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Negotiating Bigness and Soft Urban Renewal

location: Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna
project status: Taught in Spring 2010

Co-taught with Lisa Schmidt-Collinet and in collaboration with Joachim Wintzer from Bouwfonds MAB

In line with the idea of ‘Vienna: Slow Capital’ the studio continued challenging the seeming incompatibility of two urbanism paradigms: Bigness and soft urban renewal. Whereas soft urban renewal stands for an approach of working with the existing urban substance and developing projects from within a specific context, Bigness is primarily concerned with an economy of scale and thus inherently independent. Both of these approaches have successively characterized urbanization in Vienna’s recent history. While Vienna developed incisive strategies for urban regeneration and growth within existing Gründerzeit neighbourhoods in the late 70’s and 80’s, the past twenty years have been marked by very large developer projects (aka Bigness). 

While Bigness tends to gravitate towards the urban fringe and display an autistic behavior in relation to its context, inner-city-living in Vienna – similarly to other European cities – is currently experiencing a significant revival. The studio explored potential synergetic effects between large scale building complexes with dense historic urban conditions. How can local architectural interventions act as urban catalysts for regeneration and densification at the scale of a neighbourhood? How can significant investments be channeled to produce benefits at the scale of the city adding up to more the sum of its parts?

While in the winter term, the studio derived strategies for architectural interventions from the urban environment, in the summer term we took an inverse approach developing architectural proto-typologies for inner-city shopping malls including 300 residential units and 3000m2 of offices that were then exposed to and transformed by a specific urban ecology.