Wohnpark Neue Donau is a residential community developed to accommodate over 2,500 people as both public housing rental tenants and some private owners (in Blocks G and H only). The scope of the architect’s work included the construction of the site, the establishment of the principles of the “town plan” (by a process of “Widmung”) and the design of all buildings and structures. The scope of services extended through all phases of the process from preliminary planning and design to site supervision and participation in handover/occupancy. The site was created by covering the eight lane A22 autobahn (expressway) between the Danube river and the existing suburb of Kaisermühlen. The long spans necessary to cover the autobahn dictated load and therefore height restrictions over the site, which, together with required housing densities, would normally result in a constricted and closed environment. Harry Seidler’s concept of arranging the forms in angled and diagonal arrays relative to the beam spans allowed increased building heights, greater open space at ground level and the orientation of all apartment types towards views of the river and the centre of Vienna beyond, and either direct south or south-west solar exposure.
One of many recent climaxes in a distinguished career which began in Australia in 1948, Harry Seidler’s Wohnpark Neue Donau saw him working with undiminished resolve in his native Vienna, where he was born in 1923 and from which the Nazis forced him to flee in 1938. The Wohnpark is a residential community for 2,500 residents built over an eight lane expressway. Concrete-structure apartment blocks were placed diagonally over the 27 metre decking, thereby distributing their loads while providing virtually all 850 apartments with water views and view corridors for existing residential towers further inland. Undulating, curvilinear geometries, a fresh, light paint palette, and gold and silver metal art work by Lin Utzon completed this handsome community development for the City Government of Vienna, which extended to community buildings, such as the kindergarten, meeting rooms and health centre. This is the last year International Awards are being made by the RAIA and this Special Jury Award marks the fact that Harry Seidler’s contribution to architecture has been international as well as national, with many completed projects in Europe, Central America and Asia. Among the most celebrated are his Australian Embassy in Paris (1972-77) and the Hong Kong Club and Offices (1980-84). He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects which awarded him their highest honour, the Royal Gold Medal, in 1996. He was also elected a Member of the Academie D’Architecture de France in 1982 and awarded the Gold Medal of the City of Vienna in 1989 and Austria’s highest honour, “The Cross of Honour for Arts and Sciences, First Class” in 1995.
Images: Eric Sierins