Bettina Götz und Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    In: UmBau 14, Österreichische Gesellschaft für Architektur, Vienna 1993


    preview and two distinctions

    Architecture is not something that can be solved once and for all. Nor does “form follow function,” but rather function is a prerequisite – just as a roof should be watertight. We demand plastic architecture, in the sense of “less is more.” Taking an abstract concept as point of departure, the less that can be eliminated without endangering the concept, the better the result.


    first distinction

    Our work takes two different approaches to dealing with programs: first, articulating form by way of content, from the inside out, or, in other words, the program turns itself inside out, and second, in contrast to the first, the paste-up method involving existing building elements (prefabricated units, existing spaces) or architectural working concepts in the broadest sense.


    second distinction

    Even in the late twentieth century, housing – with the exception of
    towers – occupies a field of tension consisting of point – line – surface. And, on the other hand, aside from its inherent appeal, the tower is not really in a position to be part of the solution to the housing question.
    Human beings move in a horizontal plane; vertical layering of horizontally organized levels does not allow a greater degree of freedom as heights increase. On the contrary. Circulation requirements, fire-safety measures, and structural specifications are major hindrances to an open spatial configuration.


    the alpha of the housing question: the neutral envelope   

    Seen in terms of enabling a variety of uses and a workable building width, number of stories, and siting, as well as the employment of industrial manufacturing methods, what results is a linear massing type at the greatest remove to the plastic form-giving of the use-blind basic structure. It is based on the extruded-profile principle. The technical infrastructure is situated on the exterior along a longitudinal free space zone. Free in the sense of limitations of the structure, and open to later conversions – with the Centre Pompidou as prototype.


    The different functions of the building enclosure should be kept separate spatially. By articulating and defining the outer skin – each element is defined separately – we create a multi-layered interface comprising the functions insulation/structural engineering/shelter. This approach is radically on display at Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth Pavilion: the house actually extends across the entire site. What is generally portrayed as an object in space is an icon that gives rise to misinterpretations and is in fact only one part of the barrier to the outside: protection at the outer limit, structural members on the box’s exterior, insulation as definition of the envelope (= in this case, the box). In 1924, Hugo Häring stated that “A window has three functions: 1. to give light, 2. to allow ventilation, 3. to create a view out. … What is to prevent us dividing the functions of a window and fulfilling them separately in the best way for each?”1 One can apply this to all of a building’s functions. The specific form-giving remains in the background as a diffuse possibility. We show the linear quality of the bar-shaped building, the beauty of the smooth surface and the play behind it.


    the point as potential part of a series: the untapped texture


    In the broad field of single-family-home construction, an additive approach is to be contraposed to the conventional solitaire building type. The individual building is viewed as a potential part of a linear or planar structure. The additivity requires a certain fundamental introversion – as opposed to reaching out into the landscape. Densification of contem­porary single-family-home subdivisions is, de facto, nearly impossible. In contrast, introverted concepts which from the start include an option for direct annexation would definitely be open to it. Experimentation with prototypes – which goes beyond the self-realization of aesthetic
    concepts – is, so to speak, newly acquired territory in the quest to re-
    duce land consumption.


    the plastic quality of the bar-shaped building    


    In contrast to the content-neutral approach, here the program can become the form. By way of example, the bar-shaped building as abstract product, an embodiment of the current parameters for housing construction: the size of the dwelling is the factor determining the arrangement along the length of the massing. Our point of departure: we hold that the outdoor spaces – gardens and terraces – should be in proportion to the respective apartment size. The density typical of ­today’s suburbs is attained with a basic framework made up of two-­story structures; all residents can have a garden.


    Prerequisite for broad bar-shaped buildings: all apartments are to be oriented to the south to the greatest degree possible. Topographic conditions or environmental parameters – noise, visual factors, etc. – can impede such an orientation. The basic framework has to be adapted to the conditions like a custom-made suit: the meeting up of general typology and specific place gives rise to an individual configuration – as opposed to a simple product of set theory.


    This is what is fascinating about historic cities: what remains is a spatial hull, a plastic sequence whose original raison d’être is no longer known.


    bar-shaped structures, surfaces and surface areas


    An exercise in surface area: a rough framework is superimposed upon the building site – this subdivides the site. The surface is to be appropriated to the greatest possible degree. According to Bernard Rudofsky, “North of the Alps, the courtyard house is considered alien. Instead, the front yard thrives – leftover from construction, no-man’s-land, at best a meeting place for garden gnomes. […] A rehabilitated front yard undergoes a delightful transformation when a wall is put around it. Instead of shrinking, it develops optically and spatially; it rises up into the third dimension and furnishes a room with a celestial roof.” 2


    If at all possible, semi-public spaces are to be avoided. Therefore, the enclosed spaces are structured intensively as efficiency apartments that can be extended or added to as needed. Residents can stay in place as their requirements change. Superimposed on the heavyweight construction (= hardware) is the anonymous fitting-out (= information). The property developer sets up a site with the basic equipment for living. External and internal qualities serve as a basis for living and dwelling – as an activity that is as heterogeneous as possible.


    Putting an unfinished solid-masonry structure on offer is a rarity, but is nevertheless at regular intervals a peripheral topic, treated mainly as a multi-tiered building site, as a platform for do-it-yourself construction; in other words, a site for stacked homes as another option for multi-­story housing (Eric Freiberger in Göteborg, Frei Otto’s eco-house ­project in Berlin, a project by Yona Friedman in Marseille). Here the aspect of structure as primary element is brought to bear in a particularly striking manner – at once primary component and archaeological remnant, sediment of culture, washed ashore as historical jetsam.


    yesterday – tomorrow. the amorphous figure  


    The house as incomprehensible construct, as three-dimensional event. The building as landscape, but not the landscape as pre-image of the building. The aim is to produce strong densification, and, at the same time, pronounced individuality. By clearly separating the functions circulation and living on different levels, the building moves away from being organized as bar-shaped massing and toward the plane, toward the stack. A technical grille above the access level holds all of the essential installations. The grille constitutes the basis for the rampant outward growth of the minimally equipped spaces. The notion of the space-city is to be brought to the level of the real. Unchecked rampant growth within a controlled system – in the sense of zoning guidelines of the technical sort. The structuring of Manhattan serves as an example, as does the Far Eastern three-dimensional definition of the exploitation of a buildable site.




    To be in line with heterogeneous requirements and contradictory demands, the building should be a machine. Open at the micro-level, the apartment floor plan, pronounced in its function as sheathing shell. It’s not a matter of floor plan – facade – roof, but rather an understanding of the building as “firm skin.”

    Bettina Götz und Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Art Front Gallery, Tokyo, 1998


    Architecture is the continuation of nature by other means:  the simple form of the complex

    In architecture we are interested in specific space and the aspect of the sculptural, the inevitable proximity to sculpture: Space, which in intensified form ideally influences our perception, as a landscape can, simultaneity of the known quantity and the unexpected.


    What we strive for is not the exaggeration of nature, but a parallel to nature. We are fascinated by the spatial elaboration of an object and it’s peculiarity, not by a neutral or indifferent character. We designate objects as "sculptural" or "plastic" which demonstrate determination, whether coming from the non-programmed art circuit, or from the technical area ruled by laws. The sculptural impression occurs above all in buildings marked by a strong structural component.


    The involvement with sculptures and their potential, the "typological" aspect of building, is one of the approaches to the process: Reduction and pushing to the limit of the materialized circumstances of the societal situation and the possibilities of production. That what has become evident can be elevated to principle, allowing one to concentrate on the essential.


