BAU 2015 Team Building No. 1: A rock out of concrete
Visions need the right materials and processing expertise if they are to become a reality. In a series of interviews called BAU Team Buildings we explore the working relationship between between architects, engineers and the building trades, with each of these groups having their say.
Because success in large-scale building projects comes when each of these groups applies their full knowledge and skills to the task. In the coming weeks teams from the Netherlands, the US, Switzerland and Germany will be giving insights into their joint projects, from the perspective of planning and execution.
Kicking off these BAU Team Buildings interviews is a strong team from Austria: For the construction of a New Apostolic Church in the district of Penzing in Vienna, architects Veit Aschenbrenner of Vienna had the idea of creating a monolithic exterior wall of insulating concrete. But to realize this vision (which they did in 2014) they needed the expertise of TECHNOpor. Read on to find out how this successful collaboration in planning and processing worked.
Participants of the BAU Team Building No. 1:
This project that you did together has resulted in a very beautiful building. It is an excellent example of a successful combination of the skills of architect and processor. How would you describe your cooperation?
Right from the start the cooperation with architects Veit Aschenbrenner worked extremely well. Even during the planning stages we were able to input our expertise on this special material into the project.
Had you worked together on any other projects before this one – or how did you come to team up on this one?
No, unfortunately we hadn´t worked together before. We got to know each other during the course of a competition. But Mr. Aschenbrenner already knew about our insulating concrete from Switzerland and from a project in Blaibach, Germany.
On the New Apostolic Church in Penzing, Vienna, we used TECHNOlith insulating concrete for the first time. It was during the competition that our attention was drawn again to this material, as one that was perfect for implementing our architectural vision.
Mrs. Veit-Aschenbrenner, how do you involve the individual building trades and processors in the ideas behind your project?
In our work decisions on material qualities are made strictly in line the principles and details behind the architectural concept. With the individual building trades and processors we aim to get across these conceptual ideas and to then implement them.
What qualities do you look for when you are choosing a building firm/processor for your projects?
We pay great attention to every stage in the development process, from idea to final completion. For that we need partners who are willing to engage with us and their product throughout that process. Planning and building is a cooperative undertaking.
Up to which point in the planning process are all the options still open when it comes to considering which products will be the right ones for realizing your architectural idea?
That depends very clearly on the product or project in question. In our case the decision to build the church with TECHNOlith was a major factor even in the competition and preliminary design stages, with influence on the basic idea and the sculptural quality of the building. Speaking very generally, our approach is a conceptual one, with the emphasis being placed on finding an appropriate, specific solution to the task in hand. The job is to find or to develop that specific product which will enable the architectural design to be realized.
Mr. Salzer, at what stage in a building project are you normally brought in?
We get involved very early in the planning stage and give expert advice on technical issues. We are there every step of the way, from the first stages of planning through to final costing.
With what kind of ideas and visions do architects or planners come to you? How often do you find that those ideas need first of all to be considered as special cases?
In our case the main requirement was for a monolithic construction. From the cellar to the roof, the same building material was to be used. We develop individual solutions together with the architects, structural engineers and building physics specialists. In that way, every project is unique.
What qualities do you value most highly in architects?
Creativity and the courage to try out new things. We are delighted when we are able to jointly implement great ideas for a wide range of architects. We love it when architects are inspired by our work. And in the end that leads to exceptional architecture.
Let´s turn to your joint project for the New Apostolic Church in Vienna: How does the building respond to the various factors in the immediate environment?
This new church building is very graphic in its outline, and that has a definite impact on the urban environment. Also the sculptural quality of the building volume communicates a semantic content: “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16, 18-19).
The material concept of using concrete, as modern-day “rock”, in combination with wooden elements, i.e. renewable, is both sustainable and timeless; it expresses integrity. The sculptural approach, with clear-cut openings, is underlined by the type of construction using lightweight concrete, such that the whole building volume looks like it has been carved out of a single block. The monolithic impression is in line with the construction method and the spatial form. In terms of its immediate urban context, because of the orientation towards the east, the building is at a slight angle to the neighboring buildings. The resulting open space in front of the church has been laid out as a publicly accessible space, and that gives added value to the local community.
What was your brief for the project and what was the solution you came up with?
We were tasked to design a contemporary church building with community rooms. The positioning of the main space in the church, with it tower-like skylight, is clear indication of the religious function of this building. The community rooms are organized on a split-level arrangement around this sacred central space. The corridors and hallways are designed as spaces for communication. By lowering the ground floor by half a storey, a protected outdoor space was created leading straight off from the community hall. Carefully placed openings in the area of worship support the contemplative mood, while in the community rooms, light, bright spaces and a connection to the outside generate a more open feel.
To what extent did current energy-efficiency, architectural and building trends influence this project?
The building is line with the current standards of energy efficiency. The monolithic construction means that even the opaque parts of the building can exploit solar gain. And the insulation material of foamed glass granulates derived from recycled glass is of course particularly sustainable. In this way it is possible to build a monolithic construction and to express materially the aspect of reduction in the basic concept behind the design.
Were there any particular aspects you had to take into account when using the concrete on site?
Because of the building geometry (sloping wall behind the altar and offset concrete floors) and the finish required on the exposed concrete surfaces, everybody had to take great care – the building firm, the structural engineers, the shuttering manufacturers and us, too, when we were supervising the concrete work on site.
We had to be very careful with the material to achieve a good quality on the exposed surfaces. With this material, all the factors, e.g. shuttering, reinforcement etc. have to be tuned perfectly to each other. Because of the absorbing effect of the TECHNOlith insulating concrete, strong vibrators are required for compaction. That´s how we achieved the desired limestone look and ensured the reinforcement was properly covered. After a longer striking time, the walls have to stay covered up to prevent rapid drying out.
To finish, do you have any interesting anecdotes about your cooperation that you would like to share with us?
One of our contacts at TECHNOpor promised that when we had completed the project, he would work out how many wine bottles we would have had to drink to produce the quantity of foam glass aggregate used in the concrete. We are still waiting to hear that figure …
Project: New Apostolic Church, Vienna, AT
Architect: Veit Aschenbrenner Architekten ZT GmbH, Vienna, AT
Project team: Pawel Zabczynski, Tobias Gutheil, Stefania Toso
Processor and manufacturer: TECHNOpor Dämmbeton GmbH, Krems, AT
Client: Neuapostolische Kirche Österreich, Vienna, AT
Building firm: Steiner-Bau GesmbH, Vienna, AT
Structural engineer: Gmeiner Haferl Zivilingenieure ZT GmbH, Vienna, AT
Shuttering: Doka GmbH, Amstetten, AT