In the recent years, the most important architectural awards have been indicating a certain paradigm shift in the valuation of architectural achievements. Thus, the Pritzker Prize did not honour some prominent starchitect this year, but rather an architect who has devoted his career to improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable population strata, Indian Balkrishna Doshi, who, along with Le Courbusier, promoted modern architecture in India. Likewise, the European Mies van der Rohe Award for 2017 of the homonymous foundation was awarded to a project of social housing, to be more precise, to the project of adaptation and renovation of a block from the 1970s in Amsterdam, executed by NL Architects.
In this regard, it is indicative that the director of the Mies van der Rohe Foundation Anna Ramos herself was the one that opened this year’s Turn On festival. In her presentation, she emphasized the importance of building public awareness of architecture as a means of improving and advancing everyday life, but also the quality of public space. In that process, architecture must respond to the needs of the society and respect the identity and heritage, whereby the mundane and the heroic deserve the same amount of attention. The longtime festival manager, architect and author Margit Ulama has once again realized the concept of dialogue between architects and investors, contractors, construction material manufacturers and construction experts. This particularity of the festival is not only interesting because it brings news from the construction industry, but because it also demonstrates the interaction of all participants in the architectural process. Margit Ulama also pointed out that architecture is not only connected with reality, but what is equally important is the meta level of emotions, empathy and identity, which was in this year’s ceremonial speech titled Cities to Love. Architecture in City Planning also addressed by the city architect of Brussels Kristiaan Borret. He sees the present day as the time of the renaissance of the city faced with population growth, which is, however, not to be understood as a problem, but rather as a challenge and a need to face the otherness. The city should not be developed in concentric circles; rather, a continuous urbanization should be developed. Urbanism is not about expression, but about the transformation of the city dealing with the existing state, whereas the solutions are provided by the competences of the architects.
When it comes to population growth, Vienna is among the first cities in Europe, which also corresponds to the quantity of planning and construction focused on housing units connected with traffic and social infrastructure. This construction of housing units is directed towards social housing, the field in which Vienna has a great and distinguished tradition.
What all the projects have in common is the catalogue of qualities they have: social principles, active ground floor in synergy with public space design, the concept of traffic that excludes the overhead movement of cars, but encourages the use of bicycles, urban density, a mix of functions, inclusion of educational and health institutions. All of the above measures should provide opportunities for forming a community among tenants, their leisure time, but also their education as wall as the establishment of small businesses. A housing development should, up to a certain degree, be an autonomous city district. Aside from all the mentioned qualities, the project Biotope City by architect Ruediger Lainer for instance, also wants to provide an alternative to the garden city. With the increasing density, the concept of greenery is intensified by activating the roof surfaces with gardens and outdoor pools. In addition to the treatment of interspace as parks, the facades are also covered in greenery, which significantly improves the microclimate.
The capital of the Tyrol region, Innsbruck, has been recording a rather intensive growth, so the topic of an increased density of housing units is current there as well. A relatively large area of sports grounds in the central part of the city has been converted for housing purposes. The first part of the Campagne Reichenau project was presented by Bogenfeld Architects with the proposal of a highly dense residential district where the volume morphology creates public spaces with strong identity, similar to the spaces of a historic city. Urbanity is achieved with an active ground floor with public facilities, the connection of individual corpora at the level of roofs covered in greenery. Realized projects such as f49 of architects Wiesfleck and Krintzinger stimulate denser building in a city. The architects have achieved a unique promenade architecturale of sculpturally shaped volumes separated by paths and squares that form an intense urbanity of varying sequences.
The research work in the field of housing was demonstrated by Artec Architects on construction projects on city outskirts, with developments of small density, where special attention is devoted to free public spaces. In their work, they have equally intensively dealt with construction systems, technology, typologies, the relationship between public and private, sculptural design as well as atmospheres.
Among the many topics, an intervention in the monumental heritage with a valuable contribution by architect Gerhard Mitterberger was presented. The architect’s bold and radical approach enables the discovery of valuable historical layers as well as a new valuation of historical substance achieved through the radical incorporation of completely modern architectural elements. A very notable contribution was also the project of Austrian Embassy in Bangkok by Holodeck Architects, conceived as a meeting place and a bridge between the two distant cultures. The architects have developed a holistic and sustainable concept by adopting the elements of local traditional construction transformed using contemporary methods.
One of the socially most relevant segments of architectural activity—the educational institutions was presented at the festival in a particularly innovative and progressive form. Young architects Matthias Baer and Bernd Riegger presented the Schendlingen School in Bregenz. A compact perforated volume with a multi-storey, multifunctional auditorium oriented towards outside does not serve only the school but also the city district. An innovative education programme results in new spatial situations, whereby the spaces for learning and spaces for play permeate one another. Light as a generator of spatial sequences creates various characters of school atmospheres.
The variety of the presentations of technological innovations and architectural achievements at the Turn On festival cannot be reproduced in a short text—the three days dedicated to architecture must be experienced in order for one to enrich themselves with new knowledge and emotions.