    Certain methods of the process are determined pre-emptively:

    - the implementation of materials in full-format

    - valuing the right angle

    - the implementation of light to differentiate elements

    - materialization of the context

    - experimental dosage of light

    - freeing the nature of the material

    - pushing the surface to an extreme

    - preference of the horizontal to the vertical


    Beginning with the typological, general sheme, our architecture becomes specific by the superimposition of the context for which it is conceived. Thus, so-called difficult sites are of special interest to us: The more complicated the accompanying circumstances are, the more complex the solution must be. The built form arises from the concept; it is not designed:


    Design is superfluous. Our architecture is not concerned with orders of magnitude. It's not a matter of large or small, but rather of recognizing the problem and the pleasure in the recognition of a solution. As opposed to the de(con)structivist crase for the accidental, we seek the complex beauty in chance. From an abstract thought process emerges concrete form. There are many concept-possibilities, but for each concept just one best path.




    Bettina Götz und Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    In: Josef Lackner Architekturforum Tirol (ed.), Anton Pustet Publishing, Salzburg, n.d. (2003)


    Josef Lackner created buildings that added specific aspects to mod­ernism’s space-making project: with regard to re-defining and sounding out spatial possibilities of a simple geometrical silhouette, little exists that is comparable to his Ursuline school complex in Innsbruck.


    What makes his architecture fascinating, and at the same time allows our work to profit from it, has to do with his approach – his way of designing was founded on a rigorous framework – a concept: every project adheres to its own set of instructions – and these are never used a second time. The process ties together the buildings and projects with their various, often unwieldy appearance to become one grand oeuvre. He developed his own logic for each project and sub­mitted all further decisions – in some cases, with the exception of material selection – to these rules. This gave rise to buildings that did not adhere to formal wishes or obsessions, but rather whose appearances were generated by the respective concepts.


    In this way, Lackner set himself apart from the process that was typical of his most prolific period, a process that was conceived of for repeated application and optimized for increased effect in drawing attention to oneself: style. Lackner’s “style” is the concept itself, whereby completely different approaches may be possible depending on the task at hand, the site, and the problem to be addressed. As a consequence his oeuvre is multi-layered and multi-faceted, never slick or boring, but compelling, often surprising, and always decipher­able and explainable. We like Lackner’s idiosyncrasy – one might even call it bizarreness.


    His thing is space; spatial components are defined and woven into a whole; nothing is residual. The appearance of the spatial configurations in their materialization is often irritating, sometimes difficult to decipher, and the person who takes interest is always rewarded with a wondrous interweavement, that allows an object that had been perceived as stand-offish to become an idiosyncratic yet matter-of-fact figure. A useneutral envelope is never his theme; it’s always about spatial quality – an invention as a response to a general problem.


    At first glance, on account of their unwieldiness and inelegance, Lackner’s buildings can be irritating, even shocking. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that these are in fact built concepts that one can decipher and which then, at second glance, derive their beauty
    from their coherence. His buildings are the honest result of the underlying principle: an image arises that is at times almost shrill, sometimes seems nonchalant and arbitrary, but that has arisen only through adherence to the project’s foundational design rules.


    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Appeared in „Ein Buch für Helmut Richter“ Vienna University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Holzhausen Druck, Vienna, 2007


    In Vienna at the start of 1980s, Richter who came from Graz, was for us the great role model in Austria.

    Instead of post-modernism  Jean Prouvé as an icon.

    As a person and an architect Helmut Richter showed us that architecture is a position, not a service (in Wittgenstein’s sense: aesthetic comes from ethic). 


    His position is located on (and generally beyond) the boundary.

    His context is global, the opposite of place-related:

    ignoring all the prerequisites in every building project, in order to search for new, unknown combinations generally using simple, industrially influenced components. 


    Writing about him is a challenge, as in Viennese architecture of the last 20 years he was the challenge per se.



    “aesthetic organization” is a term that Helmut Richter uses for his work

    Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten.
    Talk given at the conference Abstract City: Streets, Universität der Künste Berlin, 2008


    An attempt at a system to clarify terms as limit value consideration



    The horizontal plane is the basis on which human beings move and stand, the vertical is the special case for changing planes. A standard classification of urban design structural elements according to their usability in space remains both banal and valid: in one dimension: as “street”, in two dimensions: as “square”, in three dimensions: as “building” –. Through connecting these structural elements “city” is created.



    The street is a linear, mono-dimensional element that connects here and there – with the exception of the bridge, where the specific nature of the linear course becomes evident.

    The street is a traffic route and infrastructure medium: it creates connections not only in the form of  transportation – media such as water, gas, electricity or telephone also form part of the cross-section.

     As long as no further element is added, the information content, i.e. the change of possibilities, remains zero along the line of the street, apart from encounters and views.



    One form of “informedness” of the linear strand is made possible by adding individual events (buildings or squares). Above and beyond the function of connecting places, here a medium of information is created: this informed equipping generates “possibilities” for those who can “read” (i.e. use) them, that is a form of “behaviour”.

    The degree of “informedness” is increased through the proportion of individual events in the overall accumulation that are publicly usable and devoted to freely accessible exchange. 

    In the cross section the transition from street space to the closed mass of the buildings  becomes the main criterion for usability. A direct collision between open and closed space brings with it the greatest difficulties  as regards appropriating public space positively rather than hastily making one’s way through it

    Alongside those buildings that are, from the start, dedicated to the public realm, the structural shaping of the buildings and their possibilities in terms of adaptation and change are decisive for the potential of a street.

    In addition to the publicly accessible content of buildings the announcement of this content becomes an additional factor as regards differentiating surfaces and legibility. A further factor in the accumulation arises on the street itself in the form of the supply of seating, shade and casual shopping facilities.



     A further form of “informedness” develops where two streets intersect: the second dimension emerges, there is a choice of goals. It is in the addition of this two dimensionality that the “grid” develops: a form of dividing up space as a meaningful approach to providing similar conditions for similar needs such as route connections or plot sizes.

    In the “grid” or mesh the border value of the orthogonality of the threads is the rule rather than the special case. Other possibilities represent special cases that arise through the presence of existing buildings or through the topography. Although the fields are identical the grid allows them to be filled in different ways.  

    The newly emergent differentiation of traffic becomes relevant for the mesh of streets in the modern city as far as the quality and dimension of the streets is concerned. The different  speeds and requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation and motorised private traffic lead to segmentation of the traffic strands.   

    With the advent of the car and, with it, mobility of a previously unknown kind for (almost) all , modernism in its approach to urban planning abandoned a consensus for laying out new towns or parts of towns that had been valid until then.    

    Suddenly the structural elements could be cleanly separated, kept at a distance, clean in the sense of hygiene and health, tidiness also as a world view.

    In the course of this the grid as a basic principle was not abandoned, but suddenly a weakly defined intermediate space  of  considerable size from a pedestrian’s perspective was placed between the street and the building. The context and the interaction were lost, the intermediate space prevents the two structural elements from communicating with each other.

    However, in abandoning the principles of pure functionalism the principle that “the art of architecture” and “urban planning” provide context and interplay  is also abandoned.

    But even if today there is apparently no idea about how architecture and urban planning could be brought back together into a context, the “inhospitable nature of our cities”  is nevertheless not the same as when Alexander Mitscherlich’s book appeared because once again interest is again being focussed on the centres of cities and on the periphery. 



    A third dimension of use becomes possible by overlaying grid structures on several  planes, and their vertical connection. The advantages of short route connections of surfaces as found in buildings can be adopted in the one- and two-dimensional structural elements: “increase of density”, multiplication of the existing building ground as usually found in buildings, can  be employed for the city as a whole.



    This three-dimensional overlay can emancipate itself (as a consistent utopia) and can lead to the dissolution of the existing structure, the constraints of the building site and the restrictions of the topography.



    Complexity instead of banality and therefore street space of real quality can develop through the openness of use and openness of the structure of the buildings erected in a direct relation to the street.

