Vienna Boys’ Choir Summer Residence, Wörthersee, Austria
AA nanotourism Visiting School 2021
Over two weeks, students design and build a series of three architectural interventions to address and critique the hyper-privatised nature of Austria’s Lake Wörthersee.
Wörthersee has 83% of its shoreline inaccessible to the public. At the same time, located on the lake’s south shore, the Vienna Boys’ Choir Summer Residence is an underused property and one of the last remaining places with an opportunity to open up for the people.
The project critically addresses the lake’s wild privatisation and the current unawareness of the cultural presence of the Vienna Boys’ Choir in the local community.
The three interconnected interventions: ‘Exchange Fence’, ‘Stare!’ and ‘Sound Cannon’, offer tools for a new cultural exchange between the Boys’ Choir community and the local general public, capable of addressing the future transformation of the Vienna Boys Choir Campus into an all-year-round cultural venue.
Wörthersee is one of Austria's most prominent lakes. Historically, it has served as a transport infrastructure for traditional woodworking trades, while it has developed into a place of high interest for holidaymakers in the last century. Today, once family-run small romantic hotels are giving way to audacious developments of generic apartment blocks and villas for wealthy individuals who want the piece of the lake's shore for themselves only. Consequently, a staggering amount of 83% of the lake's perimeter is publicly inaccessible!
But there is a hidden gem - one of the last remaining plots with potential public access to the lake. Along the lake's fenced-off south perimeter road, Vienna Boys' Choir Summer Residence Campus is a place of underused potential. The boys practice their singing skills and spend time on the estate for two summer months per year only, while the rest of the year, the 6 acres of the Campus, remain empty and unoccupied - maintained for no one.
Although the Vienna Boys' Choir is a world-famous high culture of choir singing, the neighbouring Wörthersee community have little knowledge of their presence. Their identity and highly specific skills are hidden behind the thick greenery of the Campus.
Former Vienna Boys' Choir singer and current management board member architect Volker Dienst identified the unique opportunity of the property and the necessity for the Campus' transformation. He opened up the discussion for possible changes in their rusted routine by inviting the AA nanotourism Visiting School to research, experiment and propose prototypes for a meaningful and gradual transformation of the campus' nature.
In preparation for the course, the Programme Head of the AA nanotourism Visiting School, architect Aljosa Dekleva, has invited a British colleague Thomas Randall-Page to co-mentor the Wörthersee edition of the school. Teamed up with programme assistants Amanda Sperger, Jakob Travnik and tutor Andreas Arndt they taught and worked together with fifteen young architects and architecture students from various international backgrounds on how an underused Vienna Boys Choir Campus can turn into an all-year-round cultural venue.
In an intense two-week summer school, they investigated the Campus's existing natural and cultural specificities. They developed one-to-one scale conceptual on-site intervention in the form of three built installations with events and strategies that proposed possible Campus' future developments for the visitors and members of Vienna Boys' Choir alike. This intervention is the first step towards the larger aim to find a responsible development strategy of the Campus that would continue to host the principal private activities of the Vienna Boys Choir members during summers, while it would also expand its role to a regional, multi-disciplinary cultural campus of the 21st century, open to the public and operational throughout all seasons.
The team has created an architectural intervention from concept to construction consisting of three individual but correlated structures. The 'Exchange Fence' critically addresses the traditional type of the dividing fence and explores its transformations into a socially cohesive multifunctional element of the local community. The 'Stare!' critiques the over-privatisation of the lake's shores and offers a working example of privately owned public space. And the 'Sound Cannon' challenges the lack of cultural presence of the Vienna Boys' Choir in the local community by offering the opportunity for the Boys' Choir to perform for the public and invite local musicians for collaboration.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
Part fence, part store, ‘Exchange Fence’ mediates the public boundary by stimulating material exchanges.
How can the critical approach to maintenance strategies and fencing of the Vienna Boys' Choir Campus re-value its natural resources to stimulate the exchange with the neighbouring community?
The six-acre property of the Vienna Boys' Choir is full of natural resources that are carefully being maintained and manicured throughout the four seasons of the year regardless of the short period of two months when the boys are actually at the Campus. The upkeeping of the estate is regularly producing a set of natural "waste" materials, from hay, grass, shrubs and bark to branches and logs, that used to contain specific values in the local farming economy.
