Du, meine konkrete Utopie
In the mid-1970s an unusual subsidized housing project was built in Vienna—curvy concrete buildings that evoke notions of spaceships or Singaporean skyscrapers, conceptualized as a forward-looking satellite city providing everything a resident might want or need. From the beginning, Alterlaa, a housing complex of 3,200 apartments in three vast blocks, stood for accessible luxury built in concrete, a utopian notion that anyone can live in proximity to fresh air, water, and greenery. Austrian architect Harry Glück also placed great importance on community—so much so that his designs intentionally facilitated interaction.
In 2013 artist Zara Pfeifer began documenting this remarkable vestige of modernism in photographs. She soon discovered the community spaces that Glück created in each building’s belly. In these windowless rooms, thirty-three clubs and groups organically evolved over decades and continue to provide a community for the ten thousand residents of the complex through activities like ballroom dancing or aerobics. In her long-term project, Pfeifer focused on this part of life in Alterlaa—participating in club life, establishing relationships, briefly living in private apartments, and experiencing first-hand the cohesive social fabric that resulted from this architectural experiment.
Du, meine konkrete Utopie showcases Pfeifer’s visual and sociological discoveries in an expansive series of photographs. Alterlaa is a rare example of the successful implementation of modernity’s highest aspiration—a true machine for living, with nearly one-hundred-percent resident satisfaction for more than four decades. Here, Pfeifer captures its human side for the first time. Text by Kimberly Bradley
Selected Interviews and Articles
FvF–Freunde von Freunden Interview
ZEITmagazin Article "Willkommen im Club"
Süddeutsche Zeitung Article "Zara Pfeifer"
Frankfurter Rundschau FR7 Article "Zusammen"
TANK Magazine Article "Alterlaa Housing Complex"
PW Magazine Interview
Monocle Magazine Radio Interview "The Urbanist"
Ö1 Radio Interview "Schön hässlich"
Ö1 Radio Interview "Größtmögliches Glück für größtmögliche Zahl"
VICE Magazine Interview "Analoges Alterlaa"
Du, meine konkrete Utopie was published by Kerber Verlag in 2017. More here.
Du, meine konkrete Utopie was premiered at Diagonale–Festival of Austrian Film, 2017. Link upon request.
Galerie Kernweine Stuttgart, Roundabout Berlin, HafenCity University Hamburg, Technical University Berlin, BDA Hamburg, Bremen School of Architecture, ARCH+ Berlin, AzW Architekturzentrum Wien, CAMP Prague, CAFx Copenhagen Architecture Festival, Freunde von Freunden Berlin, IBA Wien 2022, Technical University Munich, One Architecture Week in Bulgaria, Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale in Albania, Technical University Vienna, CP Projects Gallery in New York, Galerie f4.5 München, Krinzinger Projekte Wien, Fotogalerie Wien and Fotohof Salzburg.
Zara Pfeifer was invited by galleries, architecture and photography festivals, universities, cultural institutions and magazines throughout Europe and the US to display her series in exhibitions, screen her short film, give interviews and present her work through lectures at conferences and universities.
Collaborations, commissions and teaching assignments were established, for example at the HafenCity University Hamburg, TU Vienna, TU Munich and the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. Since 2017 she gives guided tours in Alterlaa for the Az W – Center for Architecture Vienna.
Since 2019 Zara Pfeifer has a teaching position at TU Vienna with her own course about Architecture & Photography.