    The street is the “spatial body in the building mass” (Rowe and Koetter, Collage City), the extent of the spatial body is the important definition .

    The frequency of a street is dependent on the quality of the surface, i.e. the degree of informedness, along its length.

    Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten.


    According to a statement by the artist Absalon, who has made an extensive examination of the possibilities of shaping space, “function” is of significance only during a short period at the beginning of a building’s life. Afterwards, the building is used in the way that its particular characteristics allow.


    Willem of Ockham was a 14th century scholastic, Ockham’s Razor is derived from his ideas. This instrument of scientific theory states that the entities or basic assumptions for a particular content should not be multiplied unnecessarily. This is a principle of economy, but in contrast to the “reductionist approach” of Mies van der Rohe it allows positive or unusual approaches if they can be shown to make sense.


    The double spiral staircase in the Burg in Graz offers an impressive illustration of this theoretical approach. A stair is necessary as a connection between two levels and it cannot be further reduced without a loss of context. A further staircase, on the other hand, would be unnecessary from the viewpoint of less is more.


    The multiplied basic assumption of a second stair in the sense presented here is no longer one staircase or two, it is a substantially altered content, the simple function “stairs“ becomes the complex formation “space”. Consequently, the expanded assumption is admissible and leads to a new, previously unknown result.

    Bettina Götz, ARTEC Architekten
    Lectuer held at the Symposion „Was bleibt von der Grazer Schule?“, TU Graz, 2010

    In: Was bleibt von der Grazer Schule? Jovis Verlag, Berlin, 2012


    This title refers to a text by Helmut Richter in the journal UM BAU on the occasion of the publication of the bathroom he designed for S. Sares.

    In it he tells of the “structure of the aesthetic,” which he finds in an “inventive ordering, testing and re-ordering of elements that are not characterized by belonging to certain classes or categories.” Richter continues, “We try to at least do as little wrong as possible; when something is unsightly, it is in fact wrong.” 1


    Helmut Richter’s apartment building on Vienna’s noisy Brunner Straße is in many respects a pioneering achievement in social housing – and not only for Vienna.


    Typology: an open exterior-corridor system that is shielded along the street by the plastically formed glazed facade. This system provides a daylit, semi-public, quasi-extension of street space as path to the apartment door and therefore allows a communication space deserving of the name to come into being.


    Floor plan typology: a continuation of the so-called Vienna Block, an apartment building type possessing a central light well. Because the exterior corridors are positioned at a distance to the apartments, ensuring that sufficient daylight is available for the main rooms of the apartments to be oriented to it.


    Technology: the frameless, 160-meter-long glazed facade is the first of its kind in Vienna. The construction method is a specifically modulated, reinforced steel frame. The very slender, space-saving exterior walls were clad in prefabricated, story-high wood elements with fiber-cement board sheathing on the outer face. The development of this prototype cut costs significantly.


    Richter’s buildings are always prototypical, always testing the limits of what is practicable and possible, which is what makes his work so compelling. Peter Cook calls it “hand-tailored tech.”2


    While there is something almost compulsively precise about how Helmut Richter conducts himself – there is no situation, no material, no detail that hasn’t been fastidiously specified, nothing is left to chance – his former office partner Heidulf Gerngross is at the other end of the spectrum: here, chaos reigns. He focusses his attention on concepts, and his concepts are patient. His architectural conception is open; everything is in a state of flux.


    The saying “to make a virtue of a necessity” could very well have been coined by Gerngross. He works in different areas of architecture, in a great variety of constellations, and he does not draw up plans. So he was obliged to invent the “plan of the spoken word,” with plenty of leeway for the inventions of his amigos.


    And yet: the Gerngross framework remains unmistakable – generous, unexpected, and thereby, stimulatingly fresh and unspent, yet pragmatic and, consequently, an unparalleled housing concept, because it’s the others – the users, clients, etc. – who decide what is possible. He only determines the leeway, for he took leave of the detail years ago.


    “City planning is interior architecture,” is the way Gerngross puts it. His specific way of sampling with scales, and, of course, also with content, makes him unpredictable, but to an even greater degree, an ingenious architectural inventor.


    The alliance between these two very special characters, which took the form of an architecture firm, was always a heady mix, so it’s no surprise that they went their separate ways. And yet, it’s impossible to think of one without thinking of the other.



    Helmut Richter: “Bad S. Sares,” in: UM BAU 8 (December 1984), 77–78.


    Peter Cook: Preface, in: Helmut Richter – Bauten und Projekte / Buildings and Projects, Basel – Boston – Berlin 2000, 6–7.





    A Commentary by Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl (ARTEC Architekten)
    In:  „Werkgruppe Graz. Architecture at the Turn of Late Modernism”, ed. by Eva Guttmann, Gabriele Kaiser, HDA Graz, Park Books, Zurich, 2013


    As soon as we converse about Graz (where we studied and thus know very well) and the buildings there (which have “accompanied” us ever since), the discussion turns very quickly to the Gothic double spiral staircase in the Graz Castle. But the Terrace House Estate[1] of the Werkgruppe Graz, which is gigantically large in comparison, is also sure to come up in each of these conversations. That is no wonder – both are not simply “buildings,” but rather “structures” whose design principles feature a universality that is applicable far beyond the individual edifice and continue to be essential references for our own work. Observed as such, these buildings are naturally not directly comparable; what is interesting about both, however, is the stringency and rigidity of their basic conception. So it is no wonder that the architects of the Werkgruppe Graz also intensively dealt with the analysis of this staircase prior to their work.


    The Terrace House Estate was planned and erected over quite a long period of time: between 1966 and 1978. When one considers the situation in Graz during those years, it becomes apparent that the crucial conditions for a further, specific architectural development (the “Graz School”[2]) also arose in this region precisely in the 1960s. A number of extraordinary architectural personalities of different generations worked here on the very same program: urbanity.

    This exceptional interest in all types of megastructures is clearly “the” international theme of this era (e.g., Archigram, superstudio…). Here, however, it was surely a natural counter reaction to the basically provincial situation in Graz. In Vienna, the Austrian metropolis to which – seen from Graz – a “critical distance” always existed, one was very gladly and thoroughly concerned at this time with the small(est) form, impressively demonstrated, for example, by Hermann Czech’s Kleines Café (first construction phase in 1970). There was also a rather artistic preoccupation with the large scale, where the projects were not worked through in detail (see, among others, Hans Hollein’s Flugzeugträger in der Landschaft, 1964, photo collage).


    Two positions particularly strike out in the context of the Terrace House Estate’s time of origin: the Überbauung Ragnitz, 1965–69, by Günther Domenig and Eilfried Huth, and the profound, theoretical examination of “Structuralism”[3] by Bernhard Hafner, still a student at that time.

    This generation-spanning work, involving the intellectual student body from the drawing studios of the Graz Technical University and including the respective spontaneous discussions at inns, long was the trademark of the Graz architecture scene. Hafner was interested in “urban architecture,” in the development of an everyday city structure. “It is not about beauty, also not primarily about function, but rather about the separation of the long-term from the short-term. The structure is long-living; it provides the hardware for the expansion, which can be replaced over time. The structuralist never has an end state in mind; every end is the beginning of something new. According to Hafner, that is urban architecture – pluralistic and undetermined. The complexity arises in the interplay of structure and expansion.”[4]


    In the 1966/67 exhibition Urban Fiction, held at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna, Domenig and Huth presented their project Neue Wohnform Ragnitz, an architectonically detailed megastructure project worked out with a close relation to constructive practice. In a secondary system that serves to house the supply system and create a basic spatial structure, individually customized living elements as well as access routes can be integrated on several levels. “The project for Ragnitz, however, not only settles for the constructive aspects of an urban megastructure, it intends instead to create space in the room structures for a renewed and more flexible society.”[5] In an interview with Gerhard Steixner and Maria Welzig, Günther Domenig says: “The first group that could also have actually built a superstructure in Austria, which was certainly derived from us, was the Werkgruppe Graz with this Terrace House in St. Peter.”[6] However, the Werkgruppe Graz had already begun in 1962 to programmatically concern themselves with housing construction in the scope of a competition entry for a large-scale complex in Innsbruck-Völs. The competition was lost, and the realization of these universally valid contents first succeeded with the Graz Terrace House.

