STUDIO ANDREAS LECHNER

EU Agriculture & Energy Park

A productive urban landscape – EUROPAN 10 Graz – First Prize (2010)

Winner Europan 10 Graz: Andreas Lechner (AT), Emilio Hauer (AT), Robert Zawodnik (AT), Christoph Simschitz (AT)



Category: territorial/urban
Location: Graz, Puntigam
Population : 280.000 Inhabitants
Study site: 182,2 ha
Project Site: 66,5 ha

fig. study and competition area

Site proposed by: Municipal company of the City of Graz, Department of City Planning, Real Estate Agency of the City of Graz
Status: discontinued 

Link to project in the archives of Europan Austria


Excerpt from jury report: 

“The project introduces a clear and strong strategy of evaluating the area as a promising future, a new model for peripheral areas which suffer from an overall lack of structural qualities, are characterized by a diffused landscape and an absolute absence of identity. The idea is to develop a characeristic new spatial setting which we could see as a „productive landscape“ entering a specific dialogue with buildings: being a significant, large-scaled object each building provides a specific programme which is strongly linked to the productive landscape, using and shaping its qualities. At the same time these specific buildings share the same skin, thus introducing a serial mode of sequential appearances along the longitudinal development of the landscape: the heterogeneity of the area meets the homeogeneity of the skin, provoking an attractive tension between similarity and difference. The Mur river as the one identifying element thus finds its correspondence in the overall study area which – territorially – develops to a new species, an interesting pilot-model for suburban areas where landscape closely intertwines with large scale production, integrating agricultural, industrial, an recreational uses. Although the large scale of the project does not seem to respect the context of the fragmented ownership structures, the strategy clearly addresses the pattern of the parcels creating different „fields“ of intervention in which the specific programmatic scenarios can take place. The suggested programs range from agricultural animal farms to recreational drive- in buildings. The jury discusses the apropriateness of size and programme in relation to the demands of an intelligent urban strategy. Parts of the jury do not see any viable strategy behind the seductive images which tell about the poetic relationship between landscape and object. Another part of the jury exactly sees in the configuration of large scale developments in synergy with an open landscape a very high strategic potential: by providing a concept for a very strong identity, issues such as traffic infrastructure, interdisciplinary synergies, programmatical appropriateness and landscape development are secondary structures whose further development can be easily negotiated and adapted in the future process without loosing the quality of the concept.”



Initial Observations


A striking spatial discontinuity is comprised by a field of different building types, uses and scales, that results in a lack of any urban principle that might help to establish a specific frame or certain contour for a public space in the study area. This lack of typological and urban substance is a characteristic of periburban zones and its high degree of determination by infrastructure.


The railway tracks are a relic of industrial infrastructure that waits to be tied to a contemporary use and theme. What is it that these tracks can possibly connect?


fig. study area and river, scales and rhythm


Our goal is to find a vision that is connected by this infrastructure. Could this happen in a way comparable and in connection to the riverscape? Wandering through the study area on immediately realizes that it is only fragments, cut outs and frames that can be perceived. This observation can be transformed into a first strategy of design: Along with the riverscape of the Mur the study area can be divided into units of different scales. With specific interventions two targets can be designated, firstly on a landscape level (linear and field-like elements) and secondly on an architecture level with punctual intervention and icons for orientation and impact on immediate surroundings.

Fields and stratification of green spaces (rhythm 1)



Along our study area existing green space is  complemented / trimmed and erased in order to provide a recognizable stratification scale related to the speed of pedestrians.



fig. concept for scale of fields and stratification of green spaces


Of special significance will be the „landscaped voids“: These zones will provide a deep sight into the study area. These voids are landscaped zones or parks that lack an economic motiviation. They are signficant for orientation and provide contemplative areas for recreational purposes. At the same time they can be very well perceived and enjoyed from  viewing plattforms on the left bank of the river because trimmed tree lines at the bank provide “window openings.”



In combination with the sequences of different landscape designs - that are derived from lateral relationsships (site and field borders and streets in the study area that are brought to the riverscape) the rhythm of dense  and open sections provide a distinctive spatial continuity that is structured by the high visual identity of „cuts“. The green space along the tracks is being transformed/densified into green corridors that are designed differently (species, setting, height, density) in respect to the various fields and zones. Also the Mühlgang river is thought of as a green area interrupted/cut out at significant places like traffic joints, important site borders or programmatical aspects.

Landscape parks


Woven into this sequence of economic spaces are parks that provide urban eco-systems. As zones of recreation they provide aesthetic pleasure –   artifical landscapes for „consuming“ nature. On the eastern edge of the area these garden zones are bordered by the green corridors of the Mühlgang, to the south and north the site borders and their respective greenery provide a spatial confinement. As “blind spots” of the AE-Park these landscaped voids provide an important ecologic stabilizer.


fig. View into landscaped pocket park on the other side of the river

 

Sports


Areas for physical exercise are exemplarily provided with anglo-american sports fields. Service spaces are integrated into landscape elements that can also provide tribunes for viewers. The golf exercise court on the project area is being re-organised in order to provide the neighbouring fields and sites with a clear structure. The Club house is to be integrated into one of the GSS-buildings.




fig. American sports field with GSS-buildings

Agriculture

Areas for organic agriculture, animal husbandry and cultivation are programmatically joined with the GSS-buildings.



fig. Restaurant, Animal farm, and fields  


These fields are to be integrated into exisiting fields or are located directly beside and mounted onto the various GSS-buildings an range from wind wheels to photovoltaic panels and solar systems that are synergetically combined.

