Residential and retail building
GRAZ (AT) - Buy, renovate, resell: Graz architects INNOCAD have elaborated on a piece of the city's history in an unconventional and daring way.
'When planning a building of this kind, nothing can be left to chance,' says Martin Lesjak, leaning against the balustrade of his roof garden. The shadows cast by the bars with their floral decorations spread over the terrace floor like a flowery carpet. The black plastered facade of the freshly renovated residential and retail building sparkles in the sunlight and the noise of the street below is clearly audible. Like every morning, there is a market on Lendplatz, the heart of one of Graz's most lively and mixed districts. Once a red light and entertainment district, the area is becoming more and more multicultural, even trendy. This process began with the Kunsthaus by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, which opened in 2003, the year when Graz was European Capital of Culture. Just ten minutes' walk away, the Kunsthaus has gone down in architectural history as the 'friendly alien'.
Every new or renovated building in the district continues this trend, including INNOCAD's black building. In 2005, Martin Lesjak, Peter Schwaiger and Bernd Steinhuber bought the former 'Schuhhaus am Lendplatz' and began by holding a demolition party, which in turn spawned a club that operated in the empty building for several months. Now it has been converted into a modern apartment and office building, with INNOCAD acting as both architects and developers. The opening in late April this year took the form of an open house party with the club being revived for the occasion. According to the architects, the building developed out of its context and will continue to engage in a dialogue with its surroundings, an approach they refer to as 'small-scale urbanism'. This is not the first project for which INNOCAD has taken on the role of developer. For the renovation of the 'golden nugget', (see A10 #7) they founded the GOLDEN NUGGET Projektentwicklung + Bauträger GmbH in order to keep the two activities – planning and project development – clearly separated. This arrangement means that you bear all the risk, says Martin Lesjak, but it also gives you total decision-making freedom to move beyond standard design solutions.
The black building on Lendplatz is known far beyond the immediate neighbourhood; its rigorous and unusual design make it quite simply an eye-catcher. The name 'Rose am Lend' is emblematic: the facade of black plaster with added silicon carbide (which creates the sparkles) features large rose motifs. For all the blackness of its exterior, the apartments inside are bright and spacious. Some of the eleven residential units have been sold on to owner-occupiers, while others are rented as subsidized accommodation. A designer furniture shop has moved into the ground floor. The history of the front part of the building dates back to the Baroque period, but the courtyard is much more recent. These two parts of the building, which had grown together over the centuries, are now clearly separated again. The only connection is the entrance, a stairwell that is roofed but otherwise open to the elements. All of the apartments in the rear section have a roof terrace or a balcony. And all of them overlook the adjacent empty lot. This piece of land would long since have been developed if it were not for the Eros Bar, a low building on the corner whose owner steadfastly resists demolition and the development taking place around him.
As surely as the sun casts rose-shaped shadows onto the roof terrace, so the black building is carrying forward the process of gentrification.
July | 2009 | Austria | Anne Isopp