    In our view, the architecture of the Terrace House Estate is of lasting effect far beyond zeitgeist and regional significance: a typologically developed large-scale and multi-story housing construction. For us, it is the opposite of the horizontally laid out Gartenstadt Puchenau by Roland Rainer, the icon of Austrian housing construction per se. Today, through the way nature has reshaped them, both are more a part of a landscape than of a building.

    The generous opening and the respective common areas, always publicly accessible up to the top floors, have decisively influenced our stance towards housing construction. It was there where we learned that housing construction first becomes usable and urban through the combination of an – also spatially – robust structure and a “corresponding void” as leeway for sustainable, unforeseeable changing and further building.


    A large number of different apartment typologies are accessible through completely open stairwells (with an elevator), which are connected on the fourth floor by a five-meter-high, spacious “communication level” and feature general leisure areas on the top floor. What is exemplarily realized here is not a “gated community,” but rather the threshold-free usability of public access areas as social meeting spaces of a city structure.

    Having gone out of style, so to say, after completion (the time for large-scale structures was over), it took some time until generally undivided appreciation of the Terrace House Estate once again prevailed.

    It is also remarkable that this housing conglomerate with 522 apartments resulted from a direct commission – unthinkable today due to the completely altered political attitude and commissioning structures! Not only does the current state of architectural competition hinder a structural urban development, but also the momentarily prevalent (mis)belief that larger heterogeneity and, therefore, “city” can be generated solely through a division into smaller units under complete utilization of the possible maximum density.


    The major buildings of the Werkgruppe emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in the spirit of a regionally-oriented approach committed to the immediate structure. Werner Hollomey co-founded the Forum Stadtpark in 1960 and planned and carried out the ingeniously simple building (constructed at the lowest cost) for the association – a spatial concept in which exhibitions and events took place at the highest international level over many decades, where culture and life came together in a self-evident manner, until internal quarrels and peculiar additions put an end to it.

    In the years between 1970 and 1990, Graz took up a type of vanguard role in Austrian architectural development. In contrast to the solitary figures of Josef Lackner and Othmar Barth in Tyrol, a heterogeneous scene with reciprocal influencing and rejection was at work here. At the beginning of the 1970s, the situation in Graz was still distinctly characterized by Ferdinand Schuster, who had just passed away back then. His late works, influenced by Mies van der Rohe, are spatially and structurally elaborated in an extraordinarily graceful way. With almost archetypically formed technique for the power plant construction for STEWEAG in Graz he had already anticipated the plasticity of the succeeding generation.


    Back to the Gothic double spiral staircase, the outwardly inconspicuous stairwell addition in the Graz Castle, a small space, a “functional structure” that shows, like a charter carved in stone, the added value architecture can be capable of achieving if it is understood not as a “service provision,” but as a “cultural achievement.” A 1973 visit to the Walfersam school in Kapfenberg, which had just been completed, left a lasting impression. A new, dynamic concept of space spirally connects the levels into an open space in a simple way that still inspires today. Here the staircase concept, duplicated into endless space, classrooms attached to its exterior, is extended by a middle section occupied by functions, pulling the double staircase quasi apart.


    The basic character of prominent Werkgruppe Graz buildings is monolithic – the material for it is (exposed) concrete. North African mud brick constructions are likewise the reference and the inspiration, as is the structural composition of Le Corbusier’s habitations – at any rate for Hollomey and his teaching at the Technical University. This approach could no longer be maintained after the Oil Crisis of 1973. Multi-layered building envelopes and structural differentiations with material utilization according to need gained acceptance. The completely different design attitude of the Ragnitz structure compared to the materialization in the Terrace House Estate is shown by a small building by Domenig and Huth in the immediate vicinity of the Estate: a single-story apprentices’ center on Hans-Brandstetter-Gasse. Since we were geographically situated exactly between both of these contrary buildings during our studies, the spectrum of this period’s architecture was very present for us. The notion of space, the relation to the surroundings and the construction of the envelope point a way of “plastic materiality” that was consequently developed further, particularly by Domenig.

    The Graz Terrace House Estate also needs not shy away from comparison with the international icons of this time (e.g., Robin Hood Garden, 1972, by Allison and Peter Smithson or Habitat 67, 1969, by Moshe Safdie). As constructed reality, it is a prime example, meanwhile 35 years old, of a successful, future-proof experiment of inestimable value for any housing construction research. Experiments are a crucial building block for any further development of architecture. In Austria we are sadly missing them today.


    [1] The project was originally presented by the Werkgruppe as the “Terrace Estate.” Both terms are established.

    [2] A term coined by Friedrich Achleitner (cf. id., “Aufforderung zum Vertrauen, Architektur seit 1945,” Otto Breicha & Gerhard Fritsch [eds.], Aufforderung zum Mißtrauen. Literatur, Bildende Kunst, Musik in Österreich seit 1945 [Salzburg: Residenz 1967]), which he then questioned again in his text “Gibt es eine ‘Grazer Schule’?” (1993) (see id., Region, ein Konstrukt? Regionalismus, eine Pleite? [Basel: Birkhäuser 1997]). For the architects of the Werkgruppe Graz, this term is associated with the show and catalogue of student works already put together by Prof. Karl Raimund Lorenz in 1951, entitled “Architekturschule Graz – Architecture School Graz,” which was shown at M.I.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    [3] Cf. Bernhard Hafner, Architektur und sozialer Raum. Aufsätze und Gespräche über Architektur und die Stadt (Vienna: Löcker 2002).

    [4] Martin Grabner, “Bernhard Hafner: Vom Himmel zur Erde und zurück,” 5 May 2010. Available:

    Furthermore, cf. Hafner, “Strukturale Architektur,” Architektur und sozialer Raum, l.c., pp. 299–344: “The form of the city is composite (collective). The architecture of the city is structural. It is time-dependent; it takes place in the long-term. It is pluralistic: Many take part in its construction at the same time and time-delayed. It is contextual: Each architecture, each air architecture, is a stimulus for others, makes a gesture that can assimilated or discarded, which the architect deals with. It is spatially diverse and multifaceted in the usage of the space […].”

    [6] Maria Welzig and Gerhard Steixner, Die Architektur und ich: eine Bilanz der österreichischen Architektur seit 1945 vermittelt durch ihre Protagonisten (Vienna: Böhlau 2003)


    Bettina Götz, ARTEC Architekten.
    Vienna, 2013


    If we speak about “housing”, in particular about “housing” at an urban density, then we always speak  also about “inhabiting” the city, outside of our own four walls.

    The most impressive and eerily beautiful example of the lack of these additional spaces is probably Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong – which was demolished in  1993: an organism that grew up over decades, at the end of its life stuffed full with functions, without leeway, without any public quality as a place to spend time – gated community – anarchy – demolition.



    “Urban housing” therefore means finding and defining strategies, typologies and the requirements for a new kind of high-density urban structure that is worth living in. In our opinion such strategies must be conceived on the basis of a neutral basic model that is as abstract as possible: for example, a grid structure that is not just two-dimensional but very much spatial: e.g. worked out as a mesh or lattice.

    Successful urban models, no matter whether they are European cities such as Barcelona or Vienna, American ones like New York or Asian like Tokyo, can be traced back to structures of this kind.


