Compact City, Primitive Forms and High Tech Language

Compact City
Walter Pichler
1963

With the Compact City project, Walter Pichler reinterprets architectural themes that were much discussed in the 1960s. He explored through modeling and drawing an alternative, mixing high-tech architecture and primitive influence.

An avant-garde sculptor-architect

Walter Pichler (1936-2012) was an Austrian artist, particularly striking for his almost permanent association of sculpture and architectural space. Very influential and at the forefront of the spatial experimentations of the 1970s, he produced a large number of sculptures and drawings marked by a spiritual approach to the object or architectural space. In the 1960s, he began to produce series of architectural projects in which questions of plasticity, symmetry and form were addressed at the antipodes of functionalism. He joined forces with Austrian architects such as Hans Hollein and Raimund Abraham to pursue his anti-rationalist and conceptual approach. In 1963, his collaboration with Hollein led to the manifesto exhibition Architektur at the nächst St. Stephan Gallery in Vienna, the main platform of the Austrian avant-garde at the time. This became the birthplace of the Viennese experimental scene, from which groups such as Coop Himme(l)bau and Haus-Rucker-Co emerged.
Mainly known as a sculptor, Walter Pichler will however have an impact on the architectural production of his contemporaries. He constantly challenged the convictions of the sculptors, architects and designers of the time by continuing to create architectural objects, spatial installations, drawings of utopian cities by playing with perception, space and by freeing himself from the constraint of construction. This is undoubtedly why he sometimes took several years to build his sculptures, multiplying drawings, plans, preparatory models.

Compact City, a reinterpretation of architectural themes

Following a trip to the United States and Mexico, Walter Pichler oriented his production towards more and more radical architectural and urbanistic proposals such as the Compact City project (1963). With a series of prototypes, he also demonstrated the absurdities of the consumer society. Finally he ended his life in a farmhouse bought in the south of Austria in the 70s. There he experimented with the construction of ritualized places in which the human being is subjected to the power of objects. Each sculpture is built in an architectural space also constructed to resonate with the object. All these installations are built around his studio, a spatial and intellectual nucleus, a theme dear to the artist allowing the sensitive and spatial integration of architecture and sculpture.

For the Compact City project, Pichler explores questions that were much discussed in the 1960s in the international architectural community: collective housing and urban concentration. Instead of providing an answer to a problem, he formulates through a model and drawings a new interpretation of the theme. Formally, he sculpted an architecture based on technological performance. The model of Compact City is made up of 2 connected monolithic plaster towers. One is cylindrical in shape while the other is a set of asperities, like old stones in agglomerated ruins. In reality the cylindrical tower is the skeleton of the city, dedicated to connections and communications, on which are built housing units proliferating vertically and horizontally to form an indefinite model as represented by the second tower. A transparent globe structure covers the structures, representing an artificial air conditioning system.


Pichler explores with the Compact City project, the theme of collective housing by mixing technological performance and individual freedom. He develops by his model and his drawings an association between primitive forms and high tech language. This project was presented in 1963 during the Architektur manifesto exhibition at the Nächst St. Stephan gallery in Vienna, considered as the inaugural event of the Austrian radical movement.

Walter Pichler Compact City
Walter Pichler Compact City
Walter Pichler Compact City
Source: FRAC
TER50

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