Design Studio WS 21/22

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


The focus of the present design programme was the “gräflich Kuefsteinsche Gruftkappelle” (Count Kuefstein’s crypt chapel) in Röhrenbach, Lower Austria (approx. 500 inhabitants). The striking building with its frescoes by Paul Troger was to be made accessible to the public again. The design work was to deal primarily with the two side wings as well as the rear courtyard space. The adjoining forecourt was also up for discussion. In this way, a “parcours for visitors” could be created, framing the chapel as it were. The actual chapel space, however, would hardly allow for changes. However, the adjacent areas and the embedding of the complex in the larger whole had to be included in the design considerations. Furthermore, the (vacant) vicarage, which is not too far away, was integrated into the design activities. Within the framework of the design exercise, the aim was to combine utilisation concepts with architectural measures that contribute to a meaningful development. The main objective was to develop a realisable overall concept as well as a concrete usable design solution.


If one looks at the present designs around the Spitalkirche or the area around the Pfarrhof, the struggle on the one hand for opening and revitalisation and on the other hand for the preservation of historic buildings becomes more than clear. As contradictory as both parameters appear, they nevertheless form the borderline area within which the designs are able to move. Sometimes the corridor of measures is extended more, then again only to a marginal extent. What is common to almost all the designs, however, is the fact that the existing substance is given new life and that a new centre – a centre – is created again and again: a centre where people meet and exchange ideas, where people trade and celebrate. In short, a place of liveliness. The measures that seem necessary to achieve this vary greatly. So sometimes bartering, then again pilgrimage becomes the starting point of the design considerations, as well as communal living, fasting or building together and learning old building techniques. What all the projects have in common is that they underline the special nature of the two historical sites and create offers that are unmistakable and unique.