Coop Himmelblau ROOFTOP REMODELLING
(Vienna, Austria) 1983-89
'The law firm of Schuppich, Sporn, Winischofer. Schuppich wished to extend their office, which was situated on the first and second floor of the building at the corner of Falkestrasse and Bilderstrasse, into the attic.' Thus begins the description of the 'scenario' for the 'case' of the rooftop construction by Coop Himmelblau, one of the most intriguing and influential projects of European architecture of the past twenty years and possibly the most idiosyncratic lawyers' office in the world.
This description is intended to provide a 'clue', it is a kind of apocryphal narrative as to what the most significant aspect of the programme was in the genesis of its spatial schema. The clue lies in the name of one of the two streets of the site: Falkestrasse (Falcon Street). A remarkable omen! The authors of the narrative take it back, however: 'We did not, in this case, think of a bird or wings.' And then they change their minds - perhaps: 'although it was hard not to do so.' The figural concept of the project began out of chance and possibility.
The project accommodates a conference room of 90 square metres, three office units, a secretariat, a reception area and adjacent rooms. Provision was also made in the layout for converting the office into an apartment if the need arose. Light from and views of the privileged roof area are controlled by the strategic placement of transparent and opaque roof panels. While the topology of the small facility plan conforms to the ordinary and rather simple requirements of a modest legal consulting workshop, the volumetric layout detonates a poetic fiction about a glass, steel and concrete falcon.
The viewer is initially shocked at confronting what appears to be a 'reversed lightning bolt' breaking up an existing roof, or else a 'taut electric arc', or a realistic silhouette of a strange bird. This first impression swiftly recedes, and what takes its place in the viewer's mind, in a rebus-like fashion, is the abstract representation of either flight or an explosion. Both flying and exploding are instances of conquering space as the result of a sudden release of energy, which involves a displacement of elements. In both flying and exploding, the continuity of the form of the complete figure is broken into snatches of
(Above) Design sketch and ground floor plan
(Opposite) Exterior view of the section housing the conference room
Was this article helpful?