Staggered block buildings: Apartment complex in Seestadt Aspern
Client: EBG Gemeinnützige Ein- und Mehrfamilienhäuser Baugenossenschaft
Architect: Berger+Parkkinen Architekten, querkraft Architekten
Location: Maria-Tusch-Straße, A–1220 Wien
Seestadt Aspern, a new urban district undergoing construction on the eastern edge of Vienna according to the master plan by Tovatt Architects & Planners of Sweden, is the largest urban development project in Austria. Designed for some 20,000 residents, it involves high-density block development centred on a lake. Of all the buildings erected to date, those in the block complex designed by Berger+Parkkinen and querkraft architekten particularly catch the eye. This is due on the one hand to their wooden facades, rather unusual in these proportions, and on the other to their interesting mix of perimeter and linear arrangement.
Apartments line the circulation routes in the buildings like beads on a string, the living units oriented either to the east or west. Differently sized gaps separate a number of the individual buildings, dividing the long sections of the 'comb' layout into small, staggered volumes, thus bringing about varied open spaces and sightlines within the complex. A wide, multi-purpose play area and gathering place called the Canyon transects the outdoor spaces, continuing onto a higher, more landscaped section that surrounds the private terraces like a carpet of green. The circulation routes switch between closed corridors, pergola walks and open footbridges for a varied spatial experience.
The basic serial structure of the living units, each of them identical in depth but differing in width, has made it possible to offer a variety of apartment types for a mixed social structure. Altogether 213 one- to five-room apartments ranging from 42 to 110 square metres in size have been created. The maisonettes on the ground floor have a studio flat design for a smooth transition from office to residential use, making them a type of their own, plus they form – along the eight shops on Maria-Tusch-Strasse and various community rooms – a semi-public plinth surrounding a two-level area for parking bikes and cars.
The architects chose a material mix of concrete and wood for the complex to exploit the advantages of both. Weight is transferred by the reinforced concrete frame structure, thus enabling flexible ground plans that can be changed later, thanks also to central service shafts. Even the dividing walls between the apartments have a drywall construction. The decision in favour of using pre-fabricated wooden elements for the façades was primarily taken for ecological reasons, but pre-fabrication involved many benefits in itself, such as high execution quality and installation speed.
Concrete and wood also determine the outer appearance of the structures in the complex. Clad in homogeneous larch boarding with horizontal sheet metal bands to prevent fire flashover, the buildings feature deeply cantilevered and irregularly distributed loggias and balconies in precast reinforced concrete, thus setting a strong accent and lending the facades a playful touch.