Parish Church am Schöpfwerk

Location

Vienna, Austria

48.15906, 16.32921

Author

Viktor Hufnagl

Architect

Built in

1981

The Parish Church am Schöpfwerk references the red brick gothic architecture of Northern Germany and Scandinavia as well as 19th-century industrial buildings in Central Europe. The fact that this masonry also functions as a gap-filler between the reinforced concrete skeleton is another aspect that contributes to the description of the structure as a deliberate combination of both modern and traditional elements and styles.

The Parish Church am Schöpfwerk is a Catholic church dedicated to St Francis, built to plans by the architect Viktor Hufnagl between 1979 and 1981. It is an integral part of the Am Schöpfwerk public housing complex, a city within the city comparable to the nearby Wohnpark Alt-Erlaa, built in 1974 by the same architect. The large residential complex consists of a total of 1704 apartments with approximately 8000 inhabitants, a garage, kindergartens, two schools, a public library, medical practices, a bank and several shops and welfare facilities. Over the past 30 years the housing complex, which originally was seen as an exemplary estate, gained notoriety as a social hotspot. Prejudices were strengthened by media reports and a popular Austrian film, Muttertag (Mother’s Day), which is a satirical portrait of the different types of residents living on the estate.

But back to the Parish Church. The characteristic terraced construction of the church obviously borrows its design from Egyptian stepped pyramids. Other parts, such as the dome-shaped central building and the décor, are reminiscent of Byzantine architecture. One could argue that this mix is rather unusual for a Catholic church built in the late 1970s. Unsurprisingly, the pyramid shape also defines the interior. The gradual narrowing from one stepped level to the next and the resulting gradual incidence of light create a unique spatial experience, an impression enhanced by the green and gold ornamented wall tiles.

Next to the main building a free-standing bell tower, seven storeys high, soars into the sky like a campanile. With its red-brick masonry, the Parish Church am Schöpfwerk references the red brick gothic architecture of Northern Germany and Scandinavia as well as 19th-century industrial buildings in Central Europe. The fact that this masonry also functions as a gap-filler between the reinforced concrete skeleton is another aspect that contributes to the description of the structure as a deliberate combination of both modern and traditional elements and styles.

Text by Joshua Koeb

Function

1981Religious object: catholic church

2018 Religious object: catholic church

Ownership

1981 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien

2018 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien

Condition

1981 Good

2018 Good

Property Management

1981

2018

Form of government

1981 Parliamentary Republic

2018 Parliamentary Republic

Spatial Planning Agency

1981

2018

Type of heritage and protection

1981

2018 National monument (BDA 1.8.2004 GdStr. 301/4 EZ 1176 KG 01301 Altmannsdorf)

Interview with Ernst L.

Local resident

Transcription
For me, it’s like the Schöpfwerk itself. A concrete block. The way I see it is like this: it all fits in with the whole ‘Schöpf-Würg’ complex. It’s just an ugly concrete lump, as ugly as sin. As I say, it’s got nothing in common with a real church.

Interview with Gabriela S.

Local resident

Transcription
Right, first of it all, I’d really like to see a clock in there, at the very least. And I know there’s no bell there either. I can imagine that the sound of bells ringing wouldn’t do any harm. I can’t imagine that bell ringing... – well, I like it – the sound of bells ringing... I’d be happy if there were bells ringing. It wouldn’t have to be that loud either like it is at the Stephansdom. But you’ve got a different kind of noise here, so in my opinion it wouldn’t be a nuisance. Other than that, there’s not much I can say: I’ve never been inside, but there are nicer things to look at!

Interview with Salim T.

Local resident

Transcription
It’s very quiet; there’s no bell. It’s quiet. – I think it’s a combination of evangelical and catholic. Most of those who come here to visit it are from the Philippines. They come for the service, I think, at 10 o’clock on Sundays. – No, I’ve seen it from the outside. It’s nice. It fits in well with this estate.
In fact, I think they built two things at the same time.
The architect must have had something in mind. But it’s not a church. – Only recently there was a tourist here from Indonesia and she googled ‘church’. So she came here and looked for the church on Max-Winter-Platz, 20th district, at Vorgartenstrasse, Mexikoplatz. But somehow Google brought her here.