Variation of modes of use: functions, users, schedules, etc.

Relationship between the ownership and the form of the investment that allows the transformation

Variation of the overall dimensions of the building

Proportional relationship between new spaces and existing spaces

Relationship between the structural adjustments and the existing structure

Relationship between the forms and types of pre-existing materials and those of the new intervention

Relationship between the image of the new and the image of the existing (mimesis / contrast)




Hubmann Vass Architekten



Hubmann Vass Architekten – Cultural Centre ALPENMILCHZENTRALE

PROJECT - Main Infos

PROJECT: Hubmann Vass Architekten – Cultural Centre ALPENMILCHZENTRALE


YEAR: 1997

ARCHITECT / FIRM: Hubmann Vass Architekten

BUYER: Johannes Rudnicki

SURFACE: 1.420 sqm

PRICE: € 180.000

Once a well-known traditional Viennese milk factory amidst the dense grid from the promoterism period at the end of the 19th century, situated at the outer edge of the 4th district, the „Alpenmilchzentrale“ is one of the numerous industrial structures in the center of Vienna, that were shut down and opened for new occupations since the eighties of the 20th century. In this case of a “reprogrammation” of a milk factory to a studio and workshop building the course we followed was from the very beginning in search for the surprising chances, preformed in the existing fabric, and for its often contradictious peculiarities. By the means of interventions in points the existing building was aimed to be experienced in a new way and to be used by the public. The principal item of the new program, the exhibitions and cultural event center, planned for activities around the focal points of actual arts, design and media, occupies parts of the ground floor and the first floor. The most important needs were a new and independent access to the cultural center, basic services and the definition of the joints, partitions and interstitious rooms between its parts. On about 1400m2 total floor area it extends over various newly distributed and communicating wings, whose differences in level, space and structure indicate the numerous changes and transformations throughout the history of the complex. This differentiation and the fuzzi mode in which it appears is used in a positive way by the project´s design. It’s punctual, dispersed interventions attribute to the existing fabric the soundless tune of a fiction that may become explicit only in the visitors mind. Formerly inaccessible, closed rooms are opened and linked up to a chain of places and steps forming a way up to a split-level foyer. The parcours ends at the upper level of the foyer in front of a horizontal glazing that covers the gap cut through a double wall to give view over the roofs of the complex. Hidden or all too present elements, the milk factory’s wall tiles, door frames or concrete pillars, the tall chimney or an iron-ladder on the roof-scape appear surprisingly as if they wanted to ask for their story. The interventions were made up by extractions (clearing out rooms, opening walls, eliminating partitions, etc.) and concentrated new objects and components. These were realized in simple, cheap but slightly differenciated materials: concrete shelters and cement floors, galvanized and inoxidable steel elements, clear and dark plywood of the same species, transparent and opaque glass. They seek complicity with the existing fabric: rough and glaced ceramics, concrete and plaster, steel and glass. By this any distinction between new and existing parts is blurred. They become doubles of one another emanating a weird equilibrium, open for the interpretations of the multitude.

WHAT - Program

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The new functional program has completely replaced the original one.

The program of the cultural cluster Alpenmilchzentrale was conceived to address the public in the most open way and to offer space for cultural production at low cost. The formerly industrial complex with restricted accessibility should be converted into an open hot spot of urban cultural life. Whereas the spaces at disposal as ateliers for cultural production (3.500sqm) were equipped only with basic installations (heating, water, electricity), leaving all other requested adaptations to the future tenants, the catalyser for the future activities and core of the program should be the centre for cultural manifestations (1.400sqm), located on the ground floor and first floor in the main parts of the former milk production complex. To achieve accessibility the literal and in the transcribed meaning, especially to the main spaces on the first floor, and to let the existing spaces as much as possible untouched so that they could evolve their proper correspondences with the varied activities, reaching from art exhibitions, performances, theatre or dance to lectures and conferences – these were the main programmatic targets the project should keep in view. The porter’s lodge was transformed into a show-case; one of the halls at the street-side giving access to the existing, restored freight-elevator, was chosen to serve as delivery and package space; the thoroughfare from Weyringerstraße and an adjacent little courtyard had to receive the new public entrance and the open stairway to the first floor, as well as open-air exhibition spaces – the whole way up using existing spaces linked to one-another in a surprising way. On the first floor the focus of the program lay on a foyer on two levels, giving access to a scarcely adapted conference room and to the toilets as well as to the exhibition halls in the street- and the courtyard-building. A secondary direct access to the big halls at the street had to serve also as an emergence exit.

WHO - Financing

TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The investor is the property owner.

The building complex remained at first in the family-ownership of the former milk-factory and a son of the owners proposed, on the basis of variant studies by the architects, to develop the site with a low-cost strategy, that could be financed without credits. Later on the son took over the parts of the other family members and organized the development of the site as a busyness-complex, following this strategy.

HOW MUCH - Absolute Dimensions


TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions are equal to the pre-existing surface.


TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The overall dimensions are equal to the pre-existing volume.

The absolute dimensions did not change, neither in surface extension nor in volume. There were no additions and no demolitions of buildings.

HOW MUCH - Relative Dimensions

TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: There are no new spaces.

