The Voest steelworks in Linz has erected its new, representative sales and finances head office around an extensive open area. The urban planning concept and the design of the buildings on the square were carried out by Austria’s most important architect living abroad, following a competition between several top-rank designers.
The major gesture
Linz does not owe its reputation as a location of industry solely to “the Voest”, as this business is known in Upper Austria. But the perception of this city, both from inside and outside, does appear to be particularly closely linked with this steel company, founded under the name Hermann Göring Werke, which today is a global player. Fortunately there is in “the Voest” an awareness of the responsibility that this brings with it. Serious efforts are made – not only in terms of improving the quality of the air in Linz. And so the visiting card that the voestalpine Stahl GmbH (the company’s full title) presents to us in the form of its new sales and finances head office also stands for this city shaped by industry. And as such it functions excellently: the dynamically curved volume, cut at an angle in front, with the filigree, adjustable golden façade makes an impact on even the most inattentive motorist driving by.
In the build-up for awarding this commission no effort or expenditure was spared to achieve the right result: Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes emerged as winner of a competition in which both the entrants and the jury members were high ranking members of their profession. This project succeeded in convincing the jurors due in no small part to the major gesture it makes. It outlines a wasteland area in what is called the “non-core zone” to the north of the company headquarters known as BG41, to create an expansive but yet clearly bordered open space that extends to the visitors centre in the south. And it achieves the feat of combining three very different buildings to create a representative whole. The park that is to be created here according to the plans of Parisian landscape designers H.Y.L – also the winners of an invited entry competition – has the potential to become one of the city’s most imposing parks. The fact that it is on two levels does nothing to detract from its quality, and indeed the way it interlocks vertically enhances the value of both upper and lower levels.
Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes rigorously cleared the entire competition site of motor vehicles. The metal desert that even for the Voest – which is generally most interested in the use of its own products – no longer seemed to have any advertising appeal is now one level lower and has become a “parkgarage” (the German term for car-parking garage) in the double sense of this term. Built of reinforced concrete of remarkable quality, flanked on the open edges by planted embankments, naturally cross-ventilated, lit from planted atriums and broken up into almost domestic proportions by glass walls, some transparent, some satin finish, this garage with its light- coloured polished floor continues the business of representation begun above ground level in a highly skilled way. Whoever does not exploit the privilege of driving under the new steel and glass canopy (also designed by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes) that projects far in front of the BG41 building and instead, when the weather is inclement, wishes to stay dry by walking through the garage, will not be disappointed by the underground setting.
However the main entrance to the sales and finance office lies, impossible to overlook below a daring cantilever that exploits steel’s structural possibilities at the north-eastern end of the building. Here you entire a glazed, seemingly unbounded, foyer that focuses the attention of visitors from the steel reception desk on the one side to the impressive landscape of cranes, waste heaps, and chimneys on the other. From here a panorama lift takes you to the meeting rooms, accessible to a wider public, that are located in this part of the building. In terms of number, size and fittings these rooms respond to the needs of the location Linz as a whole and are augmented by a terrace on the top floor, surrounded by glass walls and open to the sky, which offers exceptional views. All the rooms on the ground floor, which is clearly shaped as a plinth and has a delicately profiled glass façade, are also reserved for “public” functions such as the company’s own travel agency, an archive, advertising media department and similar.
Golden façade, green atria
The offices proper are on the four upper floors that are encased in a shimmering golden façade. They are laid out in a strictly linear, double-loaded fashion, but the curve of the building visually reduces the apparent length. The offices lie along a wide centre zone in which four glass roofed atria are incised. Beside each atrium there is a circulation and services core of exposed concrete, between them are the “living rooms” of the departments. The offices are separated from these communication areas by glass walls, satin-finished in places, which for the staff required some getting used to, as did the restrained colour scheme of the interior: gentle shades of grey are complemented by the light brown of the wooden floors and by strong signal-like colours in the area of the tea kitchens. The relatively narrow subdivision of the façade into full-height opening steel panels and fixed glass elements, also full-height, allows different size offices to be made in accordance with the different requirements. Sliding shade elements of frameless expanded metal on the outside face of the facade and the textile glare protection on the inside ensure agreeable lighting conditions. Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes display the steel construction – columns and open web beams, as well as the concrete of the ceiling slabs. The building services which run only above the corridors can be made out behind their expanded metal cladding. The discipline that this demanded in both design and execution adds a further level of quiet elegance to the overall impression, something that, unfortunately, one can often look for in vain in many a palatial office block.
