In the mid-1970s an unusual public-private housing project was built in Vienna—curvy concrete buildings that evoke notions of spaceships or Singaporean skyscrapers, conceptualized as a forward-looking satellite city providing everything a resident might want or need. From the beginning, Alterlaa, a housing complex of 3,200 apartments in three vast blocks, stood for accessible luxury built in concrete, a utopian notion that anyone can live in proximity to fresh air, water, and greenery. Austrian architect Harry Glück also placed great importance on community—so much so that his designs intentionally facilitated interaction.
In 2013 artist Zara Pfeifer began documenting this remarkable vestige of modernism in photographs. She soon discovered the community spaces that Glück created in each building’s belly. In these windowless rooms, thirty-three clubs and groups organically evolved over decades and continue to provide a community for the ten thousand residents of the complex through activities like ballroom dancing or aerobics. In her long-term project, Pfeifer focused on this part of life in Alterlaa—participating in club life, establishing relationships, briefly living in private apartments, and experiencing first-hand the cohesive social fabric that resulted from this architectural experiment.
Du, meine konkrete Utopie showcases Pfeifer’s visual and sociological discoveries in an expansive series of photographs. Alterlaa is a rare example of the successful implementation of modernity’s highest aspiration—a true machine for living, with nearly one-hundred-percent resident satisfaction for more than four decades. Here, Pfeifer captures its human side for the first time.