex, nominated for the EU Mies Award, is located directly on a transport axis in Vienna. “City meets town” was the chosen marketing slogan – “Yet here, next to this elevated motorway, there was neither a city nor a town”, explains StudioVlayStreeruwitz. The architects took on the challenge and brought city and town into the building on the spot – stacked vertically. With lanes, courtyards and a “garden frame” as a shield towards the street. The weighty sculptural facade made from fair-faced concrete became the “performative brise-soleil” that smartly and subversively circumvented the building regulations preventing communal spaces by the motorway.
A symbiosis of architecture and the idea of the city as a free learning area formed the basis of the design for the Kindlhof area in Berlin in 2021. Here, the structure of the former brewery is not replaced as it would be using a clean slate approach, but rather opened up. This makes it the basic structure of an architectural landscape that explores the “potential of emptiness”.
This has led to the creation of so-called “sponge spaces” which can be used by the students at the newly constructed school as well as nearby residents and the general public. This project facilitates the situational construction of a “labilatoire”, through which the architecture merges with the urban environment – or “breathing boundaries”, in the poetic words of Bernd Vlay and Lina Streeruwitz.
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The follow-up reports, also from the other locations, will also be made available to you gradually. You will then find these data under the following link.