Austrian Cultural Forum Tower

by | 10. Jul 2012

Cultural | Feature

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

Twenty-five feet wide and 81 feet deep, glazed with dramatic glass panels,  the 24-story tower soars upward 280 feet, occupying the full width of its footprint from street level to pinnacle.

The narrow skyscraper is the new venue for presentation of contemporary Austrian arts and Austrian-American collaboration in many disciplines: music, visual arts, architecture and design, digital and Web projects, literature, film and video.

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

My intention with the building was to resolve the extreme condition of smallness of the site, its void, its lateral compression.

/Raimund Abraham

Abraham divided the building into three vertical parts; “the Mask”, “the Vertebra” and “the Core”. The most visible segment, “the Mask”, is the facade of teal-colored glass that tapers upwards to comply with zoning laws. The diagonal steel braces are visible behind the glass skin. A protruding box-like volume, containing the director’s office, cantilevers over the space housing the institute’s glass enclosed Library.

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

Next comes “the Core”  that contain the main structural elements and enclosed spaces and, to the rear of the building, “the Vertebrae”, the metal-sheathed double fire stairwell that lines the back of the building. Locating the the prerequisite emergency fire stair at the rear of the building liberated the width of the site and at the same time enabled Abraham to transform an element of sheer utility into a decisive architectonic component.

Photo: David Sundberg, Esto

Light itself becomes the guiding factor in a visit to this building, you enter from the light of outdoors and move toward light filtering at the back from the north facade. The main entrance, topped by a stainless steel canopy, opens to a double-height  Lobby and Reception area. The glass facade offers views from the sidewalk all the way through to the back of the building; capturing the spirit of flexibility and openness.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Space and circulation are united by a floating stairway, paved with bluestone, that connects the public spaces of the Forum on five levels. The generous landings double as exhibition areas. The 30 foot north wall, washed with natural daylight from a skylight on the north facade, unifies all the public spaces.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The reception area flows along the bulge of a monumental drum, clad in stainless steel, that contains the mechanical support for one of the building’s two elevators. A bridge connects the upper Mezzanine to the Lounge/Cafe level and, up another flight, to the Forum’s flexible, state-of-the-art Theater.

Library interiors on Level 4 are suffused  with soft incandescent light and fluorescent light from wall-mounted fixtures that divide custom-designed wood and metal shelves. An interior stairway leads to the Reading Room on Level 5.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The Forum’s loft-like Conference and Seminar space on level 6 acts as a transition to the more private areas of the building. Like all of the building’s interiors the the open space has pale white and gray walls, high-quality wood flooring, brushed aluminum and stainless steel detailing, a balanced mix of incandescent and fluorescent light, and a wash of natural daylight from windows on the south facade.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Level 7 is occupied by the director’s office, above are staff offices and, on level 11, a loft-like flexible space that will accommodate special performances, installations, seminar events, receptions and other activities.   The Director’s apartment occupies 4-stories and on level 20 a bluestone paved open-air Loggia, with magnificent views of the city, will be used for special receptions. Levels above 20 are devoted to technical functions, including machine rooms, a mechanical bulkhead, and the building’s water tower.

Photo: arcspace
Drawing courtesy Raimund AbrahamSection

Drawing courtesy Raimund AbrahamSection

The Forum was the first major public building in the United States by Austrian-born New York architect Raimund Abraham, who received the commission in 1992 in an international design competition  hosted by the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria.


CITY New York, New York
ARCHITECT Atelier Raimund Abraham, New York