Book cover: Modelling Vienna, Real Fictions in Social Housing

The present book is the monograph of the imaginary architects collective _ .
_ stands for Blankspace.
_ is a placeholder for various, partly contradictory approaches and diverse practices of a group of architects. The book focuses on their works on public and social housing in Vienna.

The architects collective considers architecture as part of social and especially economic discourses. Architecture must affirm these discourses. In particular, however, architecture does not merely represent these discourses, as  insist, but intervenes through the respectively specific organisation of functions, programmes and spaces in these discourses. Architecture and in the special case of  , housing thus changes people’s reality.

_ ’s projects are interventions in current economic discourses related to the concept of scarcity. They are proposals and speculations seeking out the relationship of constructed and actual scarcity (of living space, of resources, of financial means) and the production of our built environment.  propose possibilities that are not limited to the design of objects, but instead take a broad view of the concept of architecture. The architects collective includes various social and political levels, but also various forms of communication. The spectrum of the work by  thus encompasses not only the concrete architectural blueprint, but also the abstract level of policy-making and scenarios, manifestos, and polemics. _ untiringly pursue and test different ideas and strategies of spatial intervention. This engagement also includes often failing, which we as editors of this book depict as well.

The book is divided into three sections. In Complex we outline the practice of the architects collective. The principle attitude, drafting methods and the overarching theme of scarcity are discussed in interviews with _ , in a guest commentary by the Australian architecture theorist Hélène Frichot, and in texts by the editors. The second part of the book presents the specific Viennese Context, in which the architects collective works. The history of social housing in Vienna is nearly one hundred years old, starting with the meanwhile mythologised housing construction programme of “Red Vienna” in the inter-war years, which was very successfully continued in the post-war years, although under different historical auspices. Today the model of Viennese public housing is under tremendous liberalisation pressure, which politics and administration are less and less able to counter, so they make use of ideas that can only mitigate this pressure, as _ criticise. These ideas cannot do justice to the problems of today’s society. In part, they even only maintain structures and pave the way – without wanting to – for the liberalisation of public housing. With their concept of “housing of society” (gesellschaftlicher Wohnungsbau), _ outline a vague, but also possible alternative.

The concept of gesellschaftlicher Wohnungsbau takes up the thesis that working and production conditions in central Europe have radically changed since the 1960s and 1970s, and the entire city, the whole of society has become a factory. Contemporary public housing, according to the architects collective, must affirm this often described reality and rethink living in a society after work. With gesellschaftlicher Wohnungsbau, as Andreas Rumpfhuber shows, an unbounded typology beyond industrial society is newly conceived. In
the Context part of the book, _ discuss their projects in conversations, describe their design process, and pursue their idea of gesellschaftlicher Wohnungsbau. The conversations with the architects collective are supplemented with speculative texts on aspects of the work by _ . In addition, Michael Klein outlines in this section of the book a detailed history of Viennese public housing in relation to the respective economic discourses up to the present. The Viennese architect and partner in the office of Studio Vlay, Lina Streeruwitz, relates a project by _ to her own masterplan, commissioned by the city, for the development of a new neighborhood in Vienna, highlighting the relevance and topicality of the practice of the architects collective in the discussion. The Context part of the book is rounded out with a glossary on the theme of public housing in Vienna.

The third part of the book is devoted to a selection of _ ’s projects (the content). The projects presented here all take Viennese public housing, the Gemeindebau, as their starting point. In these projects and architectural fictions, public housing becomes a field of possibilities for a future gesellschaftlicher Wohnungsbau for all.

  • Modelling Vienna, Real Fictions in Social Housing
    edited together with Michael Klein
    Turia & Kant: 2015

  • Graphic Design: Astrid Seme