    2 3 4 5

    In spatial terms the permitted building heights are allocated differently and this allocation is based on the chosen expansion of the urban body. From these rules, which are more or less arbitrary or can be determined by the topography, the entirely specific character of each particular city results.



    For us analysing these useful models, interpreting them anew and abstracting them again is an elementary starting point for researching a new hybrid urban building block.


    The grid alone cannot be the solution. More important is the definition of the empty places within it, the “air“ – that is the leeway necessary in the development, the which allows later additions, insertions and conversions and in this way individualizes the grid and makes it memorable.


    7a 7b 7c

    In the form of housing subsidies and the system used for awarding contracts such as developer competitions and the site advisory committee, Vienna, a growing city that builds several thousand new apartments each year, has a convincing model that can be used to ensure urban residential quality.  

    However, the reality of building in Vienna shows that housing subsidy instruments alone do not suffice to build new, future-oriented urban building blocks. Housing projects in the context of the existing functioning urban body offer a high level of residential quality and make use of existing infrastructures and public spaces.

    But if we look at current urban expansion areas on the urban periphery the problem emerges more clearly; here housing subsidy funds must also finance the infrastructure, i.e. the streets, schools and public (play) spaces.

    This increases pressure to exploit the sites, which results in building densities that are impossibly high for a location on the urban periphery and mono-functional housing use. Dead quarters are produced rather than a living piece of the city.  

    Therefore Vienna, like every growing large city, must look for development structures that contain the “air” for future needs referred to above: i.e. building structures that are “incomplete” in the best sense of the term and that allow free areas for a living use of urban space.

    These functions are essential for quality housing in the city, if such facilities are lacking and impossible the city has squandered the advantage offered by a diverse range of extended housing space. Then it is simply better to live in the country.   

    Our project for “Spark City”, Bratislava, is an attempt to formulate a robust urban building block with enough leeway for future expansions: starting from a spatial mesh with its own laws (e.g. no formally shaped corner solutions , sun for all apartments) a complex basic spatial entity is defined, which offers a high level of residential quality in the structure as a whole as well as memorable public spaces that are quality places in which to spend time.



    This makes it possible for the residents to identify positively with the quarter and produces sufficient elasticity for future functions.

    The proportion of empty space is exactly large enough so that, on the one hand, the intended basic structure of the spatial mesh is recognizable, while also offering sufficient potential for individual additions.



    9 10 11

    Our project “The Bremen Town Musicians“ can be employed as a generally usable typology.



    Borrowing from the successful performance of the cockerel, cat, dog and ass in the Grimm Brothers’ story, stacking four housing typologies that are normally used separately provides

    the concept for this stepped building.



    Suburban two-storey typologies along with their specific allocated open spaces are stacked to form a dense urban package.

    At the bottom there is an open space concept with a gallery at the rear and a garden in the front, on top of this a maisonette that faces onto an atrium is placed, then come two-storey row houses with a garden, and at the very top allotment garden-type houses with courtyards between the buildings.



    Single-storey apartments with a double height loggia (“Casablanca typology“) augment the range of types.



    In overlaying the project on the concrete site “Tokiostraße” the wing with the Casablanca  apartments is positioned, elevated, along the street. A simple, graphic element that indicates the apartments in the façade gives the rigid block a physiognomy to public space and terminates the apartment on the street front.    


    16 17

    The structure is accessed from an open hall  in the middle. This space is very generously dimensioned, on the ground floor it offers “air” for future uses, while the access decks on the upper levels are sufficiently wide to function as an “expanded living room”.



    A swimming pool on the roof of the Casablanca wing offers additional potential for leisure time and is a place to relax.



    If the city lives, if the functions and processes can be flexibly and intelligently organised, then it is also aesthetic, economical and fit for the future.

    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Details, architecture seen in section. Venice 2014


    Architecture is three-dimensional thought accompanied with craftsmanship. The craft of architecture is revealed in the detail.


    The detail can be described as the transition from one surface condition to another. In the fine arts, painting is, for example, concerned with the surface, and the drawing with the detail – or, to be more precise, with the fault-lines between the surfaces. The articulation of the details defines the structure of the surface of a form.


    A specific way of articulating the details is a prerequisite to the distinguishability of designer and building in a homogenized world.


    The arbitrary applicability of the most diverse of formal conceptions, which are available everywhere and to everyone today through the possibilities of information processing, makes a new Classicism conceivable. Next to devising space, the detail, in combination with the structure, continues to be a means to authentic architecture.

    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Vienna, 2015


    Remarks on the threatened demolition of an architectural landmark


    The full impact of architecture can only be experienced in a real building. Josef Lackner’s indoor swimming pool for Paul Flora is spatially unique and a kind of spatial miracle, a  construction with an exceptional impact, which, in a comparable form, cannot be found elsewhere: it offers expansiveness and at the same time protection through the undulating form and the over-dimensioned circular openings in the ceiling.  The space cannot be fully grasped because from the front you cannot see into rear area of the pool, which can only be reached by swimming through the water. An additional aspect of the Flora swimming pool is that Lackner was able to bring these qualities to the fore in an extremely small building. Its continued existence would not occupy much space and the maintenance costs are low. 


    The indoor swimming pool is a “simple” building , the only structure we can think of which comparably combines a minimized expenditure of means with a maximum spatial impact is the double spiral staircase in the Burg in Graz.


    The Wüstenrot Foundation in Germany has shown how important spatial creations of modernism can be preserved, restored and made accessible to the public. For the Austrian state a collection of contemporary iconic spaces would be highly suitable as an architectural legacy for the future.    



    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Vienna, 22 April 2013


    In recent months housing in Austria has developed into a “political” theme at nationwide level, directly and vehemently, but without any real examination in terms of content. However, the topicality of this theme is evident, particularly if one looks at the development of apartment prices in Vienna in recent years.


    Housing forms the basis of the built environment. to a considerable extent it shapes the cultural success or failure of a population – the general well-being and the way people treat each other. The demands made on usable housing change with technological developments and social changes. For instance: new requirements as regards the thermal envelope or increasing divorce rates which result in a greater number of single households and in patchwork families. In this regard there is a lack of accompanying building and theory research, while successful individual examples (on account of their size alone) have little impact.

    About forty years ago the Austrian state afforded itself the instrument of housing research, with model competitions held throughout the country (“Wohnen Morgen”), accompanied by research work on exemplary complexes. This innovation was dropped and never replaced, the consequence being that, in terms of content, housing is de facto no longer discussed.  

    Parallel architects such as Roland Rainer with Puchenau or the Grazer Werkgruppe with the stepped housing development produced examples in the form of large complexes that made housing with a small floor area but with maximum generosity possible. These buildings, which are exceptionally popular with their residents, were commissioned directly without a competition, as the decision makers were in a position to act in a responsible and conscientious way. A procedure that today is inconceivable.


    As a consequence of limited resources Vienna is currently making euphemistic use of the term “smart housing“. This means buildings with reduced, “compact“ floor plans, but this reduction is not accompanied by a new quality. This therefore means that the cheaper (unheated) area of an apartment is reduced in size, while the expensive part of the apartment with the building services has to remain the same size.

    The result of this is not a reduction of the square metre price in housing, but an increase. The small apartments become comparatively expensive. This is roughly the opposite of what was aimed at, an improvement for those with lower incomes. If this product, now expensive, is really to become cheaper, this can be achieved only through a drastic reduction of the quality. 


    We suggest taking a different path. The cost-intensive, thermal part of the apartment can, albeit grudgingly, be reduced in size, if this leads to a reasonable floor plan. In addition, generously sized. economical outdoor areas are created for the apartments. The increase in the price per square metre of the apartments by reducing the non-serviced areas in the apartment is not achieved by reducing the quality, as above but by means of additional areas that are cheap because they are “cold”, which lowers the price per square metre, the greater the proportion of such areas.

