Coop Himmelb(l)au

wolf_prix_portrait-coop-himmelblau.jpgWolf D. Prix. Photo © © Aleksandra Pawloff

By Eva Bjerring

Known as the punk rockers of architecture Coop Himmelb(l)au was founded in Vienna in 1968 by Wolf Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michael Holzer. With the exhibition ‘Wiener Supersommer’ in 1976 they delivered an aggressive alternative to the usual urban architecture and stated their name as a provocative, mould-breaking studio not afraid to go beyond the scope of architecture.

Austrian Coop Himmelb(l)au was founded in 1968 by Wolf Prix, Helmut Swiczinsky and Michael Holzer. With the 1976 “Wiener Summer” exhibition Himmelb(l)au stated its name as a cross barrier and groundbreaking studio to take a different approach to architecture than ‘the usual’ and introduced themselves as frontrunners within deconstructivism.

The studio had its international breakthrough with a contribution to the exhibition “Deconstructivist Architecture” at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  in New York in 1986 alongside Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid  and Frank Gehry.

Michael Holzer left the team in 1971, and the office is now run by Wolf D. Prix, Wolfdieter Dreibholz, Harald Krieger, Karolin Schmidbaur and partners after the retirement of Helmut Swiczinsky in 2001.

The office works within the cross-field of architecture, urban planning, design, and art, and is known for highly provocative architecture pushing the limits of the well known. Most of the projects are found in Europe with additional projects in the US and recently increasing expansion around Asia.

Stated by co-founder, design principal and CEO, Wolf D. Prix (b. 1942), Coop Himmelb(l)au thinks of their architecture as part of the 21st century; as art which reflects and gives a mirror image of the variety and vivacity, tension and complexity of our cities.

More radically put the studio’s ‘Architecture must burn’ manifesto from 1980, stated that:

We want architecture that has more to offer. Architecture that bleeds, exhausts, that turns and even breaks […] Architecture that glows, that stabs, that tears and rips when stretched. Architecture must be precipitous, fiery, smooth, hard, angular, brutal, round, tender, colourful, obscene, randy, dreamy, en-nearing, distancing, wet, dry and heart-stopping. Dead or alive. If it is cold, then cold as a block of ice. If it is hot, then as hot as a tongue of flame. Architecture must burn!

In 1988, a second studio was opened in Los Angeles, USA, and since then further project offices has opened in Frankfurt, Germany, Paris, France, Hong Kong, Beijing, China and Baku, Azerbaijani.

In 2010 the studio was awarded the MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards, the 2008 RIBA European Award, the American Architecture Award of 2005, the RIBA Annie Spink Award in 2004, Gold Medal for merits to the federal state of Vienna, Austria, in 2002 and the 2001 European Steel Design Award among others.

Coop Himmelb(l)au website

If you don’t want to read your way through Coop Himmelb(l)au watch this small introduction by architect Doug Patt on YouTube.