The relative dimensions did not change, neither in surface extension nor in volume. There were no additions and no demolitions of buildings. There is no extension of the surface, but outdoor spaces (thoroughfare, courtyard) are integrated into the program of the culture centre, so that more spaces are at disposal without constructing new volumes.

HOW - Design Strategy STRUCTURE

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The supporting structure is mainly the original one.

The existing building is a multi-story complex with different parts dating from about 1860 to 1980. The constructive system varies, depending on the age of the parts, between brickwork with vaults and beam-structures and reinforced concrete pillars bearing concrete floor slabs. All the load-bearing structure was prepared or reinforced with the years to receive the heavy dynamic loads of milk-factory’s machines. For this the structure was perfectly prepared to house the most varied exhibitions, even containing heavy sculptures or even objects of our industrial culture. So, when the machinery of the milk-factory was dismantled piece by piece the specific technical functions of the spaces vaporised and what remained was a complex structure of rough halls, open for new interpretations. This structure was not changed, with exception of new apertures in the load-bearing walls between the different wings of the building. By that new connections and distributions were created, linking up the existing spaces of the milk factory to form the culture centre. At the same time these new openings were set in a way to offer surprising new insights into the building’s complexity. Punctually new structural elements such as stairs, lintels, floor-slabs, walls, cover-plates or parapets were introduced in connection to these openings, appearing as autonomous freestanding structures which nevertheless demonstrate a closeness, even a strange complicity to the materials of the existing structure. In the street-wing, dating from the 1960ies, a concrete frame structure, one pillar, different from all others, was set free and divested from its plaster covering. At the end of a row of pillars it appears as a rough concrete parallelepiped sticking out from the new structure of vertical and horizontal visible concrete slabs, which forms the secondary entrance to the big exhibition spaces.

HOW - Design Strategy MATERIAL

PREVALENT CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The materials chosen for the new intervention show more similarities than differences compared to the pre-existing ones.

Materially the milk factory offered a complex structure of rough spaces with hard wall and floor-surfaces of high-quality coloured ceramic tiles adapted to the chemical demands of the production. In the exhibition spaces this ceramic wall-material was painted white, unifying them now with the equally white painted ceiling, whereas the floors show the rough material in its original light ochre colour. In one of exhibition spaces the original wood-cement floor is conserved. In contrast, the wall-tiles remain open in all access and foyer spaces as well as in a smaller room dedicated to performances and theatre and at the door that gives to the conference hall. Also due to the very restricted budget, aside from the white paint, the overall measures had to be limited to industrial electricity installations and the cheapest lightning fixtures. Specific material interventions were localized at the way up from the street and at the thresholds between the parts of the culture centre. Here elements of visible concrete, poured in plywood-shuttering without the use of concrete anchors, communicate with the materiality of the pre-existing structures and surfaces. A huge concrete table with sanded surface occupies the porters lodge at the street and transforms it into a room for video presentation. In the thoroughfare with its asphalt floor, concrete deflectors and green wall-tiles the access stairway is marked by a tall concrete block, hermetic at a first glimpse but opening up like a niche when you come closer, showing the first series of concrete-steps. Galvanised expanded steel parapets and handrails of tilted stainless steel accentuate the stairway. Here, opposite to the concrete-niche the thoroughfare has been opened to the small courtyard, which was adapted with a concrete floor (a hole left behind after dismantling an exhaust-air-tube was used for a floor-spotlight), and smaller concrete elements, a slab protecting a door that gives to the existing stair-case and cylindrical parapets for two openings that lighten the open space which is reached by the mentioned steps. The way up continues with concrete stairs, stainless handrails and an accompanying concrete wall-slab that becomes a parapet when you reach the upper level of the foyer. Here a glass-slab, set on the tiled wall like a glossy object, covers a horizontal new opening that offers a surprising view over the roof-“landscape” of the complex. The adjacent toilets were realized with plywood-panels, as well as the new entrance door to the existing staircase and the separator and entrance element of the conference hall. This element was completed by a ceiling-high glass plate that was etched from the height of 1.40 meters upwards. Further concrete stairs link the levels of the exhibition spaces. As mentioned yet, an element of the same material, together with fireproof glass-sheets in galvanised steel-frames, articulates the big exhibition hall with the existing secondary staircase.

HOW - Design Strategy IMAGE

TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The new intervention is in total mimetic continuity with the existing structures.

The presence of the culture-centre melts with that of the existing industrial building. Nevertheless the subliminal appearance of the project shifts this presence consciously from the pragmatic to the metaphysical side of the found place. Without almost any substantial transformations the structure takes on the character of an irritating system of references tying up old and new in a transformed, self-reflective meaning and order; material at the other side is reviewed as a sensitive rather than purely technical value, at a beat and in complicity with the existing. The building complex was about secondary production and, as to become apt for tertiary values avoiding any sentimental romanticism of the industrial so often observed in this shift, it had to be opened up semantically through a self-reflective process. It had to gain physical and spatial presence to reach a new openness for unpredictable interpretations. Therefor the new elements of the project were not to be fixed in an image that would unavoidably work in contrast to the existing. Instead of simulating some unpredictable future they should evoke questions on their origin, on their limits, on their way of being. Why, when, where and how – these are not answers, architecture can give, but questions it has to ask its undeterminable public.