Staging a Dialogue

architectural office NMPB Architekten ZT GmbH
project Civic Centre, Böheimkirchen, Austria
written by Christian Kühn

Numerous provincial places in Austria suffer from a dangerous disease – the degradation of their urban cores. Shops are closing because they cannot compete with their competition – supermarkets and specialized shopping malls on the periphery. This is followed by the closures of taverns, and if public institutions move out from the centres, what remains are just vacant spaces deprived of any function.


Such development is not a law of nature. Böheimkirchen in Lower Austria, a town located ten kilometres to the east of the provincial capital St. Pölten, erected its new municipal building in the centre as an extension to the existing 1897 town hall. Like both the primary school and the kindergarten, the town hall leans against the town's symbol— the church hill. The original plan was to abandon the old town hall and use a much larger plot on the edge of the municipal park on the other side of the church hill. Although there were a lot of objections against that particular site from the very beginning, the municipality purchased the respective plot and announced a tender for the design of its building.


Even before the tender procedure was completed, a citizens' initiative came forward and called for a local referendum on the subject. What they achieved was that the seven architectural offices that participated in the second stage of the competition had to make two versions of the design – one just for the municipal office—with very low park area utilization—and the other with a comprehensive space allocation program, including an event hall and an underground garage.