Crystal Talk
Text: J. Tabor, A. SoucekPhotos: G. Hagen, H. Hurnaus, L. Rastl, M. Seidl, M. Spiluttini, R. Steiner



There are numerous architectural groups and offices in Vienna with handsome names and which in some cases have also become really successful: eisvogel., caramel, t-hoch-n, pool, the next ENTERprise, BWM, propeller z, AllesWirdGut, Bittersüss, 000y0 Architekten, feld72, silberpfeil... Striking group names such as these have several advantages. You do not have to list all the names of the members, which no-one can remember anyway, not even the client, and it creates an impression of unspent youth, a permanent, young architectural freshness.

The querkraft (lateral force) group is one of the most successful companies and has one of the most appealing names. It has been around since 1998, when four young graduates from the Technical University in Vienna decided to work together. In those days group-name studios were not yet a mass phenomenon in Vienna - querkraft was one of the first, together with propeller z architects. There was, however, quite definitely an Austrian tradition in this respect, which has in fact become highly prestigious: Haus-Rucker-Co, Salz der Erde, Coop Himmelb(l)au, missing link and ZÜND-UP were the names of some of the young architectural groups in the 1960s and early 1970s, all of which have achieved fame of some sort or other. Almost all the architects have become professors and even today most of them are still of interest as practicing architects - even if they are no longer utopian.

The new groups are no longer so concerned with creating utopia, although it is still lurking somewhere in the back of their minds. More than anything they want to build - but not at any price. They want to build such that something of the utopia in the back of their minds is actually visible: architecture as poetry, as fun, and as a human task. Anybody who has created a good building - and good here implies interesting in terms of concept and detail - has improved the world a little. In this respect, querkraft is no different from any other architectural group in the Vienna scene. But the three architects and their staff are indisputably the most forceful of all the Viennese studios. Who can dispute it: kraft (force) means young, strong, dependable. persevering, imaginative ... and quer (lateral): constructive, persistent, crossover, unconventional, at times rebellious but by no means stubborn or inflexible.


querkraft is Jakob Dunkl, Gerd Erhartt and Peter Sapp. Until 2004 founding member Michael Zinner, who has since moved to Linz to devote himself to training architects, was also part of the team. Peter Sapp teaches too; he holds the Chair of Interior Design at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. Helmut Richter, who was recently described in a lecture by Peter Cook as the best contemporary architect in Austria, had an important influence on the querkraft architects. They value Richter, under whom they studied, and in whose company they worked, for his innovative solutions emanating from the structure. Richter applies the structural aspect aesthetically, with the impact of the aesthetics being underscored by the choice of unusual materials. These include so-called banal materials not usually used in architecture - such as the canvas covers used on trucks, formwork boards, wire gauze, and corrugated metal. querkraft never tires of reasserting how much they respect Richter and how much they have learnt from him.

The querkrafters first managed to grab the limelight with a Richter-style approach for a sun-sail at a street cafe in Vienna: Sailcloth was used in a cleverly constructive way - the solution was not just efficient but also inexpensive. The use of sailboat equipment later became a fashion, and fashion is not what querkraft is about. They look for and deliver individual solutions. They do not strive for a recognizable signature, nor an image all of their own unless, that is, it is one of calmness both in their way of working and in the language their buildings are made with. Composure reigned at the beginning of their career as well in terms of building costs, not upward, however, quite the contrary, downward. The more limited the budget was, the easier time they had - or so it appeared. You can see from the buildings that they must have cost little to build, yet they never look cheap. If anything quite the opposite: they are rather complex, with lots of thought going into the conception and design phase. The finished buildings provide a sense of this and likewise the long communal discussions which preceded the designs. In the beginning designing is a verbal process - instead of finding a democratic solution querkraft keeps on discussing until everyone agrees.

querkraft became well-known with its temporary design for a major future construction site, namely converting the Messepalast in Vienna to a museum district. The assignment involved drawing attention to the upcoming event by designing the facade: A baroque monument, the former imperial stalls, was to be converted into a modern cultural center. In Vienna, where people and particularly city planners and local politicians suffered from the terrible horror vacui of the 19th century and everything has to be densely overgrown in the mistaken belief that it is nature, so beautiful, querkraft came up with a counter strategy. They had all bushes and shrubs removed from the forecourt of the future museum district. The cleared spaces were decorated with numerous running meters of scaffold netting. The installation looked like colored tennis nets hanging vertically in front of the facade. It was unusual, and hard to overlook, and thus it also drew attention to the humor and talent of querkraft.

Two years later, in 2001, querkraft designed Prachner, a bookshop specializing in art and architecture books, in the museum district. They adapted the baroque space into a large reading arena. Major contracts followed, such as the office and operations building for Trevision in the Burgenland region, a timber family home for EUR 200,000, a double building on a cliff in Klosterneuburg and a residential building constructed in a gap between other buildings. Recent querkraft projects include the design of the Römermuseum in Vienna and the Adi Dassler Brand Center in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Not to mention the final coup, the Liaunig Museum in southern Austriaa. The building is regarded as one of the finest museum buildings in the whole of Europe. It enriches a wonderful hilly landscape - a rare case.

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