Changing Venues

A cutting-edge Austrian artist collective creates a new kind of civic space.

Where’s the party? For Fluc, a “fluctuating” artistic project space initiated by the Vienna-based collective Dy’na:mo in 1999, this was the burning question in late 2002. Major reconstruction of the Wien Nord-Praterstern transit hub had forced the group from its original location of choice, in the station, into a more nomadic existence. The answer, as it turned out, was to come in the form of a leftover tunnel, shipping containers, and recycled interiors as construed in an unusual architectural vision.

During the summer of 2003, architect Klaus Stattmann and Fluc founders Martin Wagner and Joachim Bock decided there should be a permanent space for the group’s popular avant-garde music performances and sound and visual installations. “We thought, Why don’t we ask the city for the pedestrian tunnel?” Stattmann says, referring to a defunct underpass just 230 feet from their original digs, in the shadow of the Prater amusement park’s Ferris wheel. After a two-year feasibility study, municipal officials agreed to provide the group not only the tunnel, which runs under four lanes of traffic, but also space to build additional aboveground structures at each end.

Since it opened its doors last April, the first such structure, eponymously named, has played host daily to electronic acts from around the globe. The building is a jumble of 14 modified white containers propped on supports and topped with blue roof elements that jut out at irregular angles. With unfinished surfaces and untreated wood, its furnishings and fixtures are a clever bricolage: the railings around the bar came from the tunnel, and the benches are modified beverage crates.

Accessed from inside the club, the tunnel space—Fluc_wanne (wanne means “tub” in German)—opened in October to a crowd of 1,200 revelers. Stattmann transformed the buried space over the stage by cutting an aperture and erecting a 28-foot tower whose large window surfaces open the partially soundproofed subterranean passage to the sky. “It’s a surprise effect,” he says. “You can see the Prater Ferris wheel as if it were on a cinematic screen. And during the day there is natural light for discussions and art exhibitions. It was essential that it not only be a club.”

The outdoor structure on the other side of the street will be ready next spring, and so far the city of Vienna—which financed one-third of the project with the budget earmarked for closing the tunnel—is pleased to have gained, not lost, a public space. Passersby often mistake Fluc’s jagged rooftops for just another construction site, an impression that is meaningful if unintentional: the project is intended to remain perpetually unfinished. “It’s a paradigm shift you could call performative,” Stattmann says of his design, which he likens to the evolving multifunctional nature of coral reefs. “My architecture is made for and with people. There are enough finished buildings. People aren’t finished; they keep changing unless they’re dead. Architecture needs to reflect this process of becoming.”

It’s an architecture that perfectly reflects Fluc’s experimental, transient history—and its progressive politics. “For the city it was a gutsy and unusual step,” Wagner says. “I think and hope other young projects will follow our example, and the city will feel pressure to support exactly these kinds of developments.”

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