(SUB)URBAN ECOSYSTEM | E13
Europan 13 - Graz, Austria
The aim of the proposed strategy is to reverse suburbanization and consumption of green areas by fostering inner-city housing projects. As an alternative to a suburban mode of living, it aims to provide high living standards in dense urban areas promoting the advantages of an urban life style. One of the most important guidelines was the idea of creating intervention that allows co-existence of a diverse range of privacies, providing urban public spaces that are accessible to passers-by while also allowing for spaces that can be appropriated by local residents that lend the area a local character.
One of the key advantages of a new design is a series of playgrounds and recreational areas in form of a green park. Park supplements the green stripes along Waagner-Biro-Straße and Daungasse, continues onto the new structure, and vertically connects public places underneath it and private spaces above it. It links the public and the private areas in quality spatial composition of open spaces. The new structure creates a silhouette that makes the Bahnhofsviertel visible from the east.
The silhouette highlights the new quarter as the modern pendant to the historic city centre and Schlossberg that characterize the view to the east and becomes a gateway to the new neighborhood of the ‘Bahnhofsviertel West’.
The city of Graz has been built along the river Mur in the northern part of a geological basin called Grazer Becken. Due to its topographic position, - surrounded by mountains on three sides, - city can only expand towards the south. Like many other cities, Graz has been defined by/has been formed by an inner-city migration towards its residential outskirts. Such process of suburbanization lead to well-known challenges: today, the city faces an extreme increase in commuter traffic, supply and waste management, a rise in the consumption of land and environmental resources, and an economically infeasible thinning out of infrastructures.
As an alternative to a suburban mode of living, it aims to provide new quality urban public spaces and acceses to green recreational areas promoting the advantages of an urban lifestyle. Such long-term process is only possible when supported by right vision of city planning and adequate architecture that is inspired by characteristics of local way of life. This is an architecture that seeks for motives of architectural expression in the way of life in the area where some architectural work is located. In a way, this architecture can be understood as a reflection of sensitivity to requirements of the users, who will once use the space. Speaking of sensitivity, we talk about the architecture profession being understood as a continuous process, where it is possible to understand progress only by looking in the past. In addition, this architecture is also sensitive to its social and socio role.
Such architecture does not appear as a larpurlartistic statement, but only complement and upgrade the way of life that has existed in a particular city for centuries.
For a long time, the area was considered a typical workers district and had the reputation to be a “problem quarter”. Factors of this reputation were low housing standards, low levels of education and income, and a high proportion of non-Austrian inhabitants in comparison to other districts of the city. Today the district is still characterized by a fragmented heterogeneous suburban structure.
RELATION TO EXISTING SITUATION
The railway tracks are the dominating element of the area. They constitute a strong barrier and divide the area in two, rather distinct, sides east and west of the tracks. While the east side is oriented towards the historic city, the west side is characterized by a cut off character, dominated by abandoned industrial sites. The main goals of the intervention were to dissolve the barrier of the railway tracks and to further establish the main station and its surrounding as coherent neighborhood. One of the means to connect the two sides is the tool of the silhouette: the new development creates a silhouette that makes the Bahnhofsviertel visible from the east. The silhouette highlights the new quarter as the modern pendant to the historic city center and Schlossberg that characterize the view to the east and becomes a gateway to the new neighborhood of the ‘Bahnhofsviertel West’.
RELATION TO THE CITY
The project site plays an important double role, which is important for the development of its public spaces: on the one hand, it is the main passage between the station and the western neighborhoods, developing the linear space of the two tunnels. On the other hand, the project site is a “place”, an address for the people who will use its future buildings and facilities, providing a wide range of attractive places to stay in the area. One of the most important guidelines was the idea of creating intervention that allows co-existence of a diverse range of publics, providing urban public spaces that are accessible to passers-by while also allowing for spaces that can be appropriated by local residents that lend the area a local character.
PUBLIC AND OPEN SPACES
The proposed solution pays maximum attention to the design of the public and open spaces, which are of utmost importance. In general, the western side of Graz suffers from a shortage of recreational spaces. The proposed solution is trying to provide as much quality public space and recreational areas as possible. The project site’s core-area itself is squeezed in between the Eastern-barrier of the railway-tracks and the Waagner- Biro-Straße which lacks attractive places to stay. Therefore, the new design tries to enable a public flow that link attractively the new facilities along a series of public spaces.