Repeating building envelopes (rhythm 2)


At neuralgic nodes in the study area existing structures are re-worked respectively new ones devised to be errected. The criterias for the selection of the sites for these structures are derived from ideas on the utmost spatial visibility from all locations on the study area as well as the closest possible vicinity/connection to the tracks.  


fig. Map with positions and programmes of GSS-buildings in neuralgic spots of the study area

The changing relationsships between riverscape and tracks create a varying spatial tension along the study and project area. The architectural character of the significant Icons bring to mind a well-known element of suburban landscapes: the glas- or greenhouse. Existing and new structures are being wrapped into this greenhouse-system. Therefore this facade creates a distinct spatial layer that produces a twofold surplus. On the one hand it provides a positive image transfer insofar as the Green Solar Skin is outfitted with semitransparent photovoltaic cells – it produces energy.

fig. GSS concept

And on the other hand these spatial layers can be connected to the program of the respective buildings. In this changing relationship different effects are optically generated. It is an effect of „Verfremdung“ that results from different uses while at a same time these uses are covered with structurally identical elements – a simple design principle for interpreting these programs in a concise and new way.


fig. GSS building Animal farm, park, and GSS market at the Mur river bank in
the competiton area


The homogenization of the visual appearance – the unifying envelope of the glas-/ green house – takes pressure from the buildings to produce iconic singularities and provide an exemplary strategy instead, that furthers the development of an continous energy and agricultural theme. Read together the sequence of the programmatic uses generates a metabolism that loops through the study area by material means of transporting goods on the tracks. This produces a politically viable foundation that can be economically, ecologically and culturally be communicated. The programs of the various buildings are literally being backgrounded by means of a homogenous façade design. The main advantage in this design strategy lies in the ambivalence of program and appearance. It is the possibility of changing the program without loosing its origin – form and spatial expansion are not arbitrarily (technically) but specifically derived from its locations. They are mixing and hybridizing an “abstract” room of economy at specific locations with the ungrounded and generic unspecifity of technology in form of a Glasshouse. This interaction generates a necessary unification (the Image that points at project of the EURO-AE-PARK-GRAZ) but at the same time it operates as distinctive element in respective zonal context where become effective as “Green-Solar-Skin” –  unambiguously non-representative repetitions.


fig. party on the right bank of Mur river with GSS building in background


Competition brief:

“Reactivating the railway track as an infrastructure for future-orientated companies is an internationally acclaimed initiative leading to new types of organization of space. The sustainable substance of this attractive image will be used to revitalize a large area giving the city a new and highly significant space. The qualities of the new strip correspond to various goals: 1. the making public of the waterfront of the main river; 2. the support of mobil¬ities with low negative impact on en¬vironments connecting to diverse urban activities. 3. strategies for densifying areas with trade uses 4. attracting international players on the market. The successful relation between densification, quality of public space and future coexistence of different mobilities on the strip – trains, trucks, bicycles, rollers, runners, walkers, strollers, dogs, etc. – shall demonstrate how a city can manage the dialogue between public and private forces. The southern area of the historical “Grazer Schleppbahn” (formerly an industrial rail-track) is located in the districts Gries and Puntigam. Like a spine it connects the existing retail and industrial uses over a length of about 3 kilometers. As Graz developed southwards parallel to major N-S lines including also the natural element of the river Mur, a strong presence of landscape qualities accompanies the large scale developments of the existing companies. A partly attractive river promenade is already established and provides a popular North-South connection for bicycles and pedestrians. The space is used as connection and leisure place at the same time. Recent initiatives like the new Innovation-Park-Graz are proof of the ongoing interests in developing this area. The reactivation of the railway track in 2009 is a unique possibility of creating an intensified and progressive work environment in dialogue with new public spaces.

NEW URBAN MOBILITY
The frenzy dialogue between various parallel mobilities – running water, sports, trucks, trains and public walks – is the starting point for a new idea of landscape organizing the movements of the everyday in an attractive way: mobility no longer performs as mono-functional connection but offers various speeds, approaching even the pleasures of 0 kilometers per hour.

NEW SOCIAL LIFE
The connection of the consolidated urban fabric to the southern areas of the city could be used to create a distinct public space for different people, not only connecting them with different areas but also allowing them to dwell, rest, live, work and play along this strip.

NEW ECOLOGY
1. The use of the reactivated railway track creates a sustainable working environment using low impact transport;
2. This situation has to be further exploited by typological transformations allowing higher densification;
4. New ecology as “the art of coexistence”: the orchestration of new relations between infrastructure, nature, industry and public space.”




ARCHITEKT ANDREAS LECHNER

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Austria

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