Exhibiting the City

Project

Exhibiting the city is a project for the city of Vienna with the aim of showing the process of transformation of the city through its architecture and the totality of its image.

The starting point of the analysis was the study of the Looshaus, architecture known for the scandal in breaking with the architectural tradition of Vienna. Situated in an area close to the city centre, place in which Vienna still wants to show itself as the important centre that was during its golden age, the Looshaus presents itself as a step in the continuous process of transformation of the city: the architecture in fact breaks from the traditional imperial architectural style of Vienna, trying to give a new direction towards the modern identity of the Austrian capital.

By focusing on the development of the image of the city, the concept of the project shifts from the  singular architecture of the Looshaus to the square of Michaelerplatz, intended as the place where the city shows itself and its identity.

Once again, it can be immediately noticed that the process of transformation of the city is denied by the predominance of the architectures of the Golden Age, that become the only attraction and element of relevance in the area. This results to be unfortunate, especially in Michaelerplatz, where the square is defined by different landmarks that refer to a specific and precise time in the history of the city: the Roman ruins of Vindobona, the medieval church of Michaelerkirche, the imperial palace of the Hofburg and the bourgeois architecture of the Looshaus.

The project aims to take into account all the different landmarks that define Michaelerplatz, by framing and exhibit them through a promenade that guides the visitor in the discovery of the process of transformation of the city.

The design is defined by three main elements: the ramp, the stage and the tower.

The ramp is the element of connection between the open space of the square and the beginning of the promenade. Two walls direct the visitors towards the path of discovery of the city by continuously closing their view on the surrounding. Only in determined spots the wall is cut and permit the vision of the interested landmark.

The promenade follows a “back in time” timeline: by entering in the ramp, visitors are guided in the discovery of the city from its most modern landmark to the oldest one. The path also shows the different elements of power that marked out different periods of time in Viennese history: the bourgeoisie, the Empire, the Church and the Roman occupation.

The last step of the promenade consists of the Roman Ruins of Vindobona: they not only represent the act of foundation of the city, but act as a filter area towards the central part of the project: the stage and the tower.

The stage has the purpose to activate the inner part of the square, not considered and used by tourists by now. Not only it represents the place of relax and contemplation of the square from it centre, but also operate as an open air theatre, that can be used for artistic exhibition, concerts and cultural events.

The tower represents the concrete realisation of all the different tensions and directions of the several landmarks in Michaelerplatz. It hosts temporary exhibition on the ground floor and first floor and a café in the panoramic level on the top. From here, visitors can appreciate and understand the complexity of the process of transformation of the city by looking at the different landmarks at once and having a complete view about the totality of Vienna’s image: it is here that the city shows itself in all its aspects.

Interview

Who influences you graphically?

In general terms, I do not have an established graphical reference. Usually, depending on the design I am developing, I decide the graphical style that can fit the most with the message and idea that I want to express.

For the graphic of this project I searched for references in paintings, especially in the works of Edward Hopper, David Hockney, Jack Vettriano. This decision reflected the idea of expressing the experience of the design’s promenade instead of having a realistic representation of the project.

What prompted the project?

The analysis of the city’s history and the visit of the site marked out the premises for the project. The predominance of architectures related to the golden period of Vienna, especially in the area of Michaelerplatz, still strongly influence the route of the visitors and the image and idea of the city that they get: an image that tend to hide not only the process of transformation of the city itself, but especially its modern character, freezing the city in an imperial atmosphere that does not belong to it anymore. In addition to this, the absence of a focal point in the center of the square brings people to just walk along its perimeter in order to observe the monument of the Hofburg and go directly towards the commercial area of Kohlmarkt. In this way, visitors cannot have a complete understanding of the circular public space and the elements that define it, possible solely from its central point.

These considerations prompted the project, together with the need to denounce them and create a design that tries to make visitors aware about the totality of the image of the city, id est its identity.

In ‘curating’ the city, what were the biggest challenges you faced?

The biggest challenge was to create a design that took into account all the different landmarks that define Michaelerplatz. The main theme that marks out the project is the relationship with the context, in particular the landmarks and their different characters. In fact, the design does not want to impose itself inside the preexisting system of different hierarchies of Michaelerplatz, but on the contrary, it aims to be in every features respectful of the configuration and the relationship between its elements. The choice of developing the design on the element of the circle reflects the intention of adopting the same grade of importance for each landmark, without favour any axes or view to the detriment of the others.

