Catching the Ligth and Yet Protecting Oneself from Being Overlooked

architects Geiswinkler & Geiswinkler - Architekten
project The Am Hofgartel Housing Estate, Vienna, Austria
written by Gabriele Kaiser


The Viennese Leberberg district is one of the somehow questionable areas of the city’s expansion although it does have some architectural highlights. Traffic connections to the city centre are poor, building density is high so that it becomes even depressing, and the whole area lacks both urban attractions and “countryside” charm. Bearing in mind this indecisive and lukewarm status quo as a negative image already built, the architects Markus and Kinayeh Geiswinkler, before starting planning the Am Hofgartel housing estate (four volumes with 65 dwellings) raised the question: What is it that makes life worth living on the edge of the town? What qualities must / can be given to a subsidised housing project of a peripheral city situation so that it becomes attractive enough to the people that might come to live there? The concrete answer is: it is the luxury of having its own green area, the possibility of having one’s own front garden or a green terrace, the option of structural openness between the dwellings and open areas but with a secured basic level of privacy – those are the factors which might encouraged people to move to the edge of the city. The architects based their concept on this classical surplus value – which sometimes is not realized due to the financial reasons – and developed a site plan recalling the garden city and even carried it out without significant losses (the client, the Neues Leben Coop, proved to be an understanding partner). The housing estate, permeable to light and air, open like a framework, has a distinctive position not only in the Leberberg district, but also within the whole of contemporary Viennese housing construction.