    Naturally, this calculation is valid only from the viewpoint of the economy as a whole, but not if a single apartment is looked at. But what ultimately is the real concern? If only individual interests are considered, this aim has no chance.

    In the sense of a truly sustainable approach, in the kind of housing described above it would even be possible for the residents, who are provided with limited heated living space but with bigger loggias and terraces and with large front areas in the circulation zone, to add heated areas themselves. These buffer rooms, which have the same function as verandas in earlier times, increase the usable floor area of the apartment and at the same time improve the thermal envelope, without making demands on public funds.

    Together with others we have developed this theme into a building system that aims at providing an answer that is, at least, a possibility. Previous attempts to implement it have failed. Giving up is out of the question. An ein Aufgeben ist nicht gedacht.

    Bettina Götz, ARTEC Architekten
    Essay in the context of the event “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities”, MAK, Vienna, 2015


    Our intensive involvement with housing over a period of decades has, almost inevitably, led us to examine the “city”.


    Clearly, housing is the content and the building mass of the urban body, but equally clearly housing alone does not generate a city. “City is large-scale organisation for an (infinitely) long period, it organises everything that happens outside one’s own four walls, that is public and that can be changed, Housing can be calculated: basic human needs – cooking, eating, washing, sleeping – have never changed and it does not seem that they ever will. Therefore, housing structures can be abstractly and typologically developed out of the demands and the level of technical development of the time in which they are built. The application of such structures can be adapted individually, for instance to suit a specific topography.    


    As regards the factor “public”“ things are very different. This is the component of the city which has the greatest impact but is the hardest to grasp and which forms particular architectural and spatial characters, shaped by mentalities, which are in turn determined by the daily needs of  the city’s inhabitants. In this way emotional spaces develop that shape the appearance of our cities and it is these emotional spaces that we remember and that define our image of a city: for instance: Paris with the wide boulevards, London with the front gardens, Barcelona with the unique chamfered corners (Eixample) etc.   


    Cities shrink or grow according to demographic developments and the political situations in the world. The European city, a structure that grew over centuries, can handle these processes and can preserve its identity, irrespective of growth or shrinkage.


    Architecture, and with it the city, develops further in response to new challenges. The truly new challenge of the 21st century is the city for a population which, clearly, will live to be older than earlier generations. This is not simply a question of providing complete freedom from barriers but more of a public quality “without thresholds” of the highest architectural quality as a place to stay.


    This “elasticity of the urban body” is what distinguishes the city from buildings. A single building as a freestanding element can be defined through its function by the client and can be planned and brought to completion by the architect. But the building as part of the urban structure can never be “finished.” The urban structure must always contain enough “air” for the unpredictable, while at the same time creating the kind of public quality that creates identity. And there should be room for this in newly built cities or districts, too. This “space” cannot be grasped in terms of function or square metres, it seems to us sufficient to create reserves for it under the term “incomplete”. Reserves that can be used not only to later expand the floor area, but also to create spatial qualities that emotionalise.


    Formal criteria or defining individual buildings in connection with urban planning are obsolete; the (partly implemented) master plans for (European) urban expansion areas from recent decades demonstrate this inadequacy. Public space as space for participation, as an extension to the living room, recreation space, tourist attraction or whatever, simply as the product and added value of a meaningful urban structure, as an additional, non-commercial offer to its users is what first makes the city a good place to live.

    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Vienna,  April 2015
    Published on:


    In the 1970s Welzenbacher was little known in Graz. This situation changed dramatically with the comprehensive survey of Austrian architecture undertaken by Friedrich Achleitner, which has corrected the focus in an almost unimaginable way. The freely flowing world of forms in the Heyrovsky House left a lasting impression. Even when we were not yet students Corbusier’s Ronchamp was an icon and to learn that Welzenbacher had anticipated these freedoms in design twenty years earlier was astonishing (with Scharoun he is one of the few pioneers in this area).


    Looking from the train in Innsbruck the hermetic “Sudhaus” of the Adambräu brewery with its large glass facade is always striking and leads one to speculate about what it might house.  In the case of the strange conical towers of the Tonhalle in Feldkirch, which are no longer in existence, one remained somewhat puzzled. Welzenbacher built a great deal and drew even more. The linked double blocks in the project for the development of the banks of the Schelde in Antwerp from 1933 surfaced again after the war in the form of a proposal for developing the Donaukanal in Vienna. If it had been built, this filigree and forward-looking structures could have become a model with a far-reaching impact. The project for a “Kleinsthaus“ (tiniest house) in Absam near Innsbruck, which was never implemented, represents “architecture” in a nutshell.


    As an architect on a trip you rarely experience the sudden appearance of a building that you have long known from publications with all its tranquil presence – as regards form, surroundings and function. This, precisely, is what happened while driving through the Salzkammergut region together with Helmut Richter after a prizegiving ceremony, when, having turned off the main road, the Plischke House on Lake Attersee appeared unexpectedly, like a deer seen in a clearing. Or also approaching Innsbruck by plane, when through the window you see a key building by Lackner that you thought had been destroyed – the Ursuline School, in its full splendour.


    This is how we encountered the house that Lois Welzenbacher designed for Mimi Settari. Up to that point we had completely underestimated it and thought that in photos (as opposed to the plans) it looked “bloated” or “overblown ”. On a slope above the Etschtal valley near Barbian, while walking from three strange churches (three simple churches placed close together become a striking figure, just as doubling the spiral staircase in the castle in Graz creates a splendid space) to the fine mountain hotel by Lanzinger, the “deer in the clearing“ suddenly appeared again when, unexpectedly, the Settari House stood in front of us: a three-dimensionally formed sculpture, peeled out of the light, which has grown out of the topography. Together with its surroundings the house is a created form with an entirely natural, timeless elegance that can be grasped only when seen in reality.


    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    House of ORIS, Zagreb, 2016


    As fundamental conception, the notion of space as a particular and distinctive quality is an aspiration that, especially since the baroque era, has enriched architecture.


    In the present situation in which strict economic limits are imposed on architecture, the integration of spatial reserves that go beyond the specified program can make it possible to codify this approach. At the same time, on account of these additional spatial reserves, the buildings will be able to react to unknown future requirements.


    This spatial conception, coupled with the conviction that buildings should offer the public more than just private functions, is developed anew in response to the respective context.


    Building structures, in the sense of abstractly developed concepts, constitute the grammar of the work; the physical context determines its application and transformation. Ideas for concepts can come from any and everywhere.

    Bettina Götz, ARTEC Architekten
    Lecture held at the Festwochen Gmunden, 2016


    “Having reasons,” says Franz Schuh, “is the pride of philosophy.”


    Architecture, in contrast, has ever fewer reasons – both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense that means, considering that potential building sites will soon be short in supply, that enough has already been built and that in future it will, by and large, suffice to make adaptations to the existing building stock.


    And architecture lacks good reasons, the motivations, the justifications, why a building is as it is.


    But architecture needs content. One could now say that that’s obvious, of course in the case of architecture, the content is always also the brief, in other words, it specifies surface areas and functions, which, as a consequence, allows for the quantification of size, and, in turn, the costs of the building as expressed in cubic meters.


    Otherwise a building would only be an expression of the functional diagram and our built environment would be extremely dull.


    Josef Lackner’s explanation of why a building has significance over and beyond its function: “Ideas should determine our deeds. Architecture expresses ideas – and even though these are often lacking, one builds anyway. In this case, the idea not to build would be the best one.”1


    We architects, in other words, also need a theory, a basic concept, or put differently, content in the sense of a program, of a vision, of renewal of existing rules.