The Simone de Beauvoir footbridge was designed by Dietmar Feichtinger.We talk with an architect who is as attentive to the natural as he is to the urban environment. He designed the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge, won the European competition for the Mont Saint Michel pedestrian causeway bridge and was responsible for the footbridges at La Défense and over the Rhine, but Dietmar Feichtinger does not consider himself a bridge specialist. “I don’t like the term specialist. Our work covers a hospital, universities, office buildings, toll plazas and cinemas as well as bridges.” He does not prefer horizontal to vertical lines and adds that he is careful never to repeat himself. “I don’t to get into the habit of designing only office buildings, only bridges or anything else. Habit kills creativity.” Every location calls for its own project. Treating every projectas a new one fitting into a specific location is a good way of avoiding routine. This involves seeking a new solution every time, endeavoring to be highly modern, highly contemporary and above all avoiding stylistic precepts.
Every location, every natural landscape, every urban setting requires its own response. This can mean attracting attention, like the Simone de Beauvoir Footbridge, or blending into the landscape like he causeway bridge at the Mont Saint Michel Bay. The design of his bridges thus varies considerably. But relationships and analogies can be found with other–at firsglance quite different–structures. The causeway bridge, for example, bears a resemblance to the Klagenfurth hospital, of which a scalemodel takes up half the office where we are talking with Dietmar Feichtinger. “In both projects, the direct connection tonature was important to us.”
Everywhere – if it’s in Paris or the Mont Saint Michel Bay – Dietmar Feichtinger focuses primarily on fitting his projects into their setting. This, he strongly believes, is the fundamental of architecture, a guiding principle rather than an obstacle, and he pays close attention to the structure of his work.“The bones of the building, that is what every architect should be interested in.” His bridges are, in that sense, a stylistic exercise: “This is all-revealing architecture, you can conceal nothing. It is the basic. principles that make the project.”
Dietmar Feichtinger a native of Austria, studied architecture at the Technical University of Graz. He moved to Paris in 1989 and established Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes in 1993. With a thirty of employees between Paris and Vienna the team operates mainly in Europe. DFA has built a strong reputation for its inventive structures and its investigative approach to design. Its work links both architecture and engineering whilst exploring the dynamic between these two disciplines. In a constant strive DFA is looking for integration environmental and sustainable development, in a elegant and sensitive architecture, respectful of nature and humans. Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes is internationally honored with architecture awards and publications for excellence in design and their built projects. www.feichtingerarchitectes.com.Location: Linz, Austria Architect: Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes Project name: Financial and commercial department of voestalpine Stahl GmbH
Client: voestalpine Stahl GmbH
Architect: Dipl.-Ing. Dietmar Feichtinger
Project team leader: Claire Bodénez and Gerhard Pfeiler
Team: Philipp Hugo Urabl, Dorit Böhme, Roland Basista, Albert Moosbrugger, Ulli Gabriel, Andreas Trampe-Kieslich, Ralitsa Kafova, Camille Duperche, Katharina Düsing, Nemanja Kordic
Team Competition: Benni Eder, Simone Breitkopf, Barbara Feichtinger-Felber, Vicentiu Sopterean, Silviu Aldea, Markus Himmel, Ruth Pofahl, Rupert Siller
Engineers: Schindelar ZT_GmbH
Engineers roof structure BG41: Werkraum ZT GmbH | DI Bauer und DI Resch
Site area: 36.700 m2
1 | BG75 Verkaufs- und Finanzzentrale 11 671 m2
Parkdeck 21.154 m2
2 | BG41 Foyer 173 m2
BG41 Fläche Glasvordach 430 m2
(10 m x 43 m) 3 | Caseli Cateringservice am Gelände 1 238 m2
Built-up area: 23 160 m2
Start of planning: 09/2006
Start of construction: 13/08/2007