How important were the three elements as means through which to reveal Vienna? What defined these elements?

In the act of revealing the complexity of the image of Vienna, each of the three elements has a different importance inside the project because different is the way in which the city is exhibited.

The importance of the ramp consists on its role of relationship with the public square and the promenade in the discovery of the city. Along the ramp, the city is shown through its landmarks in a back in time sequence, focusing on them singularly and creating a fragmented understanding of the totality of the image of the city. The horizontal movement marks out the promenade of the ramp, bringing visitors to the final step , represented by the roman ruins, symbol of the foundation of Vienna. From here the path of displaying of the city continues with the tower: the promenade changes its direction, bringing the visitors up to the panoramic terrace to have a complete view of the complexity of the image of Vienna. With the element of the stage, the city acts as a background , as the fixed scene of the open air space that can be both use as a space of cultural event or a place of appreciation of the urban landscape.

The three elements are defined by the preexistences of the square.

The ramp’s shape follows the existing pedestrian circle located in the middle of Michaelerplatz: its starting point corresponds with the spot characterised by the direct view on the Looshaus, the most recent landmark on the square, and ends with the existing wall that define the space of the roman ruins. The stage simply follows the curvilinear shape of the ramp, laying on its perimetral wall. From that spot, the coexistence of the new element of the tower with the existing landmarks of Vienna is shown.

The tower is defined by the axes of the three landmarks that define the public space: Looshaus, Hofburg and Michaelerkirche. The reason of its position is justified by what the tower represents, id est concrete realisation of the different tensions and axes of the different landmarks of Michaelerplatz.

When constructing the views what were your biggest concerns, what did you want to achieve/ convey? How does each view relate to a specific moment along the journey?

The purpose behind the views was to depict the most important features of the project, both in its fundamental elements and the relationship established with the city. In fact, the representation of the journey starts with a general view that communicate the relationship between the project and the surrounding; it then continues with the framed views of the landmarks along the promenade, of the stage and of the tower.

In all the views the attention is paid on the architectural subject and its configuration. The relation with specific moments of the journey is expressed through the representation of the most important spots that constitute the reason and intentions behind the project: in this way, the tool of the views is also a way to underline and exhibit the creative forces of the project.

What defined the medium of the drawing? Did you ever think of a short animation?

The decision of representing the essence of the design through drawings was based upon the idea of showing the different steps of the architectural promenade in the form of a cinematographic storyboard. I think that the focus on singular framed views of the promenade are more effective than an animation because the attention is directed merely on some precise elements, not on the entire path. This is the reason why I have never thought about a show animation.

What is your take on the architectural silhouette? What is the effect and purpose of figures as this of Vettriano amongst others?

Architectural silhouettes are fundamental in the representation of the architectural project. Not only they give the idea of proportions between the different parts of the design, but also express how the space created is used and lived by people.

For the representation of this project, I opted for Vettriano’s figures because, with their style, they recall the modern period of Vienna that was denied by the image of the Golden Age, the one that started during the XXth century. They represent a way to express how the design wants to create a dialogue with the totality of the image of the city and it is strongly deeply rooted in the present situation of Vienna, revealing the importance of its modernity as a feature of the city that has to be highlighted.

How important is the sketch as architectural tool?

I consider the sketch as a fundamental tool in the design process. Thinking through sketching permits to have complete awareness about the design decisions and the reason behind them.

Through the use of sketch, not only an architect can understand reality, by comprehending all its elements and relationship, but also can interpret it through the recognition of the space, of the proportions and harmonies between the parts; it is only through these competencies that all this knowledge can be gathered and lead into the creation of an architectural idea. By this, I do not mean that the sketch has to be aesthetically pleasant, but has to express an idea, an intention of the designer that is then transpose in architectural forms.

I think that this is one of the most interesting and captivating feature than an architect can develop and show as a consistent part of an architectural project. In a world that is continuously going towards a technological development of all the aspects of human life, it is pleasant to see the human side in the process of creation of the most civil and social art: architecture.

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