Austria - Biennale Architettura 2016


Due to the refugee crisis, this contribution to the 2016 Architecture Biennale is not limited to the pavilion in Venice but also includes three ongoing projects in Vienna. More concretely, three teams were commissioned to work together with NGOs not only to design the conversion of empty buildings into temporary accommodation for people whose asylum claims are being processed but also to accompany these buildings in the longer term. The objectives of these interventions are to subject the social responsibility of architecture to a reality check, to provide humane places to live for those affected and to present the results in Venice to a broader public

The title is a reference to the Austrian-American architect, designer, author and exhibition designer Bernard Rudofsky (1905-1988) and his book “Streets for People”, which is a passionate plea for a more humane urbanity. Like Rudofsky, the Austrian-American designer Victor Papanek (1923-1998) also demanded a paradigm change from a design based on materials to a design based on relationships which, in the face of current crises, is also gaining a new architectural relevance under the rallying cry “social turn”.
Given the inspiration which the life and work of these two cosmopolitan emigrants from Austria provided for the project “Places for People”, it seems appropriate that Josef Hoffmann’s Austrian pavilion provides the setting in which we can celebrate the continuing influence of two visionary representatives of a socially-oriented and less object-centred Viennese modernist tradition.

One special feature of Austria’s Contribution to the 2016 Architecture Biennale is the fact that the eponymous “Places for People” are real places in Vienna. In this sense, the pavilion in Venice is primarily a display space. At the same time, however, this exhibition space is also a further “Place for People” in the sense that it offers an opportunity to experience those same special spatial and social qualities which lie at the heart of the entire project. 

Corresponding with the retention of Heimo Zobernig’s installation for the 2015 Art Biennale, a simple three-part display ensemble was developed which both provides a setting for the reception of the contents and acts as a place of meeting and interaction:
A concrete platform in front of the pavilion can be used by visitors in a variety of ways fully in keeping with the programmatic title while a second display inside the building presents a selection of 20 photographs in the form of posters which can be taken away. The images feature the development process of the three interventions which was documented photographically by Paul Kranzler during a period of almost five months.
A third display presents the projects. Here, one can take a free newspaper which contains comprehensive information about the entire project.

In three sections with a total of 72 pages, a newspaper offers additional, in-depth information about the three interventions and other issues relating to the future of the European city which are addressed by the project “Places for People”. The newspaper offered in the pavilion for free can be read by visitors in situ but can also be taken away free of charge or downloaded here.

Places for People (Video Riahi & Shevchenko)

Arash T. Riahi, a director and producer with Iranian origins, and his partner I. Shevchenko accompanied the two Places for People which are already inhabited by clients. They summarised their subjective impressions in a seven-minute video composition.

Caramel Architekten

Caramel Architekten developed a system for an emergency shelter in a 1970s office building based on textile elements which could be installed within just a few weeks with the help of the shelter’s 280 residents. Just 52 basic sets, each consisting of a parasol, textile panels and cable ties succeeded in creating privacy and improving the user experience in the sober, open-plan office spaces for an outlay of just 50 euros and 50 minutes’ work per person.

As the use of 2,000 m2 of the 3,700 m2 building was originally limited to just four months, a central criterion of the intervention was that all elements could be swiftly dismounted and simply re-erected in another location. Despite such parameters, the team succeeded in offering people a minimum of domesticity and privacy with the help of simple resources and some ingenious detailing. Similar textile elements were also used to reshape existing communal and external spaces including a dining room, children’s playground and area of greenery in such a way that they have also been tangibly improved in terms of both functionality and atmosphere.

In parallel with the development within Haus Pfeiffergasse, the “Home Made” Tool Set is now also being used by the team in a further range of both professional and private situations. The resulting closed loop fulfils the original aim of the architects to build for not just one special target group but for everyone. For this reason, the instruction manual for “Home Made” is also available online.


The design team EOOS has developed a concept for the adaptation of a former training facility for custom officers of around 56,000 m2 close to the city centre. It is currently used by the police, the administrative court and two schools. Since the beginning of the year, 21,000 m2 on four floors have been occupied by a primary care facility run by two NGOs.

The facility consists of two-bed rooms with showers and washbasins which provide long-term accommodation to 600 asylum seekers but lacked the communal spaces, shared kitchens and meeting zones which EOOS is now creating and equipping with custom-designed furniture. However, the focus of the intervention is not only this furniture but also the creation of opportunities to work and to exchange in the form of an in-house communal economy for which a special transaction app has also been developed. A workshop in which this furniture is being built, a raised-bed garden and a system of shops provide the infrastructure for alternative labour and self-sufficiency.

The furniture collection extends beyond the walls of the individual refugee shelter by defining the creation of Social Furniture as a social issue that can be flexibly scaled and applied everywhere. In doing this, EOOS has transformed DIY into DIT – do-it-together.

To mark the development of the “Social Furniture” collection for Haus Erdberg, EOOS published a catalogue - modelled on Enzo Mari’s “Autoprogettazione” – which contains instructions on how to assemble 18 furniture elements from the areas of living, working and cooking. Not only can this furniture be self-built economically but it also supports the self-organisation of the residents and offers opportunities to share and exchange resources in the spirit of the communal economy.

the next ENTERprise

The settings for the intervention by the next ENTERprise-architects are the fourth and fifth floors of a partly vacant 1980s office building in Vienna’s most populous district in the south of the city, together with the park surrounding the former headquarters building. In line with their interest in activating the potential of the temporary use of vacant space for creating new forms of urban life, the next ENTERprise-architects have developed economically producible infrastructures which each user can take possession of in their own individual way.

As part of their intervention in Kempelengasse, “room-in-room implants” in the internal spaces create hybrid living and working spaces which will be tested in cooperation with Caritas for the next three years in the context of an experimental residential project involving refugees and students. In addition to this, a series of targeted external interventions will open up the originally closed park-like site in order to encourage communication between residents and locals. These elements are seen as “urban building blocks” due to their ability to be used not only temporarily within existing structures but also in new buildings and, beyond this, in a wide range of other urban situations.

On the socio-cultural level, the architectural interventions are anchored in the commitment of numerous actors who have already been involved in and accompanying a range of forms of participation in the surrounding area for the past two years. In the same way, the appropriation of these “urban building blocks” will establish a basis for social and cultural life.

Even if the three interventions can be understood as ‘pilot projects’, they are also being developed in the knowledge that there is already a multitude of approaches, in Austria and further afield, which can be regarded as exemplary, inspiring and, at all events, worthy of discussion. The following 14 interviews present a selection of such projects which have already been developed in Austria.

A magazine which appears as a supplement to the newspaper contains a photographic essay with 51 images by Paul Kranzler who accompanied the three initiatives of “Places for People” during a period of five months.

Credits: Story

On behalf of
The Austrian Federal Chancellery

Elke Delugan-Meissl

Sabine Dreher and Christian Muhr/ Liquid Frontiers

Invited Teams
Caramel Architekten
the next ENTERprise - architects

Exhibition Design
Delugan Meissl Associated Architects
based on the installation of Heimo Zobernig for the International Exhibition of visual arts - La Biennale di Venezia 2015

Paul Kranzler

Visual Communication & Web Design
grafisches Büro

Liquid Frontiers

Production & Finance
Katharina Boesch, section.a

Project Coordination NGO
Clemens Foschi, Caritas Austria

Rupert Hebblethwaite

15th International Architecture
Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
2016 - Austrian Pavilion

28th May - 27th November 2016


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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