An apartment block with walls made of curtains

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Aichinger House – Hertl Architekten, Austria.

Aichinger House – Hertl Architekten, Austria. Image: Kurt Horbst

Austrian Architects Hertl Architekten were asked to convert a restaurant with two bars into two flats in Kronstorf. To soften the solid concrete cubic mass they have thrown a shroud over it, literally. A new textile skin completely clothes the exterior in a series of two-storey drapes. Steel brackets to the sides of the windows – like curtain tiebacks – allow them to be held apart giving views in and out. Or not. When left closed the curtains allow a soft diffuse light to enter the building, lensing the world outside. At night the reverse occurs with shadowy figures playing across the rectangles of willowy yellow light in the soft façade.

The drapes are aptly concrete grey. From a distance they deny their materiality suggesting they are cast of cement.  With a gentle breeze, the façade comes alive, easing the severity of the block beneath. The building is gracefully dressed, occasionally revealing an ankle, a calf or more. This is red carpet architecture; haute construction.

The building wears its inside décor on the outside turning the world outside into the living room and creating a deliberate ambiguity: are the occupants looking out at us or are we in the living room and they are the view seen through curtains? This inversion might have betrayed privacy but instead it is reinforced: we can see in but not well; we are curious but unsatisfied. Ultimately, the curtains are more interesting than the building; the clothing more appealing than the body. Like all good fashion.

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