In the 1970s, a group of colossal concrete towers with homes for up to 10,000 people rose up in the outskirts of Vienna. Unlike many similar modernist projects, Alterlaa still functions as public housing and resident satisfaction stands at almost 100%. Over four years between 2013 and 2017, Zara Pfeifer photographed the sloping buildings and their inhabitants, getting so close that at one point she even lived in one of the apartments. She discovered a reason for Alterlaa’s exceptional success inside the belly of the buildings, where windowless rooms host 33 community clubs that bring neighbours together for everything from jiu jitsu to ballroom dancing. Du, Meine Konkrete Utopie is Pfeifer’s first major project and has grown into a book, a film, and several exhibitions. It introduces many of the common threads in her work since then: showing a new side of post-war building projects and visualising the gap between humans and huge infrastructure.

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

Interviews, Articles and Publications (selection)
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"
fluter "Wohnen"
DUMMY Magazine "Österreich"
Augustin "Gemeinplätze"
Entkunstung "On Aesthetics"
Das Wiener Modell published by jovis.

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.

Exhibitions, Talks and Screenings
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.

Lectures and Teaching
Zara Pfeifer was invited by galleries, architecture and photography festivals, universities, cultural institutions and magazines throughout Europe and the US to display "Du, meine konkrete Utopie" 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.

Installation View, HafenCity University Hamburg, 2019

B-Block, 125x95cm

Installation View, Bremen School for Architecture, 2019

Installation View, Galerie Kernweine Stuttgart, 2019

Installation View, Galerie Kernweine Stuttgart, 2019

Book Presentation in Alterlaa, 2017

Book Presentation in Alterlaa, 2017

Publication in ZEITmagazin, 2017

Lecture at the Technical University Berlin, 2020