    Only when such a background exists can something come into being that we treasure and love – namely the emotionalizing quality of space. That is why we travel to foreign lands and cities and have a penchant for visiting what has been built there – be it churches, museums, apartment buildings, squares, or what have you.


    But the uniqueness and noteworthiness of spatial manifestations always also has to do with desires and demands – in other words, with content – but also, of course, with the mentalities of the architects and the users. 


    Because built architecture is always tied to a public or private need, working with architecture’s content is essential. Particularly when the commissions are public, the guest to define the content over and beyond the simple schedule of functions, though demanding, is crucial.


    Exceptional architecture only comes about when the architect and the client can communicate on equal footing. But to accomplish that, the client also must have knowledge of the field – in particular, when he or she represents the public sphere. Not only in a whodunit does the storyline play a decisive role, but also in the case of architecture, a radical program is already half the battle.


    And policymakers must (also) take part.


    Because, according to Hermann Czech, “Architecture cannot place itself outside the system; realizations require it to have a powerful segment of society on its side.”2


    Building sites come into being today in a realm situated between politics and regional planning. But city planning is lost to us architects. Regional planners without a – content-oriented – plan, not to mention a theory, administer political needs and investors’ interests. Expedited urban growth at the global scale occurs without a concept – or with concepts from yesteryear.


    And that at a time when the planned city expansion areas are to become the cathedrals of the twenty-first century. We need new city centers of the highest spatial quality where we will enjoy spending time and which we will go out of our way to visit – like, for example, Salzburg’s historic center.


    Let’s take New York as an example: a simple grid with clearly defined public space, superimposed on
    site-specific conditions – for example, Broadway and the minimal urban design specification of a possible development of the parcels led to unexpectedly independent results: the only modern urban configuration that has thus far been brought about. Hence, simple principles and simple rules can yield quite complex and useful results.


    That leads us to believe that all complex and highly appreciated buildings were brought about by way of simple basic structures and principles – and not by way of form-giving. City planning is, in other words, not a matter of defining building massing, but rather consists of rules, like a game of chess, that are open to the future and incomplete. To reconcile the two constituent components of the city – the memorable quality of the public realm and housing – we must begin to look at questions about density and urbanity from a different angle.


    By the way, it is not only city planning that has been lost to architects, but also, at the other end of the spectrum, furniture design – the mobili – in other words, establishing the large scale on the one hand, and movement at a small scale, on the other. What remains is the formulated and solitary individual object. Not a cruel twist of fate, because in the history of architecture the exemplary individual object is of immense significance.



    “11 Zufällige Schlagworte,” in: Architekturforum Tirol (ed.): Josef Lackner, Anton Pustet Publishing, Salzburg, n.d. (2003), 234.


    Interview with Hermann Czech conducted by Matthias Dusini, in: Falter 16/2004, 14.

    Bettina Götz, ARTEC Architekten
    In: Wohnen. Migration als Impuls für die kooperative Stadt, Leibniz Univerität Hannover, Jovis, Berlin 2017


    The need for housing has increased and the cause lies above all in the insufficient amount of building activity of recent years. In times in which there is a housing shortage and appreciable economic pressure on the size of the units and their standard, openness – as a quality – takes on new significance.


    More and more, public space is being incorporated in daily life, and becoming in this way an extension of the living room. Therefore, we cannot limit ourselves to high-performance housing typologies, but must, above all, also address the accompanying architectural particularities of public space, in other words, with spatial qualities that evoke emotions and thereby make a city specific and memorable. To that end we need game rules that set up a balanced ratio between the amount of public space and the intended density and secure this stipulation as a fixed component of urbanity – the higher the density, the more public space.


    After all, a city is organized publicness.


    The individual levels of use from public to private are to be linked by means of thresholds. These thresholds can be shifted, and can be re-negotiated and re-defined time and again. For especially at present – a time when the boundaries between living and working are becoming increasingly blurred – the question again arises as to how to link public and private realms.


    The tendency is toward ever-smaller units, and the reasons for this are not only economic in nature. That would, by the way, be nonsensical, as small apartments are in reality more expensive than the larger ones, because the ratio of net floor area requiring shafts – kitchens and bathrooms – is higher.


    The only thing that can be reduced in the apartments is the air, in other words, that very part that makes an apartment versatile in use and relatively cost-efficient to build, comparable to the Gründerzeit-era apartments, which, though they are sometime a bit too large or too small, still always manage to function somehow. This somehow is charming on a number of levels, because it facilitates and allows for the unanticipated. This knowledge should be transformed into a new quality for an appropriable public space. The framework for a public living space is not a large or vast square, but, on the contrary, would have to consist of niches, protrusions, or bay windows, in other words, of structuring elements that, though they are known quantities, would require reinterpretation.  


    Conversely, the minimized apartment works well when the location of every element is pre-determined. Many of the conveniences or needs of everyday life are unfeasible in these highly defined efficiency units, or carrying out different activities at the same time barely manageable.


    But cities grow, and sensible growth can only be achieved through densi­fication. Because the densification of existing structure is only possible to a certain degree, the pressure to limit the size of apartments grows.

    Efficiency units only 30 to 40 square meters in size – but, as a consolation, in top locations – are a trend that can be observed in major cities around the globe. But that isn’t surprising, because in desirable locations, typically in the heart of the city, public space that has simply grown and transformed time and again and been optimized over a long period of time functions well and thereby serves the function of an expanded living room.


    That’s what we should orient ourselves to, because the higher the density and the smaller the unit, the more attractive, efficient, and versatile public spaces must be. By this we mean not only green spaces, but all public spaces, from the train station to the library. Our cities, and that includes all public buildings, must become more hybrid.


    Though in most cities housing is clearly the content, housing alone does not produce urbanity. Once the ground floor is privatized, there’s no going back, and that public space is lost forever. The city as large-scale system organizes the complex processes outside one’s own four walls. In comparison, living is more simply structured, because our basic needs – cooking, eating, washing, sleeping – do not change at all, or only very little.


    But public space is the city’s essential aspect, and it gives rise to special spatial characters that are determined by the day-to-day life and mentalities of the city’s residents. In this way, emotional spaces that shape the image of our cities come into existence. It is these atmospheres that stay in our memories and define cities, for example, Paris and its boulevards or London and its front gardens.


    Cities shrink or grow depending on the demographic development and the political context. As a structure that has grown over the course of centuries, the European city absorbs these processes and, despite the growth or atrophy, largely maintains its identity.

    It is this elasticity of the urban figure that distinguishes the city from buildings. A single building can be defined in its function by the client, but in terms of the urban structure, the building can never be finished.

    The urban structure must always possess enough leeway for the unanticipated, yet at the same time, create a publicness that fosters identity. There has to be room for this in new districts. This space is not functional and not quantifiable, which is why we call it unfinished spatial reserves.

    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    Text in the book „Werner Sewing. No more learning from Las Vegas – Stadt, Wohnen oder Themenpark?”, published by Florian Dreher and Christine Hannemann, Spector Books, Leipzig, 2016


    Werner, whom I met in October 2006,  was one of the first Berliners I got to know when I started working at the University of the Arts in Berlin.

    We found each other interesting. Our attention was drawn to Werner who had studied sociology and was an architecture theorist back in 2003 at the 11th Vienna Architecture Congress in the Architekturzentrum Wien on account of his extremely eloquent and entertaining contribution “future after the avant-garde”, while for him Vienna with its social housing that had decisively influenced urban development since its inception was an important theme.  

    Later at a lecture in the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Architektur he made no secret oft he fact that he found the combination of Coop Himmelblau and the European Central Bank “completely crazy”. In his view the interests oft he „young wild ones“ and old banks could only be diametrically opposed: “fun” and “security”, he said, are contradictory. His commentary  on what, in our opinion, is a successful result would greatly interest us…   

    His curiosity about all human and social relationships and his interest in architecture led almost inevitably to an increased attention to all developments in the area of housing construction .


