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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Tower Builder: Interview with Heinz Neumann by Business Location Austria


architect/artist: Heinz Neumann
interview title: The Tower Builder: Interview with Heinz Neumann
interviews compilation no: T-44
interview format: Text
date: Annual 2007
appeared in: Business Location Austria
photo by: Uniqua


Interview Details:

(as appeared in Web page)

“We have to handle our developed
environments with great care
because we, our society, our age,
will one day be judged on the basis
of the buildings that we leave
© Uniqua

Interview with Heinz Neumann

Heinz Neumann is one of the best-known and most influential architects in Austria. His latest creations include the Uniqa Tower on the Danube Canal in Vienna. Business Location Austria spoke with him about his vision of modern office architecture.

Do you see yourself as an artist or architect?

I like to call my approach to architecture “self-evident architecture”. One hundred years ago, someone asked Adolf Loos whether a building should be art or a building. His reply was: “A building has to be a building, because it has to appeal to everyone. If someone doesn’t like art, it doesn’t matter.” For me, this means that architecture must be “self-evident”.

What do you feel are the greatest challenges in planning a building the size of the Uniqa Tower?

In order to plan and develop projects, you must be able to think conceptually and creatively and to find economical solutions. The harmonisation of a multitude of important aspects in a developed environment also requires an awareness of historical importance and responsibility towards future generations. This is a challenge.

What are the most significant factors in planning?

We have to handle our developed environments with great care because we, our society, our age, will one day be judged on the basis of the buildings that we leave behind. This is an important responsibility. And architects bear this responsibility.

You planned the Uniqa Tower. This also included a comprehensive interior design concept. What does this concept look like in the case of this building?

Office buildings should above all be functional, but the architectural aspect cannot fall by the wayside.
Light, colour, room climate and room acoustics are the most important factors that an architect must consider and that determine the occupants’ well-being.

One of the special features of the Uniqa Tower is the bar and fitness area for the employees. Are these amenities unique to the Uniqa Tower, or are things like this commonly included in office buildings nowadays?

These features show that the building owner looked beyond the mere creation of workspaces and attached importance to increasing the attractiveness of the building for its employees and for outsiders.

What is “fashionable” at the moment in office buildings? We see a lot of relatively “transparent” buildings with glass and wood elements today. What is in greatest demand?

It is my personal conviction that it is not an architect’s place to spread a credo or to dole out advice “from on high”. Our developed environment cannot be based on the premise that you can only build round or square or slanted or whatever. “Fashionable” is a fleeting, continually changing phenomenon that has no place in a building project. I also feel that every building owner deserves a personal solution that fulfils his or her specific needs. In whatever material is desired or appropriate.

A quick look around the city makes it evident that a lot of people want to build as tall as possible. What is the intent behind these new office high-rises?

High-rises are a product of the available space and the available infrastructure. It always has been and still is legitimate that a tall building is a landmark and a sign of the power of an organisation. In the case of the Uniqa Tower, I had to take into account that this building was to be the headquarters of a major corporation. Key themes in the design were transparency, openness, innovation, dynamism, future orientation, the company’s brand philosophy and its corporate identity. If I may, I would like to quote from the book “UNIQA Tower”: “The basic premises behind the design were as follows. The elliptical form lends a tall building the necessary elegance and slenderness. We did not want to place a hulking monolith at this important location, but a building that is elegant from every perspective. Anyone who knows all the details of this structure as a designer and architect recognises the poetry embodied in the slick, elegant form at street level that thrusts upward, tilts slightly but does not hide its strength and resilience, and that then runs down the other side and flows into the adjoining structures in a gentle, undulating form. I feel that the building was incorporated poetically into a relatively rigid environment.” [DL]


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