Apart from the Sandleiten-Hof in Ottakring and the housing complex at Friedrich Engels Platz by designer Rudolf Perco in the 20th district of Vienna, the Karl Marx-Hof in Heiligenstadt is one of Vienna’s largest housing developments. It was built between 1926 and 1934 under the municipal government and was part of a comprehensive social housing program in Vienna. The massive construction of 1.2 kilometers length and 1325 public dwellings reminds of socialist superblocks without repeating their uniformity.
The homogenous structure rather reflects the slight bend of Heiligenstädterstraße having a positive effect on the overall picture by introducing edges and recesses.
The attack launched on the Karl Marx-Hof during the Civil War of 1934 as well as its famous name turned it into a visual memorial of the „Red Vienna“ and the Working Class Culture of the interwar times.
The last general refurbishment of the Karl Marx-Hof has been done in the 1980ies and at the beginning of the 1990ies. From 2006 to 2015 the refurbishment of all surfaces, the renovation of the roof as well as general maintenance operations are being implemented under the architectural supervision of BWM architects in cooperation with Werkstatt Wien and the law firm Stingl.
The aim is to preserve the original state of the construction where possible and to carry out refurbishment as “invisibly” as possible with regard to traditional handcraft techniques.
In cooperation with the Austrian Federal Monuments Office responsible for the preservation of historical monuments the original colors of the façade have been reconstructed after a series of color tests including iron oxide red, blue, three different ochre shades and white. Samples have also been taken from different, outstanding metallic objects such as candelabra, metal mesh, gates, flagpoles or notice boards characterizing the overall picture of Karl Marx-Hof in order to define the exact color.
Refurbishment works are also set within the framework of an increasing awareness for architectural and historical contexts of modern buildings. Thus architectural details and surfaces formerly ignored are now been analyzed and have become an important part of current restoration. Moreover within the four green courtyards new tool sheds for the gardener and waste facilities have been created. It is not only important to return to the original state but also to preserve and show traces of the past. Historical faults and traces of history such as the bullet holes that were generated in the February uprising of 1934 during the Austrian civil war will remain visible after restoration.
Completed: Summer/autumn 2015
Working group with Werkstatt Wien and Kanzlei Stingl
© Photos: Christoph Panzer