GRAZ TWO THOUSAND THREE - Cultural Capital of Europe


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Genre: Architecture/Art in Public Spaces

The Island in the Mur
Plaza For The New Millennium

What happens when one of the most ingenious artists in the world is asked to create an exceptional project for a city like Graz? An object of both art and architecture, an absolute novelty that will be unmistakable?

The idea of integrating the river Mur into the life of the city came up right at the beginning of the planning phase for the Cultural Capital, as the river not only divides the city, but also connects it. The artist undertakes a quest for a new, exceptional building site.
Based on the idea of Graz-born Robert Punkenhofer (Art & Idea) the artist implanted an "artificial joint" linking nature and city, which forces visitors to adopt new perspectives and guides them along grounds which have hitherto been inaccessible. In other words - Vito Acconci, the artist and designer from New York who dedicated himself increasingly to architecture in the past few years, placed an island in the Mur.
Acconci would not be Acconci had he simply put a floating platform into the river between the historic city centre and Mariahilferplatz, created a simple look-out at an unusual location. Instead the island is an organically twisted construction composed of various merging shells. Each part, no matter whether closed or open, has been assigned certain functions depending on its specific spatial character. Now the island features a small café, an open-air theatre and a playground for children - a small isolated cell of urban culture at a place that has never been part of the city and now emerges as a small centre of urban life.

The shell contains an open-air theatre. Underneath the dome, one finds a café, run by the traditional Graz bakery Sorger, and designed by Acconci Studio and the Graz-based architecture studio purpur. A fantastic landscape for children has been created in the small area where these two forms intersect. "We wanted to design a place that is divided into two specific zones, and these zones should gradually merge", explained the American architect and artist. "If people sit in the theatre, they see the playground in the back; if they sit in the café, they are protected by the playground forming part of the café’s roof. These different functions should not be separated radically: around the island flows water, and we wanted to construct an object that is also flowing and changeable."
What makes the island so exciting is not only its combination of interior/exterior but also the new perspectives it provides of the city. Familiar objects in Graz can be seen from a new point of view. Acconci plays with building materials in order to guarantee the best possible effect. The hilly landscape around Graz is reflected in the stainless steel, and through peepholes, Nirosta steel lattices and glass windows the surroundings can even be seen from deep within the artificial island.

Vito Acconci’s work in general concentrates on people, including seemingly uninvolved passers-by. His island for Graz must also be seen in this context - an interplay of forms and elements, a play of communication in isolation. The island is an exciting place, a lively and pleasurable experience, built for the new millennium for people to meet and communicate, to play or simply daydream and relax. And all this takes place by the water, on the water and in the water.

Design/Architectural Implementation: VITO ACCONCI/ACCONCI STUDIO. Idea and curatorial development: ROBERT PUNKENHOFER / ART&IDEA.

Cafe "Insel" designed by Acconci Studio and purpur

Press release on the opening of the Island

29 July 1999Project submission by Art & Idea (Robert Punkenhofer)
24-26 October 1999First visit of Acconci and Punkenhofer to Graz
08 September 2000Presentation of the first model in the 2003 Office by Acconci for the members of the City and the Province
December 2000Redesign of the Island in the Mur
02 April 2001Presentation of the Island in the Mur in front of the extended city government
10 May 2001Presentation of the Island in the Mur to the municipal council in the presence of Acconci
25 September 2001Submission for water rights approval
31 October 2001Submission for navigation rights approval
15 November 2001 to 31 January 2002Bid for the construction of the Island in the Mur
March 2002Award of building commission for the Island in the Mur
April to June 2002Bottom, embankment, dry dock, mountings in the Mur, substructure of access ways
April to August 2002Manufacture of the Island in the Mur
April to October 2002Construction of access ways near the banks
May to October 2002Transport, mounting and painting of the island in the dry dock
November to December 2002Transport by water of the island to the middle of the Mur
November to December 2002Mounting of the access ways to the island, final works
December 2002Presentation in the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York
January 2003
March 2003
March 2004
Opening of the Island in the Mur
Opening of the "Insel" Café
Completion of children’s playground

A project by Graz 2003 - Cultural Capital of Europe

Date:All year long
Location:Public space

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