Design Studio SS 22

Design Studio SS 22: UNCHAINED: Transformation of a prison house in Kirchberg am Wagram


The focus of this design programme is a prison in Kirchberg am Wagram, Lower Austria (population approx. 4,000), which has not been used as such for some time. The building has a central location in the immediate vicinity of a steeply sloping terrain and is to be made accessible to a wider public again. The design work will focus primarily on the listed building (including the “movement space”). The adjacent open space – with its far-reaching distant view – is also up for discussion. However, the cell wing will only permit changes to a limited extent. In addition, the use of the adjacent areas must be included in the design considerations. Within the framework of the design exercise, it is therefore important to combine utilisation concepts with architectural measures that contribute to a meaningful development. The main objective is to develop a realisable overall concept as well as a concrete usable design solution.


Looking at the various project approaches for the redevelopment or redesign of the prison, it becomes clear that in almost all cases a serious examination of the historical background and its dark history forms the basis of all action. However, how to react to such a background is decided by the individual project authors in their very own way. Whether it is coming to terms with the past, strategically opening up the building, striving for conscious communicative exchange, pacifying the past through art or consciously giving the building back to the youth – it always becomes clear that the prison house is more than just a property to be rebuilt. The building itself has long since become part of history and carries this history more or less visibly inscribed in it. Its remodelling therefore calls for a continuation of history, a new chapter in relation to the previous history. At the same time, the aging structure, i.e. the physical framework, has to be brought into the present day: it has to be made accessible, designed barrier-free – as far as possible, lit and ventilated and equipped with sanitary facilities – in short, the walls have to be transformed into a building that can be used today. Again and again, the necessary requirements and the demands of monument preservation and conservation come into conflict. Each time, a decision has to be made as to whether priority should be given to preservation or to use. In this field of tension, it is the task of the individual project authors to find and subsequently maintain a course that is conceivable and feasible on both fronts. It is to be hoped that this extraordinary field of tension will contribute to wringing a new chapter out of the former prison and transferring it to a hopeful future.