Important guideline for the design of public spaces were two underpasses as main east-west streets, which lead pedestrians from the main station into attractive public spaces. The transition, which mediates between the lower level of the underpass and the level of the adjacent public spaces on the project site, was a crucial element of the design. Special attention was paid to the development in section: a smart vertical configura¬tion considerably increase the quality and quan¬tity of open spaces, including public spaces, attractive communal and private spaces for employees, residents, visitors, playing children, etc.
As mentioned above the core area does not comprise the parcels along Waagner-Biro-Straße. This brings up the question of the potential for development in the first implementation phase (core area). Although its eastern border is a strong barrier, the two underpasses establish two important urban nodes where they open up into the area. Whereas the northern tunnel is passing by tangentially, the southern tunnel opens up right into the heart of the project area.
The series of quality public spaces create an attractive transversal connection across Waagner- Biro-Straße, linking the future central park to the main station via the core area of the project. They also create an attractive longitudinal connection within the core area itself, enabling a public flow that runs north-south in order to link attractively the new facilities along a series of public spaces.
One of the key advantages of a new design is a series of playgrounds and recreational areas in form of a green park. Park supplements the green stripes along Waagner-Biro-Straße and Daungasse, continues onto the new structure, and vertically connects public places underneath it and private spaces above it. It links the public and the private areas in quality spatial composition of open spaces.
One of the great advantages of the site is its location right at a major transportation hub of Graz. Therefore, the architecture and urban design envisages ways of living (housing, working, recreation, commerce) that are as little as possible dependent on the car.
The whole site is conceived as a car free area. All parking facilities are organized underground due to of a lack of space for recreational spaces and the ambition of achieving high-quality public spaces. Access to underground parking is located along Waagner-Biro-Straße, taking into account the barrier of the non-participating neighbors.
The proposed solution provides a minimum of 1.500 bike parking places in total, distributed all over the area with a certain concentration around the two underpass connections. The site is equipped with good facilities for bike parking, inviting people to use their bikes as a daily means of transport. To provide sufficient comfort of use, these facilities are easily accessible from the levels of the public space.
Pedestrian mobility on the project site is considered in different ways of walking: on the one hand rapidly crossing the area from and to the station, on the other hand slowly strolling within the area in order to enjoy the public spaces and urban programs of the new development. In this context, special attention was paid to the aspect of different ground floor levels and how they can be attractively linked (underpass/city-level/park). The topic of different levels is also addressed in the 3-dimensional development of the project (terraces, decks, rooftops...) in order to organize different degrees of flows and speeds in context with the organization of spatial characters (public/collective/private, exposed/intimate...).
The new design of a public space beside the water tower has a potential to provide stops for bus and tram.
One of the main guidelines when designing the new structure was how to achieve maximum quality of life within as dense structure as possible. How can a new typology combine all the qualities of life in the suburbs and all the advantages of living in the city? One of the main advantages of the new design is large amount of open public and green spaces. These spaces are not tied only to the ground but are organized in all three dimensions and completely link the public program of the object. From this public conglomerate rise residential towers, which by its composition sensible supplement the skyline of the city and make a recognizable image that marks the new quarter as the modern pendant to the historic city center.
Height follows the silhouette of the city and respects the height of the Schlossberg and Uhrturm. The layout of the building also takes in consideration its microclimate and factors such as shadows gener¬ated through the shape of the buildings. Residential towers are placed in a composition that allows light to penetrate deep into the area and illuminate public spaces throughout the entire day. Interior of the towers is illuminated over big multiple height spaces that are opened to outside. On the lower floors, these spaces are oriented toward railway station so the apartments can be oriented away from the noise. On the higher floors, the problem of noise is solved by a buffer zone, which is located between the inner facade of the building, and a membrane-like green outer facade.
The new design is also dealing with the two phases on the core area and the extended core area. The proposed solution leaves open the possibility that in the second phase the houses on the extended area can be removed. The new structure then can be realized in a way that reasonably supplements the first phase and forms new public spaces.
The anatomy of the structure is designed in a way that it provides adaptility both in vertical and horizontal space, thus making the floor plan and section spatially sustainable. It is offering an answer to ever-changing needs of the city, its flows and users. This attribute is seeking a way to accept new programs, which might emerge in the long-term future.