Students of the Vienna University of Technology will undoubtedly be confronted with the view of the Karlskirche in Vienna on many occasions, as this significant church building is located in the immediate vicinity of this teaching and research institution. It is possible that one has already reached the immediate vicinity of the paintings in the area of the central dome by means of the temporary elevator and was able to discover sensational perspectives inside the church building for oneself. It is the numerous details, the specific visual references to surrounding buildings, as well as the historical and political background of this centrally located building, which are to be illustrated to the visitors from Austria and abroad. The aim of the planned visitor center, for which it was first necessary to find a suitable position in the immediate surroundings, was to bring the content and significance of one of the most important baroque church buildings closer to a broad public. The way in which information about the building and its history can be conveyed within the framework of this listed building was to be investigated.
If one considers the great variety of solutions around the question of a visitor center in the surroundings of the Karlskirche, then this clearly reflects the openness with regard to the topic, which became the strategy of the entire project. After all, the design process was not necessarily aimed at developing a museum or an exhibition space in the traditional sense, since any exhibits are, after all, only available in limited numbers. Rather, the design focus was on the building itself and its details. In retrospect, it seems all too clear that in many cases the optimization of accessibility to individual areas inside and also outside of the building comes to the fore. Bringing the visitor closer to the existing dome and its frescoes becomes the central guiding principle of many of the design approaches.
Thus, the projects now on hand clearly demonstrate that an approach to the Karlskirche itself can take place in quite a variety of ways. Whether it is the implementation of a spectacular skywalk or more restrained balcony exits inside the church, which literally expose the visitor to the ceiling paintings at lofty heights, or whether the paintings themselves are brought closer to the viewer in a separate structure in a manner that has already been processed, it is always a matter of first captivating the visitor for the subject matter and finally dramaturgically preparing the contents for him. In this way, the visitor is sometimes led deep underground, only to be released again into the light-flooded church interior, or he walks through narrow paths and narrow access stairs that were previously closed to the visitor, in order to then be able to appreciate the vastness of the church and dome space all the more impressively.
To be able to approach the baroque church building visibly, at eye level as it were, appears to be a special challenge, not least because of the size and significance of the sacred building in question. This is a special challenge, not least because of the size and significance of the sacred building in question. In the course of the design process, the necessary distance is constantly struggled for, the respectful distance that must be maintained, and on the other hand, ways are sought to overcome this distance in order to enable an entrance, accessibility or touchability at all.
As a result of this discrepancy, many a planned building emerges from the subsoil only rudimentarily and remains almost in the dimension of street furniture. Other approaches, on the other hand, do not shy away from this visibility and present partly courageous testimonies of contemporary architecture in the direct environment of one of the most important sacral buildings of the Baroque. Whatever one may think about the handling of historically significant building fabric, the wide range of approaches clearly shows that there seems to be more than one solution in connection with a visitor center adjacent to the Karlskirche.