When it was built in the 1970s the Kulturzentrum Mattersburg (KUZ for short) played an important role in the cultural life of the province of Burgenland. And not just that: the KUZ was also the perfect illustration of a successful combination of different building types and functions. It was, after all, the first cultural centre in the country. The building complex planned by the architect Herwig Udo Graf was an outstanding example of the architectural style known as ‘brutalism’. Today, it is again considered as a key work of brutalism.
With its different buildings, secondary school and gym, the KUZ stands as an ensemble comprised of several elements. It really is an impressive expression of brutalism, a style known primarily for its massive, elemental shapes and a preference for exposed concrete as the principal material. Building work on the entire complex began in 1972, with the official opening taking place on 22 May 1976.
After almost forty years, the Kulturzentrum was closed for renovation in 2014. When the regional councillor for culture, Helmut Bieler, submitted his plans for the KUZ’s demolition, they were met with fierce resistance. They even led to the establishment of a citizens’ platform (‘Rettet das Kulturzentrum Mattersburg’ – Save the Mattersburg Cultural Centre), and more than 2,000 signatures were collected calling for the KUZ to be preserved. After heated discussions over the protection of monuments, ultimately the plans had to be altered.
The revised renovation plans incorporated parts of the old KUZ, but again they were rejected by the public. The discontent over each new plan submitted is due mainly to the fact that the preservation of this historic building was only partial and therefore inadequate. Expert opinion by the initiators of the DOCOMOMO platform (documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement) confirmed the outstanding status of the building complex. In September 2017 the case was even brought before the People’s Advocate Board (Volksanwaltschaft) and debated in the Austrian parliament.
In May 2018 a new proposal was submitted: the incorporation of the regional library (Landesbibliothek), regional archives (Landesarchiv), an adult education college (Volkshochschule) and the house of literature are to transform the KUZ into a centre for literature. The protected heritage section of the KUZ is to be renovated and the sections that are not under a protection order will be pulled down. The project is due to start in 2019 and scheduled for completion in 2021.
TEXT BY JOSHUA KOEB
2018 Closed for renovation
1976 Land Burgenland
2018 Land Burgenland
2018 BELIG - Beteiligungs- und Liegenschafts GmbH
Form of government
1976 Parliamentary Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
2018 National Monument (BDA 17.1.2018 GdStr 914/4; 914/3; 914/2)
Interview with Johann Gallis
Interview with Gerald H.
Interview with Martina F.