Apartment Block Conversion

Apartment Block Conversion in Linz, Austria by Kurt Handlbauer

The following text and images are courtsey Kurt Handlbauer for his project on the conversion of the Harter Plateau apartment blocks in Linz Leonding, Austria.

The two Highrise-Superblocks in the outskirts of Linz, Austria were constructed in the early seventies as a part of a huge suburban/urban development scheme. Due to various reasons this development plan was modified after the first high-rise construction was completed, and since then these superblocks have become irritating elements in the small-scale-dominated, suburban cityscape.

While in the seventies all the apartments were occupied by workers of a local steel company, the housing policy changed in the eighties and people from outside the company also had access to rent apartments. As the social situation within the buildings was deteriorating because of the lack of a comprehensive housing policy and conceptual misunderstandings in the design, it was finally decided to demolish the two blocks by spring 2003 and to construct alternative accommodations for the inhabitants.

The Conversion project was developed without a commission challenging a solution for the remaining physical structure. The existing steel frame with concrete slabs on every floor makes it quite simple to add and subtract elements within the existing grid. Therefore two loops containing public and semi-public facilities were introduced in order to rescale and structure the bigness of the blocks and to increase the activity profile within the buildings in order to improve social control mechanisms. The remaining volumes again contain apartments, stressing a small scale "neighborhood-like" atmosphere with shared facilities and green space. The apartment type is based on a two story L-type which can be planned in different development stages according to family sizes and social relationships.

The basic concept was to create grammatical rules respecting the existing grid and to give a potential for variation between certain limits for a new program. The relationship between public and private spaces can be varied as the apartment type itself, within certain boundaries and without alteration of the main concept of mixed usage.