Campus der Religionen

Secret Garden

The Campus of Religions in aspern Seestadt/Austria – an inter-religious Agora – is to give expression to the principle of “togetherness” and “learning from one another”. In connection with the new building of the “Kirchlichen Padagogischen Hochschule” (KPH), an open space for pastoral care, education and comprehensive cultural exchange will be created, which will make a unique contribution to life of Seestadt. Likewise, it is an unparalleled project with an impact on the entire city of Vienna and far beyond, a peace project that will gain international appeal. In addition to the integration of religious, ethical and cultural aspects, this “lighthouse” will therefore also have to meet high urban planning and architectural standards.


Vienna’s Urban Lakeside, a 15 years involvement by Tovatt Architects & Planners, Sweden

After extensive preparatory work, a two-stage procedure for the preparation of the master plan for the Vienna Airfield (Flugfeld Aspern) was launched in 2005. The contract was finally awarded to the Swedish firm Tovatt Architects & Planners. In 2007 the master plan was unanimously approved by the Vienna City Council and serves as the urban development model and basis for all further planning. Tovatt Architects & Planners has had an ongoing involvement in the development of the area ever since the competition stage in 2006


The general concept of CdR, Tovatt Architects & Planners, Sweden

Urban places where we feel comfortable are based on a few basic principles that have remained largely unchanged for centuries. Well working urban spaces offer exciting spatial and architectural motifs, places of encounter and places of retreat. The new Campus of Religions takes up these principles and forms a new spatial sequence between the lakeside and the Elinor Ostrom park. Starting from the extension of the “Platz der Kulturen”, an independent and literally three-dimensional building arises. Set apart from the life of the ground floor, the crowded street space and the movements of the city, a backdrop of freestanding sacred buildings encloses a “Secret Garden”.

The three-dimensionality of our design offers the solution to the complex challenge of mass, clearly stated in the pre-studies and the competition brief, and which is reflected in a considerable density of diverse functional relationships and vertical divisions.

A radical examination of these challenges has led us to a solution in which the KPH premises literally acts as the common basis of the sacred spaces. This urbanistic approach creates both extensive opportunities for public open spaces as well as for the individual expression of the religious communities. With the present result of our analysis, the concept offers 6000m² of accessible and open space and thus clearly exceed the undersized requirements in view of the size of the building site. We are convinced that we have designed a liveable campus of religions for those working and learning here now and in the future.


Concept of the KPH

The social and public parts of the KPH’s spatial programme form the coherent substructure for the “Secret Garden” – here called KPH EXTERN.

The introverted and quiet parts of the KPH’s spatial programme rise up as cubature equivalent to the churches – here called KPH INTERN.

The ground floor plan and basement floor plan expand the Square of Religions. Open and transparent interior walls, flexible lounges and the grouping of all so-called “public” functions of the KPH, create – in metaphorical terms – an urban depth. Urban space, landscape and campus space are thus closely connected, the transitions are inviting, open and transparent.

In the area of the “waist” of the KPH, at plateau level, the building structure withdraws and forms a bond of encounter and contact with the sacred buildings through the open spaces that are created. This plateau is an architectural link between science and the community of sacred buildings.


Concept of the sacred buildings

The Campus of Religions presents itself in the architectural context of the growing district as a place of inner reflection, for living and learning. It will enrich the quarter, the Seestadt and the 22nd district of Vienna. A gradual procession leads over stairs and landings to the embracing ensemble of sacred buildings, illustrated as independent wooden cubes, tied together by the unifying roof and pergola structure. The roof is seen as the structural starting point for the sacred buildings to be realised in stages over many years to come….

The sacral buildings are lightweight constructions with a separation distance of about one meter to the underlying supporting structure. This makes it possible to flexibly arrange the technical connections of the sacral buildings and to decouple the planning processes of the building sites on the plateau floor.

The currently generic presentation of the sacred buildings is intended to show the possibility and flexibility of further design developing within the framework of further planning. An architectural guideline needs to be developed to determine the choice of materials, orientation, lighting, shading, etc. Within clear rules, while keeping open the possibility of independent forms of expression, a common architectural language will be retained.

The garden of the sacred buildings will offer peace, shade and sun. The elements of water, fire, earth and air will be experienced, the elderberry tree will be connected to ground water and the wide visual relationships supported by beautiful detailing and exposed artwork…

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