Magnetic Urban Field

location: UPC stadium, Graz, Austria
project status: Completed, 2012

Magnetic Urban Field is the ex-aequo winning entry for the Europan 11 competition in Graz, Austria.

Situated at Graz’s urban fringe, Magnetic Urban Field combines a transportation hub, park and ride facility with a large parking lot for the city’s soccer stadium and a 100m tall housing high-rise performing as a gateway when entering the city from the south.

In the ambiguous environment of urban sprawl, most buildings demonstrate an autistic behavior towards their context. Adding another singular piece—regardless of size or style—would make little difference. Consequently, Magnetic Urban Field adopts the opposite approach: Rather than adding new elements, the project works with already existing elements. It treats the ordinary elements of Graz’s sprawling cityscape as found objects. Kiosks, street lamps and parked cars are condensed and reconfigured into a new artificial landscape: A landscape that develops horizontally through the logic of accumulation, as well as a spatial matrix capable of unifying diverse elements while respecting the identity of each. Intervals, repetition and seriality produce emergent patterns. Their superimposition becomes a moiré of suburban sprawl reframing the inhabitants’ perception of the suburban landscape.

Here landscape, architecture and infrastructure blend into a field condition. In their condensed state they take on a more performative role. Their intricate aggregation acts as a catalyst to activate the latent space of a parking lot (sized for occasional peak events such as soccer games or rock concerts) and re-imagines it as a collective space for formal and informal urban activities. Embedded equipment and services increase its capacity to support and diversify activities in time. Rather than a fixed design the project offers the city a framework for flexible uses as needs and desires change. Thus the project turns underused resources into a community asset. A clockwise spiral organizes flows of cars, public transport, bicycles and pedestrians in a unifying topography while offering shortcuts and oblique perspectives. Here the spectacle of the arena is transposed to its urban setting: the props of suburbia’s everyday turn into a stage for the “choreography” of traffic and re-frame its condition as attractive urbanity.