Revealing the Substance

architectural office Bevk Perović arhitekti
project New Gallery and Casemates, Wiener Neustadt, Austria
written by András Pálffy

The origins of the casemates date back to the 12th century and they formed the starting point for a complex of fortifications that completely surrounded the urban core of Wiener Neustadt. The fortifications were built between 1551 and 1557 under the direction of master builder Johann Tscherte, who integrated an arsenal in the southern section. Under the name Kasematten (casemates), it served the city as a place to store arms for two centuries. After the casemates were built their vaulting was covered completely with earth in order to further fortify the complex against the dangers of artillery fire.


The structure eventually became obsolete from a military viewpoint and the historic vaults were subsequently used for a number of different functions, ranging from an air-raid shelter to beer storage. At the launch of the competition in 2017, the casemates housed a municipal carpentry works, an aviary and a nursery garden that served the nearby Stadtpark. The various spatial parts formed a patchwork made up of different overlays which were the product of the temporary uses during the previous centuries.


Confronted with the task of establishing an exhibition space in the casemates, Bevk Perović followed a clear strategy in their design that was primarily based on revealing the original substance under a preservation order. They consistently implemented this practice, not just in the interior but also in the urban space outside. By removing the covering layer of earth, the authors revealed again the original complex with its fortification walls in order to visually integrate them in the urban setting. Inside the casemates, they employed the same kind of consistency and made it possible to again experience a spatial connection between the individual vaulted spaces.


But it is through the connection to the urban surroundings that the exposure of the basic historical pattern of the casemates first acquires an additional significance which the design by Bevk Perović provides in several ways.