Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture - Vol. 2

By R. Stephen Sennott | Go to book overview

K

KADA, KLAUS 1940-

Architect, Austria

Klaus Kada is one of the leading figures in contemporary Austrian architecture. His work and contribution are to be understood in the context of the regional architecture culture that developed around the city of Graz, the second-largest city in Austria, from the early 1970s onward and that gained international attention in the mid-1980s. Other members of the group, all of whom share a passion for formal and material experimentation, include Günther Domenig, Volker Giencke, and the husband-and-wife team of Michael Szyszkowitz and Karla Kowalski. Nourished by active government building programs, expansive competition systems, and vivid public debate about architecture, these Graz architects have recently challenged the hegemony of Vienna as the center of Austrian architecture.

Kada was born in the small city of Leibnitz, about 20 miles south of Graz near the Slovenian border, where his parents owned a department store. As the eldest son, he was expected to take over the family business, but instead he chose to study building construction at a technical college. In 1961, Kada entered the Technical University of Graz to study architecture and earned a diploma at a relatively mature age in 1971.

In 1976, Kada opened his own office after a five-year training period in various architectural offices in Germany and Austria. Such training is required of Austrian architects prior to taking the licensing examination. Since then, Kada has built a very successful practice designing private, public, and institutional buildings, mostly around the Graz region. The office has a broad scope of building types to its credit: private houses, mass-housing projects, a dormitory, a museum, laboratory buildings, office buildings, hospitals, and auditoriums.

Kada's strength lies in his commitment to the practice of building rather than in theoretical pronouncements. His architecture is known for precision of detail and experimentation with new building technologies, most recently with glass construction. He is also known for intelligent site strategies, his ability to combine old and new, and his ability to respond to a variety of programmatic needs. Formerly known for exuberant forms, Kada's mature work has settled into restrained geometric formal language with clear structural and material articulation.

One of his first commissions was to design a new facility for the family business. The Kada Department Store (1971-73), with its prefabricated-concrete skeleton and paneling systems, manifests Kada's early interest in new technologies and construction methods as it pays tribute to his early affinity to the megastructural projects of the 1960s. Kada also cites Pier Luigi Nervi and Louis Kahn, both known for their highly articulated and systematic approach to structure, as early influences.

As common to Austrian architectural practices, Kada has gained most of his larger commissions through design competitions. In recent years, he has completed major public and institutional projects, including a dormitory (1988-92) in Graz, a glass museum (1987-88) in Bärnbach, the Institute for Plant Physiology (1993-97) for the University of Graz, a nursing home (1993-95) in Leibnitz, and a concert hall (1993-95) in St. Pölten.

The dormitory building in Graz and the glass museum in Bärnbach are perhaps the most celebrated Kada buildings to date. In the student housing project, Kada shows his mastery of a difficult urban site and his passion for communal housing. The dormitory is located along Wiener Strasse in a slightly dilapidated part of town. The building is pushed into the interior of the block with a narrow axial entrance to the road. From the street, between old houses, one can catch a glimpse of the slightly curving south-facing facade of the main building mass, which is articulated with red balconies, longitudinal access galleries, and vertical glazed staircases reminiscent of Ralph Erskine's Byker Wall (1969-81) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. On warm days, students occupy these spaces, making the building appear as a large wall of life and movement. The communal student life is centered around an auditorium (also red) and a cafe on the ground-floor level.

The glass museum is located in the existing glassworks in Bärnbach, near Graz. Like the dormitory, the glass museum manifests Kada's mastery of a difficult site condition and his ability to mediate between old and new. Unlike other competitors, Kada chose to preserve the old generator house and to use it as the core of the new museum. The new elements wrap and form spaces around what came to be reduced to a concrete skeleton. Appropriate to the function, the building bears witness to Kada's passion for experimenting with glass and its new struc

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Encyclopedia of 20th Century Architecture - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • G 481
  • H 579
  • I 667
  • J 703
  • K 719
  • L 743
  • M 805
  • N 901
  • O 945
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