July 2007
Text best architects 08, Images Bruno Klomfar

Mühlweg Vienna Receives Best Architect Award

Hermann Kaufmann, for who wood has been a passion since his childhood, has won the 34th Dr Toni Russ Award.

When you consider it, you might wonder: Isn’t a residential building with almost 100 apartments, built entirely of wood, doomed in a city like Vienna? In the minds of many people, burning cities are in the recent history. Moreover, due to the absence of timber construction in many parts of Austria, the special qualities and excellence of performance of this construction material are simply not known.

A political decision by the City of Vienna to reorganise timber construction by creating an amendment to the Vienna Building Act 2001, to classify wood according to the state of the art has been a hugely positive step. This building law amendment and the committed ecological approaches of the federal capital were the basis for the developers’ competition “Wien Mühlweg”. In total, almost 300 apartments on the outskirts of Vienna will be realised in wood or wood hybrid construction.

How much wood can the city tolerate, or how much wood does the buyer or tenant of an apartment tolerate? Do the houses remain empty when a gradually greying larch wood facade defines the outer appearance? Will visible wooden ceilings of tenant’s apartments be clad to cover up the natural material? We cannot answer these questions yet. But what we know – on completion, 98% of the apartments were rented or sold. Nowhere in Europe has such a project been implemented before. By combining experienced experts in the field of planning, a showcase for modern, ecological timber construction was created in exemplary cooperation with builders and building authorities.

Today you can have pure wooden buildings, over 4 storeys, next to mixed and hybrid wood constructions, passive houses next to low energy buildings, wooden facades next to plaster facades. But one thing they all have in common is that they are all a positive commitment to a good cause. And if you do not know the flair of modern timber construction, you should look at the results from time to time; you will be surprised at what you see.