Museum at Liauning
You have to have a good feel for the landscape to build in Carinthia, in
the Austrian Riviera, with its dramatic backdrop of mountains, lakes and hills. This is one of Europe’s most picturesque regions, a place where nature is hard
to match. Adding to Austria’s museum landscape is also no easy task; buildings by Peter Zumthor, Günther Domenig
and Ortner & Ortner, among others, set a high standard for contemporary cultural institutions. So the small Viennese practice Querkraft (Jakob Dunkl, Peter Sapp and Gerd Erhartt) had their work cut out for them when they won a competition to build a museum for
a private art collector in 2006.
The Museum Liaunig was opened in August. Housing the contemporary Austrian art collection of local resident and industrialist Herbert W Liaunig, the building sits near the village of Neuhaus at the edge of the Carinthian district.
Querkraft is perhaps best known for the brand centre it built for the Adidas HQ in Germany in 2006, but this is their first museum. ‘What we tried to do,’ says Erhartt, ‘is to create an independent and self-confident position from which to show the architecture and also a perfect presentation space for the art.’ A long, rectangular tube, the structure slices the top of a plateau, a foreign body pressed into the landscape. The architects liken their building to a piece of ‘land art’. ‘It allows new perspectives of the area that were never possible before,’ says Erhartt.
The museum is divided into two main sections: the first is the entrance area that the architects call a ‘wine cellar for art’. ‘When you enter,’ explains Erhartt, ‘you walk past the storage area of the collection and immediately see the entire scope of it.’ This depot comprises a sliding steel-frame archiving system on which all the pictures not currently exhibited are hung, so you can walk past the normally hidden part of the collection, pulling out different panels to look at the stored art. It’s similar to the Schaulager ‘viewing warehouse’ in Basel, Switzerland, built by Herzog & de Meuron in 2003, which acts as an exhibition and storage space for several art collectors.
It’s only after you pass the Liaunig’s viewing depot that you can access the 160m-long concrete-clad exhibition space. Large terraces and windows open up the space to the landscape, while translucent roof panels let a soft light in from above.
A museum is a dream commission for architects and Querkraft accomplished the task with aplomb. So what next? ‘Another museum perhaps,’ says Erhartt, ‘a place to communicate architecture to a broader public. We want architecture to have a higher value in our society.’