Vertical City and Urban Fiction
Friedrich St. Florian, Klaus Gartler and Helmut Rieder
The Austrian experimental scene of the 1960s marked the architecture of its time. It brought together a great generation of avant-garde Austrian architects and artists such as Walter Pichler, Hans Hollein and Raimund Abraham. This prestigious group notably influenced the (often theoretical) production of many international architects of the 60s and 70s. In successive exhibitions, architectural, urban and technological themes were questioned and models such as vertical city were explored.
The new emerging scene of experimental architecture
The manifesto exhibition Architektur in 1963 at the nächst St. Stephan Gallery in Vienna highlighted the emergence of this scene and the first craftsmen of Austrian radical architecture. The issues of the time were explored with a series of visionary projects mixing technology, cybernetics and new, fantasized means of communication. In 1966, the exhibition Urban Fiction was organized by Günther Feuerstein, a leading architect of the 20th century Austrian scene. The exhibition brings together works by students such as Laurids Ortner and Günter Kelp (future members of Haus-Rucker-Co), Wolf D. Prix (later Coop Himmelb(l)au), established artists such as Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler and representatives of the Graz school such as Friedrich St. Florian, Bernhard Hafner, Gartler and Rieder, Domenig and Huth. Once again held at the nächst St. Stephan Gallery in Vienna, the exhibition was a performance in which edible or flying models mingled with pop projections and children’s nursery rhymes, combining technical and innovative architecture with a playful and accessible environment.
Friedrich St Florian's Vertical City
Among these urban fiction is explored the concept of vertical cities. Friedrich St Florian is one of the architects who explored this theme. Even if he migrated to the United States in 1961, he’s an austrian born architect who studied in Graz with Raimund Abraham. In his project Vertical City he presents a 300-storey building that he thought was really constructible. The cylindrical structure is recognizable and very popular in the Austrian experimental scene. It is a guarantee of stability and ensures communications and transportation. In the case of this project, it allows the building to rise above the clouds, and to maximize the contribution of light. Therefore a distribution of the programs is thought as follows: The most necessary in light will be located at the levels above the clouds, that is to say the hospitals, the elderly and the schools. All functions are powered by solar energy. Cylindrical tubes allow to guarantee the transport between floors, fast communication and energy distribution, it is a technological sheath, the functional backbone of the building.
Vertical city and Communications
Klaus Gartler and Helmut Rieder continued this study of vertical city in Graz at the same university as Friedrich St Florian (Klaus Gartler is actually Friedrich’s little brother who changed his name). Under the aegis of Hubert Hoffmann, a former student of the Bauhaus school, they multiplied theoretical projects in which architecture frees itself from any cultural context. They make clear that technology is always the driving force behind inventiveness, making it possible to build cities never seen before in the history of architecture, optimized to promote communication, information and transportation. Once again, the theme of urban density, new technologies and the machine building that enables new communications is explored. Their vertical city is a 1600m megastructure building located in the middle of a lake. The cells which constitute the functions are armed on a central structure which must ensure communication and mobility. This machine inaugurates their research on communication in architecture and high tech architecture.
Die Vertikale Stadt, 1964
Vertical cities attempted to demonstrate that a building is capable of multiplying its uses, forming an evolved city. If we break free from cultural constraints and accept the construction of buildings of an ultra-monumental size, they would be self-sufficient, able to produce their energy, and the independent mega-infrastructures would be viable in the long term and scalable. The centrality ensured by their construction around one or more structural cylinders could guarantee better centralization of communications and better organization of mobility within the machine. Moreover, these visionnary infrastructures are a witness of technological progress and therefore of human progress, wich is architecturally staged. A visual and programmatic reflection which will open the door to the high tech architectures of the 1970s.