December 2015, BLAU took part in the Europan 13 competition “The Adaptable City 2”. They got shortlisted for their proposal of the new station area in Graz, Austria, called Link Hybrid Towers. BLAU designed a mixed use space that combines residential, office and retail but also cultural and social facilities. The aim of this urban scale project is to link the East and the West sides of the city into a dense urban node that enhances high life quality and introduces natural elements in the neighborhood.
The proposal consists of a group of 7 interconnected buildings offering different typological and programmatic combinations. Every building can be understood as a semi self-sufficient community that connect to the others to create a rich social and programmatic area. The project acts as a Link between East and West Graz, where the typological, programmatic, social and aesthetic qualities of both city sides merge into a dense urban node.
The Europan project is the result of multiple interests and benefits the community of Graz. The schematic proposal is a starting point for an open dialogue between land owners, the City of Graz, potential developers, diverse local associations and neighbors.
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The project revolves around sharing as a principle to live in a society with economic, social and natural efficiency. All spaces are active 24/7 and shared by a variety of users. Vertical connections and lobbies are shared between different types of programs. The gradient between private and public is diffuse and the program is strategically distributed to promote sharing activities.
Because of its prime location and direct connection to the train station, the project site will become a transportation hub. It is especially important to bring solutions for accessibility, mobility and the parking strategy. Easy connections to tram and bus services, as well as access for vehicle and bike users are planned. The site is designed as a slow motion area, a shared space where vehicles, bikes and pedestrians move in accordance and promotes the usage of public and green transport.
The site connects to a central park thanks to a generous public space on the site and a central corridor. The western perimeter of the site has been designed as a lineal green promenade that connects all the site streets and gives an adequate limit towards the rail tracks. This promenade is the starting point for a wider mobility action in the edge of West Graz.
The programmatic activities have been distributed in a uniform way along the 7 different buildings. The program is vertically stratified from public to private functions with some gradient variations in between. Every building is a mixed use community composed by retail, office, housing, public services and private, semi-private and public outdoors space. Each of the buildings can work independently as a semi self-sufficient community and, only when combined with the others, will become a complex ecosystem that acts as a central area for the wider context.
Programs are mixed to achieve the best combination possible. The program are strategically located in each building, so the different functions will benefit from each other in a symbiotic relationship. As an example, in the same building, people living in housing units could meet people working in the adjacent office spaces. They could both help take care of the garden on the roof that could be used for the restaurant below. Other beneficial planned situations are mixing elderly housing with student housing and healthcare facilities. The mixture of various functions within one single building increases the casual meeting situations between people with different habits, interests and lifestyles.
The ground floor is organized by streets that offer a satisfactory commercial experience for the users and recall, because of their morphology and character, the traditional city center. The plan allows multiple circulations. Some direct and fast, others more calm using the passages to wander around shops and restaurants. We definitely avoided to create a large shopping mall, and instead designed a shopping experience that reminds a walk in the city center, where the retail areas, terraces, green areas and access to housing and office spaces are harmoniously combined.
Vertical communication cores and roofs become an extension of the public spaces. Connected with the public ground floor, they invite to enter a different type of space and enjoy the best city views and sunlight. Every roof has a theme making each of them unique and offering a wide range of possibilities to choose between a sky deck, forest, swimming pool, urban garden, photovoltaic energy plant, tennis court, etc…
The limit between the project site and the rail tracks can be seen as a problematic area but BLAU saw it as an opportunity to rethink the quality of the space and took benefits from it. They proposed to create a green ‘shore’ to the ‘river’ of rail tracks that works as a circulation spine for the site. It marks the end of the commercial streets and connect the site on its long side. It is a meeting point for neighbors and visitors, a place to practice sports or chill and enjoy the views to the east. It also is a noise buffer thanks to the barrier of glass wall and concrete topographies covered by vegetation, inside bikes can be parked and trash cans for recycling can be set up.
The landscape strategy consists in a harmonious public space that aims to link together all the different elements flowing in this specific location. A proposed a shared space, where urban mobility, sports activities and playgrounds, commercial and cultural events, waste and water management, and nature, are happening simultaneously, is also planned.
The quality of this public spaces will encourage people to spend more time outdoors, respect and re-connect with the natural world, have a healthy lifestyle, interaction between different people, food and energy self-production, recycling and sharing as an efficient solution for a limited resources reality.
BLAU will use local species of trees and plants in the site to reinforce the natural Austrian ecosystem. The green spaces are designed to be raw and undesigned to create a ‘rurban’ atmosphere. The linking promenade will become the most important green area in the site and create a natural buffer to the rail tracks using the vegetation and artificial hills. The green and sharing concept is extended to the upper levels, creating a series of interconnected natural terraces and roofs, therefore reducing the building footprint impact.