In an approach to sustainably resolve land management issues, the intervention looks at the Campus' residue material as a resource for stimulating neighbouring relationships through storage and trade of those materials.
Replacing the existing monofunctional and dividing fence and recognising its typology's contextual, social and economic potential, the project proposes a different type: a 'deep fence'. This three-dimensional structure still functions as a barrier to the site, which additionally operates as a storage system, storefront and marketplace of natural waste materials produced at the Campus throughout the year. The publicly accessible structure aims to stimulate new rituals of exchange and debate on seasonal maintenance routines, waste and the notion of privatisation of land in the region.
Public Pier of a Former Shoreline
The micro auditorium, ‘Stare!’ is a public space with a private view, inviting the audience to a new lake vista.
How can a privately owned piece of property become a publicly accessible and educational interface between the lake, the Vienna Boys' Choir and the visitors?
Vienna Boys' Choir Campus is located halfway of the longest - 1.3 km long - stripe of the lake's perimeter road that offers not a single glance to the lake. Reacting to the excess of fenced-off shoreside properties that privatise the lake view, the intervention provides several alternatives. Firstly, it proposes a publicly accessible viewing platform that enables passing visitors to enjoy the lake's views from a secluded stairway by bringing the viewer closer to the water and away from the noisy road.
Secondly, as an altered exemplar of the pier typology, the project testifies about the former shoreline of Lake Wörth, which was lost in 1770 after the artificial lowering of the lake's water level. Therefore, the intervention is devoted to leisure, but it also educates visitors on almost forgotten past.
Finally, it doubles as the auditorium that can host an audience of 20 people taking part in the performance happening on the existing campus' pier. The pier and the wooden stair-like structure are axially aligned to work together as one, spatially correlating setting. Opening up the possibility of hosting a performance encourages the Vienna Boys' Choir members to stage small public events to reinforce their singing identity and relation to the Wörthersee's community.
Amplifying the Local’s Culture Voice
Standing knee–deep in the lake and singing, ‘Sound Cannon’ is an analogue amplifier of the unique vocal culture of Wörthersee.
How can singing and music be spread throughout lake Wörthersee to facilitate new forms of cultural exchange between the Vienna Boys' Choir and the general public?
The lake is a shared space of the Wörthersee area inhabitants. With its acoustic and spatial qualities, it already functions as a natural sound transmitter, offering multiple experiences of sound travelling across the lake throughout different times of the day. On the other hand, Vienna Boys' Choir is internationally well known for their singing, but the lake's community is mostly unaware of their presence.
With the ambition of giving the voice to the Choir, the project imagines the lake as a sound facilitator that distributes the high cultural identity of the Vienna Boys' Choir to the local community on the lake. Fixed on the existing wooden pier of the Campus, the Sound Cannon becomes an amplifier of the local music culture, providing an interaction point between the Vienna Boys' Choir, local musicians and the public.
The horn is a kinetic, flipping device. It can either face the lake and distribute the sound to 'accidental' listeners of the lake's community or face the land to perform to an audience on the Vienna Boys' Choir publicly accessible plot. Used in new performative rituals, the Sound Cannon contributes to the soundscape of Wörthersee and allows for musical experimentation that is a long tradition of the lake's history.
Aljosa Dekleva, Programme Head
Thomas Randall-Page, Invited Mentor
Amanda Sperger, Programme Assistant
Jakob Travnik, Programme Assistant
Andreas Maximilian Arndt, invited Tutor
Exchange Fence - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours:
Elias Bouyssy – France
Oliver Canins – Italy
Amanzholl Kellett – UK
Iva Grlić Radman – Croatia
Mihail Sugarev – Bulgaria
Stare! - Public Pier of a Former Shoreline:
Anna Bernbacher – Austria
Pia Fattor – Argentian
Kim Gubbini – Luxembourg
Kya Kerner – USA
Jeremias Pointner – Austria
Sound Cannon - Amplifying the Local’s Culture Voice:
Eleonora Balestra – Switzerland
Clara Copiglia – Switzerland
Kanto Ohara Maeda – Japan
Anne Steffen – Luxembourg
Mykhailo Zhuk – Ukraine