The Formwork

Contemporary architects

Hermann Czech – The Notion of “Detail”

The word “detail” was commonly used for something that was less important in comparison with the whole, and would be dealt with later. Yet, in a less- hierarchical view of decisions (as is favored by the computer), every detail is simultaneously a whole, and vice versa. “Detail” is the particular decision field under observation at a time. Scales of decision interlock, there is no ranking of scales. “Detail” is thus a transitory term that directs attention towards another element of the project at a given moment, indicating that the perspective is changed. Christopher Alexander’s theory of the generation of form rests on this perspective: his “patterns” are relations between various elements, but these elements are, themselves, patterns.

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M House
Schwechat (A) 1977-81

Whatever spaces we create will in turn create adjacent negative spaces. To neglect the latter is uneconomic in a practical but also in an artistic sense. Loos has transferred this economy principle from plan to section. The structural walls have „random“ openings based on the interior; in the inside there is a skeleton of supports. The stair flights are connecting the various levels—any changes affect the whole system as in a musical fugue.
Loggia winter glazing, State Opera Vienna (A) 1991-94
The glazing is not in one plane only; it forms a recess behind the sculptures, but bulges at the ledge below them to allow for more space. This creates a complex arrangement of glass surfaces in the shape of a sagging net. The entire construction is removed throughout the warm season; it is not a permanent feature of the building, nor does it deny its temporary character as an alien element.

Urbani House
Vienna (A) 2004-07

The baroque apartment building had one flat on each of the five storeys, connected by a spiral stair. The new owner wanted to use it as a family townhouse. He was warned that when he would say to his wife, ‘I’m going upstairs’, she would ask, ‘where upstairs?’ A principal consideration of the design was how the lower storeys could be spatially connected, in addition to the spiral stair. Over the entrance there is now a large drawing room, and on the second floor is a living area with a kitchen. Up to this second floor there are open staircases, in various positions, and different views upwards and downwards.

“Generations” Housing Mühlgrund
Vienna (A) 2007-11

The site is divided into parts by three architects, the others being Adolf Krischanitz and Werner Neuwirth, green areas were planned by Anna Detzlhofer. In Czech’s part, ground and first floor apartments have a 4.10-metre-high space with the option of a gallery; the flexibility concept is extending vertically from the first to the second floor with the option of a spiral stair to the top studio-type flats with terraces, which have separate access via decks and elevators. These units are then appropriate for elderly or for young people, as part of a family.

Steinhof Housing Project
Vienna (A) 2013

In a hospital area of 1905, dominated by Otto Wagner’s Steinhof church, a remote part recently has been tampered with an unqualified building complex of lacking sensibility. The design is part of a joint project of pavilion-like housing units to repair the situation. The exterior is characterized by piers with exposed brickwork, with fields of brick with insulated plasterwork in between. Between the load-bearing outer piers, the fenestration is free; therefore partition walls can connect to any point of the outer wall, not just to the piers, providing flexibility of plans.

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