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New Mozarteum Foyers, Salzburg

text: Roman Höllbacher / architektur.aktuell, no. 513, 12.2022

The Art of Fugue  The International Mozarteum Foundation (ISM)in SaLzburg is the world’s most renowned institution for the cultivation of the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With a sophisticated intervention, Maria Flöckner and Hermann Schnöll have now helped the listed building ensemble on Schwarzstraße in Salzburg to a kind of architectural revival.

The first reconstruction  In 1856, on the occasion of Mozart’s 100th birthday, an association was formed in Salzburg to build a Mozart House. After many unsuccessful attempts, it was possible in 1907 to acquire the Villa Lasser together with the associated property on today’s Schwarzstraße, for which an ideas competition was held in 1910. Richard Berndl from Munich won the first prize among 64 entries. In order to fulfil the required spatial programme – the Villa Lasser was to house the conservatoire, the collections and the administration – Berndl had to expand it considerably. While he symmetrically supplemented the stylistically rounded building on Schwarzstraße with two lateral risalites, the facade facing the Mirabell Gardens appears as a random staggering of differently dimensioned buildings, which he set hard against the historic bastion wall. A narrow courtyard was created between the remodelled existing building and the newly constructed concert hall, which is spatially defined by a gate building on Schwarzstraße and a connecting wing at the rear. The structural problems of the design become apparent in these components, which are open on the ground floor with Palladio motifs. Berndl can only clumsily overcome the different storey heights and levels of the Villa Lasser and the concert hall.
The only connection between the two buildings is via a steep staircase in the existing building. The terrace of the gate building cannot be entered at all due to the lack of access. The path from the Wiener Saal in the existing building to the break buffet has always been an imposition. Initially, this break room was not planned at all. During the construction phase, Berndl had to adapt a room that had been planned as a depot. It remained an emergency solution.

Shortcomings and necessities  The ISM has lived with these shortcomings since the building opened in 1914. In addition, the administration and teaching building has no barrier-free access. Even the concert hall fulfils this legal requirement only inadequately, despite the installation of a lift in 2002. A room and function analysis prepared by Erich Wenger showed the deficits and categorised them according to urgency. The Federal Office for the Preservation of Monuments recognised the need to strengthen the monument by remedying these deficiencies and stated: „From the point of view of the preservation of monuments, a new connecting structure between the existing buildings can set a contemporary accent both in terms of urban development and for the appearance of the Mozarteum and have an effect on the urban space.“ The resulting three-stage competition was won by Maria Flöckner and Hermann Schnöll. Their design preserves the romantic gateway building to Schwarzstraße, while they demolish the connecting wing at the rear due to the shortcomings described above. The essence of the new object with which they occupy the gap between the two existing buildings can be described as a paradox: It is a building that does not see itself as such, but as a walkable structure whose transparency forms a bridge between the massive structures it connects.

Flooded with light and barrier-free  From a functional point of view, there are two foyers: a city foyer on the ground floor and a second foyer on the first floor. This foyer, which is assigned to the Great Hall of the concert hall, can be opened generously to the bastion garden and the gateway building on Schwarzstraße. In addition to their function as vestibules, changing rooms and break rooms, they provide a barrier-free connection between the existing buildings. For the first time, musical instruments, such as a concert grand piano, can now be moved from one building to the other without having to hire a haulage company. The high, light-flooded foyers act like a huge official organ for the whole complex. Light floods through the superimposed foyers all the way down to the city floor and into the depths of the existing buildings. Along the way, impairments caused by earlier alterations have been repaired. Thus the small cupid, which had disappeared into the darkness due to overplating, now stands in the light again thanks to the new glass passage into the bastion garden and fulfils its role as a teasing eye-catcher on the old city wall.

The construction  The new structure consists of a two-storey construction made of oiled black steel strips, which are vertically suspended in the walls of the existing buildings and supported at points. These steel pilaster strips, together with staggered horizontal ribs that converge in a central ridge, form a static unit. Like a rib cage, a robust construction is created that spans from wall to wall without supports. The dimension, number and position of the ribbons are derived from the existing facades. The facades facing the street and the bastion garden as weil as the roof are made of multi-layered white glass. The floor area of the upper floor and parts of the ground floor are covered with non-slip ornamental glass, parts of which are removed from the surface of the glass by means of a thermomechanical process. This creates more or less random patterns reminiscent of ice flowers that can form on windows in winter. These floral, sometimes crystalline structures diffuse the light that falls through them. If one looks from below at the glass floor above, the people standing there are only silhouetted, without any details being discernible.

Promises kept  Two aspects are decisive for the generosity of these two foyers with an area of about 180 m2 on the ground floor and about 200 m2 on the upper floor. First of all, all service rooms, such as artists‘ dressing rooms, depots, toilets, etc., could be accommodated either in newly created basement rooms or in the existing buildings, so that no installations interfere with the spaciousness of the halls. No less significant was the second promise of the competition design to integrate all technical installations, i. e. the ducts for supply and exhaust air, the ventilation outlets, the fogging system, the electrical installations and the lighting fixtures in the construction.
Shading is provided naturally by the adjacent buildings. Only on the soffit of the glass ceiling panels, but within the depth of the construction, were transparent microsorber foils applied for sound insulation. Whether they are necessary remains to be seen.

What happens next? The outdoor facilities will be completed by next spring. Negotiations are currently underway with the City of Salzburg about a direct connection from the Mozarteum’s bastion garden to the baroque Heckentheater in the Mirabell Gardens, which was already planned in the competition. In this context, one should look at the bigger picture. With the Landestheater, the Kammerspiele, the Marionettentheater, the solitaire of the Mozarteum University and the houses of the ISM, all located in and around the Mirabell Garden, a counterpart to the festival district on the left side of the Old Town is emerging. The new, artistically realised foyers should be an impulse for a cultural district that lives from the diversity of these institutions.