The Efficiency of Looseness

Master Studio: Construction Material Technology


Michelle Howard | Christian Fröhlich 

“Perhaps the most important and least recognized difference between traditional [1882] and contemporary architecture is revealed in the way a hyper-monumental, space-wasting building like the Arnhem panopticon proves flexible, while modern architecture is based on a deterministic coincidence between form and program (...). Flexibility is not the exhaustive anticipation of all possible changes. Most changes are unpredictable.” (Rem Koolhaas in his essay; Project for the Renovation of a Panopticon Prison, 1981)

 Many contemporary buildings are outdated even before they have been completed. With this in mind we will investigate the possibilities of an alternative idea of efficiency: that of an efficiency which, through admitting the limits of planning, increases the life-span of buildings; the efficiency of looseness. 

The Agent - In the CMT project this semester we propose that the new efficiency in Architecture is not flexibility but looseness. Our Agent is the ORF building at the Küniglberg; a building which of all of our agents may be that whose design has most closely adhered to the original tenets of modernist ideas (on flexibility). 

 The ORF is a tailor-made building and a prototype, the result of close cooperation between the then all-powerful, director of the ORF, Gerd Bacher, and the already well known Architect, Roland Rainer. Planning began in the 1960’s and it was built between 1969 and 1976. The Media we know today has changed and grown and metamorphosed. How has the building which was intended to accommodate that Media fared?

The Premise - The Media reports that the ORF wants to move out of its quarters in the Küniglberg. The reasons for this move are manifold but fuzzy: ranging from complaints that the building is not sufficiently insulated to today’s standards, and that its current status as a historic monument prevents any intervention which could solve the insulation problem; that the building cannot adapt to current requirements; that it is too far away from the centre of Vienna, to complaints that the building itself is too large with too many facilities, too many studios and too many overheads. 

 It is the complaints about the buildings’ over-large size that we use as the premise in CMT to introduce our proposed intervention. The premise is that, if they have too much space the most effective, reversible and sustainable solution would be to invite a new tenant to occupy some of it. This premise will also allow us to test the truth of other complaints about the building ensemble, and; its looseness.