    We have talked a great deal about English housing from the 1950s to the 1980s. During this period in London a number of exemplary housing districts were created, which on the one hand increase the quality of the individual apartment through the development of complex mostly multi-storey housing typologies and which added together  also deliver a new communicative highly urban quality in the circulation zones.

    Structuralism, Brutalism and Team Ten were central themes.  Robin Hood Gardens by Peter and Allison Smithson for example, the Golden Lane Estate by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, or the projects by Ernö Goldfinger (e.g. the Trellick Tower) show large-scale housing of a completely new dimension.


    Combining multi-storey housing typologies with unexpected architectural and spatial qualities and the open spaces allocated to aparatmetns allow a complexity in the housing structure combined with an efficiently minimised but generous circulation structure. 

    The concrete utopias oft he 1960s of a new stacked urbanity with vertical streets generate a completely new communal idea of „public“.

    A complexity  which today due to the restrictions on the existing building regulations in Germany and Austria is hardly possible today. Precisely now,here newly built, affordable living space represents a central theme and room for architectural experiments and developments are urgently needed, in order to find architecturally valuable, forward looking, robust solutions for the housing question, examining English housing from this time is a valuable resource that has not yet been sufficiently processed. Two-storey or multi-storey housing typologies are today due to the excessive importance given to criteria of barrier freedom are hardly possible at all, although the restriction to single-storey dwelling units   . inevitable restrict  complex combinations and a three dimensional development of the housing buildings. A real impoverishment and simplification oft he urban body is a foreseeable consequence. 

    Werner found the buildings of Denys Lasdun on account of their small-parts and their relationship to the existing urban context particularly interesting  .

    Through our joint interest above all in social housing which continues to definitively define Vienna as a growing city,  our collaboration in the framework of the Architecture Biennale 2008 . “Housing” was one of my three central themes as Commissionier oft he Austrian Pavilion at this Biennale and  I asked Werner to take a look “ from outside” at the Austrian housing situation. We have noted that Vienna and Berlin, despite how different the cities may seem to each other are astonishing compatible in terms of mentality.

    Werner’s favourite quotation ( on the theme of housing) „ „vorne Kuh´damm, hinten Ostsee/ in front the Kürfurstendamm, behind the Baltic (Kurt Tucholsky)  is actually very suitable as a quotation.

    In our opinion housing is the quintessential architectural theme about which every arcihtect must have a substantiated approach, whether he has built in this area or not. Today architecture is divided into specific areas to an excessive extent, where thearchitect must prove their competence almost exclusively with completed buildings in the particular area. A complete misunderstanding of the profession!  A fresh, unspoiled viewpoint often bringst he decisive impulses for a further development.  .

    To support this hypotheiss in the framework oft he Bienna we chose sevent teams of architects from throughout Austria who Werner visited and interviewed as part of an “Austria Tour”. All these teams -    Maria Flöckner und Hermann Schnöll in Salzburg, henke und schreieck Architekten in Vienna, Jabornegg & Pálffy in Vienna, Marte.Marte Architekten in Vorarlberg, Wolfgang Pöschl in Tyrol, Riegler Riewe Architekten in Styria and Gerhard Steixner in Vienna -  have carried out important buildings but not in the area of social housing in Vienna .

    In this way through Werner’s exceptional gifts in the area of language and as presenter a lively, refreshing show of stimulating and very different opinions on this theme was created..

    The international conference „Residential Building As Motivation“  which we organised in the context of Biennale contribution on 03 und 04. October in the Austrian Pavilion in Venice was brilliantly hosted by Werner, But because or so it seems to me, Werner places the spoken word on, at least, the same level as the written word, if indeed not somewhat higher, in the publication accompanying the conference there isno contribution by him about the presentation or the discussion. His  presentation of our „Abstract City“ conference „Urbanes Hausen“, developed in the context of my work teaching at teh University of Arts in Berlin  and organised in collaboration with the Aedes Network Campus and the City of Vienna in May 2010 in Berlin does not exist in written form   .

    But perhaps that is all a really good thing- his  thinking and speaking was always in the future!

    Bettina Götz and Richard Manahl, ARTEC Architekten
    published in Zuschnitt 71, proHolz Austria, Vienna, 2018



    Today more than ever before the nature of building is determined by individually designed forms with standardised function and object-related, on-site production. However, users’ needs for spatially generous buildings that only subtly indicate their particular function require the contemporary and appropriate use of present-day possibilities of production – to  produce high-quality prefabricated spatial structures that can be speedily erected.

    The 19th century apartment buildings erected by speculators still remain our most popular form of urban housing. For their time they were highly standardized and conceived in a functionally open way, with generous room heights and  spacious staircases. Generally limited only by the window wall and the spine wall containing the flues, the  spatial functions on the street side, which are not predetermined, offer a high degree of freedom in a longitudinal direction and are accompanied on the courtyard side by the necessary functional spaces. This was the system according to which – and even taking into account all the problems that are not mentioned here – our cities were lastingly expanded in the 19th century. One of the most important factors in ensuring that this system works is the essential openness of structures in the previous century. In Vienna before 1930 the planning term Zimmer (room) was used for  both residential and commercial spaces, precisely because both the height and shape of the rooms were kept neutral. Today we are again faced with this question about the  expanding city, with the clear realization that this kind of openness has not been allowed in any form of urban expansion in the 20th and, so far, 21st century.


    Regrettably, in large-scale housing and also as regards the theme of prefabrication the twentieth century did not find any lasting solutions. Consequently, the most innovative efforts to standardise building in an intelligent way with the help of a new technology, which were realised, for example, in single family houses like the Case Study Houses and in iconic objects by Fuller or Prouvé, were restricted almost entirely to small or small-scale buildings. Despite the great impact made by Le Corbusier’s five points for a new definition of architectural thinking at the start of the century, they were not conceived for standardized prefabricated, construction methods. Ultimately in both East and West the unassuming prefabricated concrete slab building triumphed, where required also with holes in the wall for windows or doors and a room height of 2.5 metres.

    Although discredited by numerous Plattenbauten (precast concrete slab buildings) from the 1950s and later, which allowed no scope for design or spatial aspirations, stacking prefabricated building elements could nevertheless allow us to find a path to a new usable simplicity: by placing prefabricated timber modules above each other that are equipped spatially and in a loadbearing way with infrastructure so that they can function autonomously. Or by stacking prefabricated decks and open areas that permit fitting-out with simple building elements that make no demands in terms of fire-resistance and consequently allow to use prefabricated wooden elements.


    Because the simple, compact stacking of similar elements almost inevitably leads to monotony not much different to that produced by the Plattenbauten (the term used – Raumzelle or  spatial cell – is itself revealing),  variety and empty areas are part of the brief for the open deck with free in-fill. By using boxes as loadbearing structure and infrastructure, with simple deck elements hung between them to offer additional, functionally neutral spaces, this kind of variety can also be achieved with stacked boxes, in a similar way. The requirements mentioned earlier, such as generous room heights and ease in altering the interior layout, remain the essential basic requirements for later conversion and further use.

    In the main exhibition  at this year’s Biennale one of the few contributions dealing with housing construction or prefabrication is a project by Michael Maltzan in Los Angeles. This project shows the exemplary possibilities and, at the same time, also the limits of stacked boxes: above a free-form, multi-storey topography made of in situ concrete in which communal urban functions that relate to street level are to be found, prefabricated wooden boxes are stacked to form neighbourly little cluster towers and in this way create an urban figure that can be easily noted and identified, with interiors of quality, also in the serially produced, stacked spatial cells.