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Sustainability with the power of two
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Sustainability with the power of two

Architectural firm Pittino & Ortner based in Styria, Austria, is making a name for itself on two fronts: with its huge timber-hybrid book storage facility in Vienna and its café on Lake Thalersee near Graz.

The terms “coffee house” and “literature” are ubiquitous in travel guides to Austria and its capital city Vienna. For architectural firm Pittino & Ortner from Styria, an entirely different connection has unexpectedly arisen. Firstly, in 2022 the architects won the competition to build a huge book storage facility in Vienna. And secondly, they were responsible for the Thalersee Garten (see picture above) near Graz. These are two very different projects that are worth a closer look.

“Knowledge warehouse”: the new Bücherdepot is being built on the Siemensgründe site in Vienna. (Credit: Pittino & Ortner)
“Knowledge warehouse”: the new Bücherdepot is being built on the Siemensgründe site in Vienna.

The architects describe the Bücherdepot, or book depot, as a “knowledge warehouse” for the city of Vienna. Their aim is to ease the pressure on the overflowing book storage facilities of several universities. The new building will house 130,000 linear metres of books in around 12,000 square metres of space.

Ample space for books

More than 100,000 linear metres are earmarked for the University of Vienna: over two million volumes from the main library’s collection will be moved to the new building. The remaining capacities will be for the libraries of the Vienna University of Technology, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Geological Survey of Austria.

Economical timber-hybrid building

The developer and owner of the property on the Siemensgründe site in Vienna’s Floridsdorf district is the federal real estate company Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG). Total costs, including those for furnishings and relocation, are estimated at 37.8 million euros. The new depot is set to be completed by the end of 2024. Pittino & Ortner’s design promises a sustainable timber-hybrid building that will save energy and cut costs over the long term.

The new book depot is designed as a compact block.
The storage building designed by Pittino & Ortner will house 130,000 linear metres of books.

To this end, the architects have designed an angular complex focusing on function and energy efficiency. It is simple, largely window-free and with a façade made of perforated sheet metal reminiscent of a solid bookshelf. With tree-lined paths around the new building and a greened façade on its north side, the functional building will blend harmoniously into its surroundings.

Striking entrance funnel

The central design element is a two-storey “entrance funnel” set back along the entire south side. This inviting touch acts as a guide, while the attractive design of the forecourt will entice visitors to linger.

Reinforced concrete carriers

Pittino & Ortner has designed the Bücherdepot as an eco-friendly, energy-saving, timber-hybrid building. With a reinforced concrete skeleton, timber is used wherever possible. The bulk of the components can be prefabricated.

Compact and expandable

The concept behind the compact, five-storey building aims to minimize the need for primary energy and the carbon footprint. A photovoltaic system on the roof will generate more than 300 kWp. Pittino & Ortner says that expansions are possible later on, without interrupting operations in the Bücherdepot.

Completed in 2022: the Thalersee Garten project in the Austrian state of Styria.
Completed in 2022: the Thalersee Garten project in the Austrian state of Styria.

While the Bücherdepot is expected to open at the end of 2024, guests are already able to take a seat on the terrace of the Thalersee Garten. Back in August 2022, a soft opening marked the start of year-round full operation of the new hotspot. In addition to around 100 seats indoors and 100 outdoors, there is a seminar room and six rooms for overnight stays on the upper floor.

Where the Terminator proposed

The project jointly initiated by the City of Graz, Holding Graz and the municipality of Thal is located on the site of the public bathing beach at Lake Thalersee, which opened around 100 years ago. This elongated new building, designed by Pittino & Ortner, is situated at one of the region’s most popular destinations for a day out. The story goes that Styria’s most famous son, Hollywood star and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, proposed to his (now ex-) wife Maria Shriver here.

Thalersee Garten & book depot. Designs for the Thalersee Garten. (Credit: Pittino & Ortner)
Thalersee Garten & book depot. Designs for the Thalersee Garten. (Credit: Pittino & Ortner)

53 firms took part in the competition tendered by “Referat Hochbau” in 2020 – with extremely innovative and spectacular designs (such as the one by Smartvoll Architekten from Vienna) being submitted. Pittino & Ortner’s proposal was chosen to meet the ultimate objective: a building that puts sustainability front and centre.

Eco-friendly destination

Heat pumps, for example, are now used for heating and cooling, while the lake acts as a retention basin for flood protection. Photovoltaic systems are expected to cover the new site’s electricity requirements.

Boat and bike hire in summer, ice skates in winter: the café is open all year round. (Credit: Pittino & Ortner)
Boat and bike hire in summer, ice skates in winter: the café is open all year round.

In accordance with the Pittino & Ortner plans, mostly environmentally friendly materials were used for construction. Parts of the once-popular but now demolished restaurant “Ausflugsgasthaus Kling” can also be found in the new building. And the concrete that needed to be used due to flood protection measures has a lower carbon footprint, according to official information.

Hotspot for all seasons

To encourage green travel to the café, the frequency of bus route 48 from the Graz district of Gösting has been increased, cycle paths extended and charging stations set up for e-bikes and e-cars. In addition, bike, boat and ice skate rental as well as toilets for lake visitors will entice guests to the Thalersee Garten all year round.

The café on Lake Thalersee is already in operation, the book depot in Vienna opens in late 2024. (Credit: Pittino & Ortner)
Viennese cuisine, Styrian architecture: the Thalersee Garten.

In the spring of 2024, new tenants moved into the café at Lake Thalersee: KraftMoments is a team of experienced restaurateurs who have five outlets in London. They include Florian Bollen, who is also responsible for the Gleis//Garten food market in the former train depot of the Badner Bahn in Vienna. In addition to breakfast and a daily lunch menu, their culinary concept strives to bring inexpensive regional snacks and a broad spectrum of dishes for all age groups to the idyllic shores of the lake.

Text: Elisabeth Schneyder
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Images: Pittino & Ortner

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