A Road to the European Super District


The project attempts to set up a new methodology for the hyper (urban) scale building in the European context. Unlike OMA’s Hyperbuilding proposal for Bangkok, the new alternative should be a synthesis of multiple layers of organizations that escapes the singular narrative of a building. The method tower, a diagrammatic tower that condenses different organizational forms extracted from multiple globally-recognized precedents, provides the basis for the next step.

When using Vienna as a testbed, the method tower encounters the local counterpart, the Viennese concourse, conjured up of organizational forms extracted from Viennese megastructures. The conversation between the method tower and the Viennese concourse, of global and the local, then generate new local hybrids; vernacular hyper buildings forms meant for a new expansion strategy for Vienna.

By placing itself above the existing metro line of U6, these hybrids are conceptualized and contextualized through the existing tension between the old baroque image of Vienna and the modernity. The project ultimately acts as a critique to consolidate the tensions between the global and the local, and the old and the new by suggesting a new type of expansion strategy that uses formal analysis as the main tool for architectural organization.


What prompted the project?

The project grew out from my obsession with the Hyper Building by OMA. We are at an age when we are more and more getting used to the idea of “bigger” buildings. I just wanted to explore the extent of that idea with a new urban expansion strategy that is somehow culturally bound.

What defined Vienna as a test bed?

It is an incredibly delicate old European city but has had a whole history of making big bold urban gestures. The historic centre seems to be in a perfect contrast to big urban structures like the AKH or Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof. This exact contrast allowed me, in my mind, to create somewhat odd looking urban conjectures that are in fact contextualized.

What tools did you use to research the context of the city?

This is something that is not very apparent in the final outcome. I had this idea of capturing contexts within the city with photographs (perspective-based and experiential), but my design outcomes were to be mostly dealt with in axonometric (formal and experimental). In my mind the experience of the city exists in fragments. So the final understanding you have of the city is a sort of a montage. My version of Viennese montage is taken from U6 metro line, an urban corridor that allows commuters to share common viewpoints. Different photographs were taken of visual and architectural anchor points along U6 line and their forms were analyzed in terms of organisation.

The resulting design of the Super District in my project is mainly derived from these two modes of research, accompanied by other organisational forms that were taken from megastructures around Vienna. The two axes of tension discussed in my project are actually a reflection of the duality in my two research methods.

How has the megastructure typology developed within the Austrian context from the palace to the contemporary megadevelopment?

This is a topic I do not claim to have a full understanding of, but I find it really really fascinating. So I think a really good example of modern ‘mega’ development has to be the Karl-Marx hof. It was a mass housing complex built in the 1920’s right after the fall of monarchy in Austria. The complex was referred to as the ‘palace of the people’ and to a degree, that was correct. The new Karl-Marx hof had a striking resemblance to Schönbrunn Palace in terms of layout. Both the palace and the housing complex had this long elongated buildings that were all connected to each other one after another. However, the internal organizations of these two complexes are massively different. Nonetheless, this tradition of having a singular ‘building’, or connected buildings, that housed many different amenities under one roof was kept and strange variations started to appear. Alterlaa complex in the Southwest of Vienna is a good example. It is a housing complex with huge blocks that are interconnected with corridors that houses different amenities like a pharmacy or a shopping mall. Just like that, the city seems to retain a kind of DNA for these mega blocks and I thought this new Super District design in Vienna is not actually that outrageous after all.

What informed the choice of OMA’s Hyperbuilding in Bangkok? To what extent did the project respond to this?

You have to look closely at the timeline of when the Hyperbuliding was proposed by OMA. It was right after ‘Bigness and the Problem of Large’ was published in S,M,L,XL and the Hyperbuilding was, in a way, responding to it. It almost justifies the rise of these city-buildings, mega developments, or hyperbuildings as the next logical step in architecture. This posed an interesting question for me. Coming from Korean background where the architectural context is not as sensitive as in Europe and where the Hyperbuilding is an actually possibility, I wanted to discuss new expansion strategies in Europe. So my admiration for the sheer scale and the boldness of the Hyperbuilding became a line of attack for new expansion strategies in European cities.

What defined the ‘design’ above the U6 metro line and its positioning?

The very thing that I wanted to criticise in Viennese expansion strategy was its circular growth. Nothing can grow in the centre and whatever grows in its outskirts are totally disregarded from the core identity of the city. I really liked the U6 as a site, because it is an urban corridor that disregards the circular expansion of the city and creates a common view corridor (viewing experience) of the city. It is a straight bold line that goes across layers and layers of circles, a bridge that go straight through various strata of urban layers.

How does the Meta drawing talk about and reveal these axes?

The Meta drawing puts the proposals in the centre with other precedents surrounding them. The core message is that the proposed Super District borrows many different elements from a number of precedents and can metamorphose into anything according to the context. Nonetheless the precedents are divided into 4 main camps along two axes. Each camp of precedents is drawn in consistency with its corresponding counterpart. For example, the global camp on the left and the local camp on the right are drawn into the mountain landscapes, while the ‘new’ camp and the ‘old’ camp are drawn into urban layouts. The proposed Super District places itself at the centre of the four but is built on the bridge that connects the old and the new camps. This is to signify a forced connection that the proposal suggests between the old and the new Viennese architectural tradition that is created. Nevertheless, the proposal is influence by the tension between the local and the global forces of architecture.

What is for you the power of the Meta drawing?

The principal function of the Meta drawing is to condense a project into a single drawing. Each connection that occurs in the project is drawn into the Meta drawing and it really helped me clarify the thesis at the end. The Meta drawing is essentially a mind map that allows you to visualise different connections in the project. I think the Meta drawing was necessary for me, because the project had a lot of layers and complexity and it was getting really hard for me to grasp everything at once. It provided me with a control over all the ingredients that went into the project.

To what extent has the project influenced how you operate as an architect now?

It’s too early to say as I finished the project just this year. Though I have to say that it highlighted a few interests I want to pursue as an architect. I definitely started to pay more attention into the recurring architectural traits within the city and how that could be used as a future driver; or think about how the tension between the local and the global forces of architecture could be resolved.