One of the biggest Instagram stars in Europe is a building for the underprivileged in Vienna. What about involving star architects in social housing on a consistent basis?
When a COUNCIL HOUSE becomes a tourist attraction
# Hundertwasserhaus, one of the biggest Instagram contents in Europe, is a housing compound
It is called Hundertwasserhaus and it is a social housing complex developed in Vienna as from 1986. From the very beginning, the project has followed innovative guidelines as it was artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who chose the sweetness of soft shapes, avoiding excessively sharp edges, to provide its residents with some smoothness in their life that was already quite rough. This complex, in fact, was born with the purpose of catering to the need for social housing, while breaking down the labels of aesthetic standards associated with this application.
# Colors and joy instead of an anonymous dorm district
Hundertwasser, Friedrich Stowasser’s alias, chose happiness as his inspiration. The exterior of the building is patterned with bright colors, enhanced by the use of colorful ceramics. Balconies and terraces are used to bring the green home, turning the block into a green oasis in the heart of the city. Many of the materials used, including decorative ceramics, were reclaimed from what was left over elsewhere.
A remarkable detail is that the artist wanted to give a stylish touch also to the toilets: bright colors, fountains, and ceramic decorations make even an environment such as this a pleasant one, transforming it from a simple service room to a Toilet of Modern Art. The facilities are directly managed by the City of Vienna, which runs all 50 social houses.
# Each occupant can customize his or her own piece of the facade
The rental fee is around 5,00 €/sqm, subject to application to the municipality that – upon establishing that all requirements are fulfilled – assigns the apartments to the applicants. One of the main requirements is that at least one member of the qualifying household must be an active affiliate of the local art community: the rules of the condominium, in fact, even provide for the right to customize the facade, around the windows, according to the personal taste of the occupants.
# Shift this mindset to the entire neighborhood
The Hundertwasserhaus has the great quality of affecting both the way of living the apartment and of setting the style of the area. These residential facilities have also been enriched by a number of truly authentic stores and cafes. At Kunst und Cafe on the ground floor of the complex, for example, one can enjoy a cup of coffee while watching a movie with Friedensreich Hundertwasser starring as he shows “his” house.
A few steps away from the social compound, there is the only shopping center designed by Stowasser, an area of about 1,600 square meters, colorful and full of soft lines as typical of this designer’s style, which becomes the most fitting public square for a neighborhood like the third district, which was born multicolor.
Nowadays, the peculiar structure of the social compound, the colors, the walls made of hanging gardens overlooking the street from its balconies, everything is a typical tourist destination in Vienna, which draws the attention, catches the gaze, and attracts photos from visitors, thereby becoming an Instagram star.
It is an attraction quoted in the official guides of Vienna (https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/hundertwasser-house-vienna-348464) and it has its own dedicated website. (http://www.hundertwasser-haus.info/en/)
# Why it should inspire other cities
An extraordinary example of creation, which overturns the canons of social housing as accepted until now. Every big city already has its dorm districts, built in another era and adapted to other needs, which could become examples of housing born “poor”, but with time may become corners of color, design and – why not? – speculation.
What is probably needed for an evolution suitable for modern society is a paradigm shift: the birth of social housing villages, instead of popular neighborhoods, but super-colorful and intended for citizens who want to experience the whole district in a sustainable and cheerful way.
There is no shortage of top architects in the world: why not involve them in social housing as well? At the same time, the most creative occupants should be given the necessary freedom to customize their portions.