15 Biennale di Venezia. Austrian Pavilion
Places for People.
Curated by Elke Delugan-Meissl.
Offering protection, creating humane places to live and establishing the basis for good social coexistence have always been amongst the central roles of architecture. Austria’s contribution to the Biennale Architettura 2016 has set itself the task of using the resources of architecture – in the widest sense – to transform properties which are basically suitable as accommodation into dignified places to live which offer ongoing support to their residents.
In developing the projects, however, the teams are addressing questions which go far beyond the current refugee situation: questions no less significant than how we want to live together in the future; how our cities, homes and public spaces should be designed and used and, not least, how architecture can continue to fulfill its public duty and remain socially relevant.
The title of Austria’s contribution is a reference to the Austrian-American architect and designer, Bernard Rudofsky. His writings, buildings and exhibitions focus on such elementary aspects of life as eating, sleeping, sitting, lying and washing, together with the question of how architecture can meet these needs in a dignified way. Here, provisional, improvised and temporary solutions play a central role. Rudofsky’s conviction that ‘what we basically need is a new way of living’ was partly based on his analysis
of anonymous architecture and everyday practices in the Arab world. Similarly significant for the “social turn” of architecture, which has recently gained in political importance, is the work of
the Austrian-American designer Victor Papanek, who demanded a similar paradigm change in the field of design.
The selected teams from Caramel Architekten, EOOS and the nextENTERprise architects have been working since the end of last year at three locations in Vienna which, very deliberately, differ markedly in terms of not only such key characteristics as urban location, size and period of availability but also the type of accommodation required. Given the enormous importance of social, cultural, psychological, economic and legal parameters the teams are working in an interdisciplinary process and in constant dialogue with the affected parties and with a range of experts.
Design of the Pavilion
A three-part intervention by DMAA in front of the pavilion, in the main space and in the half-open atrium to its rear are used for both the presentation of the exhibition and for social meeting and interaction. The installation by Heimo Zobernig for Biennale Arte 2015 and the landscape architecture design by Auböck+Kárász for Biennale Architettura 2014 are retained as a frame for the presentation of “Places for People”.
The Austrian photographer Paul Kranzler has accompanied the development work of the three architectural and design offices in Vienna in the form of self contained visual essays. A selection of large-format photographs of Places and People and their manifold interactions is displayed in the main space. A further key element of “Places for People” is a comprehensive free newspaper containing interviews, reportages and essays on the subject in all its dimensions as well as other initiatives in Austria which can be seen as exemplary and forward-looking in the spirit of the intention of Austria’s contribution.
Caramel Architekten developed a system for an emergency shelter in a 1970s office building based on textile elements which could be installed within just a few weeks with the help of the shelter’s 280 residents. Just 52 basic sets, each consisting of a parasol, textile panels and cable ties succeeded in creating privacy and improving the user experience in the sober, open-plan office spaces for an outlay of just 50 euros and 50 minutes work per person.
As the use of the 3,700 m2 building was originally limited to just four months, a central criterion of the intervention was that all elements could be swiftly dismounted and simply re-erected in another location. Despite such parameters, the team succeeded in offering people a minimum of domesticity and privacy with the help of simple resources and some ingenious detailing.
Similar textile elements were also used to reshape existing communal and external spaces including a dining room, children’s playground and area of greenery in such a way that they have also been tangibly improved in terms of both functionality and atmosphere.
In parallel with the development within Haus Pfeiffergasse, the “Home Made”- Tool Set is now also being used by the team in a further range of both professional and private situations. The resulting closed loop fulfills the original aim of the architects to build for not just one special target group but for everyone. For this reason, the instruction manual for “Home Made” is also available online.
The design team EOOS has developed a concept for the adaptation of a former training facility of around 21,000m2 close to the city centre which envisages both the production and implementation of an entire range of furniture and the introduction of such new functions as shops and workshops. The building consists of two-bed rooms with showers and washbasins which provide long-term accommodation to 600 asylum seekers but lacked the communal spaces and meeting zones which EOOS is now creating and equipping with the appropriate furniture. However, the focus of the intervention is not only this furniture which, for example, takes the form of kitchen elements for communal use, but also the creation of opportunities to work and to exchange in the form of an in-house communal economy for which a special transaction app has also been developed.
"To mark the development of the “Social Furniture” collection for Haus Erdberg, EOOS published a catalogue-modelled on Enzo Mari’s “Autoprogettazione” – containing instructions on how to assemble all 18 furniture elements from the areas of living, working and cooking. Not only can this furniture be self-built economically but it also supports both the self-organisation of the residents and their opportunities to share and exchange resources in the spirit of a communal economy.
The furniture collection extends beyond the walls of the individual refugee shelter by defining the creation of social furniture as a social issue that can be flexibly scaled and applied everywhere. This reinforces the reference to Enzo Mari’s “Autoprogettazione”, although EOOS has transformed the notion of DIY into DIT – do it together.“
The settings for the intervention by the next ENTERprise - architects are the fourth and fifth floors of a partly vacant 1980s office building in Vienna’s most populous district in the south of the city, together with the park surrounding the former headquarters building. In line with their interest in activating the potential of the temporary use of vacant space for creating new forms of urban life, the next ENTERprise-architects have developed economically producible infrastructures which each user can take possession of in their own individual way.
As part of their intervention in Kempelengasse, “room-in-room implants” in the internal spaces create hybrid living and working spaces which will be tested in cooperation with Caritas for the next three years in the context of an experimental residential project called HAWI involving refugees and students.
In addition to this, a series of targeted external interventions will open up the originally closed park-like site in order to encourage communication between residents and locals.
These elements are seen as “urban building blocks” due to their ability to be used not only temporarily within existing structures but also in new building sand, beyond this, in a wide range of other urban situations.
On the socio-cultural level, the architectural interventions are anchored in the commitment of numerous actors who have already been involved in and accompanying a range of forms of participation
in the surrounding area for the past two years. In the same way, the appropriation of these “urban building blocks” will establish a basis for social and cultural life.