The climate in Vorarlberg, the westernmost state of Austria, is good
for high-grade architecture. The Baukünstler [Master Builders] first
gained international attention as pioneers in the nineteen-eighties.
They were followed by a generation that returned to its state after
having studied and gained work experience elsewhere, to make use of
these favorable basic conditions and immediately start to build. Helmut
Dietrich and Much Untertrifaller are two of the most successful members
of that generation. Over the past fifteen years, they have won several
important competitions and already created a broad oeuvre that reaches
from a single-family house to an apartment house, from a local museum
to a festival hall, from an industrial building to university sports
grounds, and from the interior of cafés to the comprehensive
revitalization of old structural fabric.
The Kunst Meran gallery in the old town of Merano in Italy, has dedicated an exhibition to them, and because of that, I discovered their work and special style. One of their most characteristic projects is the addition to the Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria. The new Hall F is an ingenious addition to the previously less
developed south-east side of the monumental complex of Wiener
Stadthalle, creating impact even on its own. The concert, show, dance,
fashion and even circus venue sits 2,000 spectators. Furthermore,
congresses and conventions can be facilitated. Even though the location
is particularly appealing in terms of urban development, the new
edifice does not steal the spotlight from Roland Rainer‘ s hall, which
was built half a century earlier.
The Wiener Stadthalle is rightfully referred to as a monumental
structure, having been completed in the post-war era of the 1950s.
Roland Rainer designed not only a huge building in terms of a linearly
enlarged house, but rather a gigantic structure that interprets the
dimensions of the huge volume adequately, while leaving its own imprint
on the urban fabric.
Built based on the winning entry in a competition, the edifice was
erected on a site critical for urban development; Hall F delineates the
space and defines the adjacent street patterns and squares. Dialogue
with the monumental building is facilitated and entertained in a
sophisticated manner. The rationally and densely fashioned complex was
laid out into a geometrically precise volume and maintains its clear
concept even in plan view. Its east front, facing the Gürtel stands out
ca. 12 m, forming a canopy above the entrée.
The front can be used as a
projection wall and is closed off, while the receding flanks are fully
glazed. They enclose the foyers used during intermissions. While the
south elevation extends parallel to Hütteldorfer Street, continuing and
mending the urban fabric, the symmetrical north side is positioned
close to the sloping supports of the auditorium and additional bevelled
elements along the grand hall; thus entering into an interesting
dialogue with skew edges and lines. In terms of height and
instrumentation the new structure follows the lead of its older
counterpart. The architecture is rather discreet and the smooth
aluminium cladding maintains sufficient distance to the profiled sheet
metal of the grand hall. Its south façade faces the sun and is
reflected in the glazed wall, while the illuminated foyer opens up at
night to enter into a dialogue with the space below the suspended tiers
Amidst such conflicting tendencies not hard
contrasts achieve optimal results, but a rather well-calculated
approach to volume and respectful distance. The interior is clearly
structured by short pathways and direct access routes: The spectator
appears to be drawn into the foyer, inside the wedge-shaped space below
the auditorium. Two wide staircases on both sides lead to the foyers
used during intermission, whose inclined floors follow the orientation
of the auditorium tiers, making stairs unnecessary. Floors and walls
are clad with robinia, an extremely robust material of dark and warm
appearance. The foyers open up widely through glazed walls, providing
insight at night like giant window displays.
They reveal happenings inside and enliven the adjacent public space.
The auditorium features nuances of light red. The spectators are not
divided by levels; only a wide catwalk separates the tiers, forming an
extension of the stage. The VIP area is located in the rear end of the
building, where short stairways lead to lounges in the back of the
grand hall. Acoustics equipment generating short reverberation times
ensures ideal sound quality for various events. Thus, excellent sound
is provided and sound engineers are given room to experiment.
Staircases lead to different levels of the backstage area, whose walls
are painted in light green, complementary to the red auditorium. They
are ideally structured and provide quick access for deliveries. The
rear sections of the building are outfitted with rehearsal and banquet
halls, such as used for conventions. They are directly accessible from
the foyers. One level above, a tract houses administrative and
All photos are by Bruno Klomfar, Austria.