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Interview: Heinz Neumann
20160227
c Neumann

Interview: Heinz Neumann

20160227

Occupation Architect Firm www.neumannundpartner.com Reference projects New Westbahnhof (translator’s note: railway station), Generali Center, Uniqa Tower and many more Credo Every place, every construction project, every aim requires a different architectural response.
“If you want to talk about architecture… Contact me,” it says on the website of Neumann + Partner. So we wrote Heinz Neumann an email. And asked him about architecture. Neumann is one of the most famous architects in Austria and is responsible for prominent architectural structures in Vienna, including large parts of the Goldenes Quartier. In 2015 he received the Golden Order of Merit for Services Rendered to the Province of Vienna. Your reference projects include the Uniqa Tower, the new Westbahnhof and the Ares Tower. Which project means the most to you personally, and why? I would be a cruel father if I had a favourite child. But it makes me feel bitter when a building contractor takes over a building. That feels like you’re abandoning your child. In the Goldenes Quartier you were the general planner for the Tuchlauben and Am Hof projects. What was the scope of your role? We were commissioned with all the architectural services. That encompassed the preliminary design, final design and application schedule (building permit, authorization for listed buildings and trade permit), the construction plan as well as the overall technical and creative management. What were the project’s most significant challenges? Integrating the requirements of a 5-star hotel into the historic setting of the tenure. Keeping the roof extension within the constraints of the building’s conservation status, which demanded that no windows be visible in the roof area. Designing contemporary shop window architecture that would suit the historic façades. Restoring the high-quality interior design of the bel étage after the fire (editor’s note: in November 2011). You say that architecture is a reflection of society. So what does Vienna’s architecture tell us about the Viennese? The Viennese have depicted their society in buildings throughout the ages. In the baroque period, that meant wonderful city residences, palaces and gardens; a distinct architectural style even developed during the age of Biedermeier. The Gründerzeit (translator’s note: late 19th/early 20th century) facilitated the building of the Ringstrasse – a magnificent example – and today Vienna’s residential buildings undoubtedly make the city an international front-runner in terms of architecture. On your website, you say that architecture can only be realized through working in an interdisciplinary way. Which disciplines, for example? All of them. Beyond the services of a general planner, it involves coordinating special disciplines like fire safety, acoustics, interior design, lighting design, media technology, restoration with specialist fields like wood, stone, metal, historic glass, façades and interior plaster, as well as painting. The architect is the conductor who moulds all of those specialized disciplines into a single, harmonious orchestra. At the beginning of your career you worked for Alvar Aalto. What lesson did you learn from him that has stuck in your memory? Architecture has to be self-evident. Just look at his wonderful, organic wooden furniture! Describe your ideal office. When you can’t leave anything else out but you still feel comfortable there. What does your office look like? Precisely like that, but I permit myself to decorate the walls with pictures. That stirs my imagination. Which materials would you like to use if you had to realize a construction project in the old parts of Vienna? I would definitely seek to create a dialogue between the old, existing stock and the new building. I don’t approve of dumping a great big howler in the middle of harmonious old buildings. Plastered façades, embrasures, wooden window frames, but by all means in a contemporary architectural style. What is the craziest office that you’ve ever seen? Have a look at Norman Foster’s office. It reminds me of a galley. Which piece of furniture are you designing at the moment? Desk lamps and, once again, a couple of chairs. Which building are you constructing at the moment? Two hotels at Vienna’s Hauptbahnhof (translator’s note: main railway station), high-rise apartment blocks on Laaer-Berg-Strasse, the revitalization of a baroque complex in Nussdorf, two office blocks on Muthgasse and there are various things in the pipeline. Which architect’s biography have you read recently? Dr Reinhard Seiß wrote a great book about Harry Glück. I found it fascinating. (Editor’s note: Harry Glück built the Alt-Erlaa residential park in Vienna.) What has left a lasting impression on you? Drive through Dubai and look at the Burj Khalifa. If that doesn’t impress you, then you have no feelings. What’s your personal recipe for creativity? Sketch, sketch, draw, make working models and then down tools. Drink a bottle of good wine and start again after a week has passed. The way forward usually becomes apparent for me at that point.
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