Good architecture is a sense of pleasure
The gerner°gerner plus architectural studio is responsible for the planning of the Garden of Eden project on the Hohe Warte hill.
In this interview they discuss the unique property, a butterfly, and developing a little paradise.
How did the project come about?
Andreas Gerner: We were invited to participate in a competition by the Invicta private foundation. Naturally enough, we were aware of Invicta thanks to other wonderful projects such as the Palais Ephrussi. But that said, we had no idea what a Viennese gem would be waiting for us here.
Where did the idea for the Garden of Eden come from?
Andreas Gerner: After seeing it for the first time, we realised right away that there was a little paradise hidden away here and we definitely wanted to be part of the project!
Once we saw the amazing old trees, we knew that the grounds would have to be the centrepiece. A fox even made an appearance on our visit.
So we just started thinking about the types of structure that would do justice to this paradise-like setting, and finally decided to use a butterfly form as a metaphor. That was our conceptual approach.
We saw the project’s focus as the way the grounds could play off the buildings, rather than simply a collection of buildings within the grounds. Our enthusiasm really helped persuade everyone else.
And what was the actual planning process?
Andreas Gerner: We didn’t conceive of it as an urban villa, as a cube. That would’ve been too austere. We were looking for something philosophical, sustainable, intelligent and attractive, and this is where the butterfly idea came in – in a formal sense. The beauty of it is that our enthusiasm spread, to the owner as well as to the building authorities.
To give just one of many examples: to prevent cars from ruining the landscape, we built a narrow tunnel leading to the underground garage system – leaving the tree roots intact. We were granted an exceptional permit, so plenty of credit is due to the authorities for that.
How would you describe the project to someone who doesn’t have the blueprints in front of them?
Andreas Gerner: I’d say: “Close your eyes and picture a beautiful lemon-yellow butterfly that’s landed in a garden, and how light it is. That’s the effect of the buildings.”
Gerda Maria Gerner: That’s easy… just imagine paradise.
A final word: What makes good architecture?
Gerda Maria Gerner: Pursuing a vision as thoroughly and uncompromisingly as possible.
Andreas Gerner: A sense of pleasure.
Gerda Maria Gerner: And – at the risk of sounding slightly bureaucratic – cooperative authorities and clients who let visions flourish.
Gerda Maria Gerner comes from Raiding in Burgenland, and Andreas Gerner was born in Seekirchen in Salzburg. Both studied architecture at Vienna University of Technology.