Island in the stream: an ingenious floating structure brings drama to the heart of this year’s European Cultural Capital

Island in the stream: an ingenious floating structure brings drama to the heart of this year’s European Cultural Capital – Design Review

Rob Gregory

As part of Graz’s current role as European Cultural Capital for 2003, a new artificial island has been created in the heart of the city on the River Mur. An artificial island, that is: manmade, alien and stranded.

Being free to rise and fall with the river’s ebb and flow, this island structure is truly dynamic. Floating on large pontoons, and restrained to its bank side moorings by two hinged and ramped footbridges, it creates a new route and water-top civic destination, attracting and encouraging the participation of passers by. Incorporating theatre, playground, cafe and meeting place–along with necessary catering, lavatories and backstage spaces–it serves as both an urban prop within the city as theatre and as a practical and functional cultural catalyst: a new confluence where both functions and forms inventively combine.

Conceived as a deformed double geodesic dome by New York based Acconci Studio, the island’s free form diagrid structure wraps and contorts to create two new public spaces; one internal beneath a shallow dome, the other external within a terraced bowl. As each form clasps the other like yin and yang: solid, void, convex and concave merge into one. A skin of glass and stainless-steel mesh provides shelter, the translucency of which changes with the reflections of the water and spectacular use of night lighting. Bleacher seating terraces move in and out to allow the bowl to morph from a steeply inclined and sheltered enclosure, to a series of mini piazzas, adding to the structure’s ever-changing theatrical and fluid organic dynamism. Internally a spiralling ramp ascends within the dome, rising above the lavatories and bar, circling around the cafe’s centralized kitchen, and creating areas for seating, dining and socializing en route.

As a new performance space floating on the city’s river, this new structure has a key part to play in the city’s long-term regeneration plan; enriching the city as theatre in a vision soon to be accompanied in similar programmes by the work of British duo Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, and by Graz’s own Klaus Kada.

RELATED ARTICLE: Architect Acconci Studio, New York

Photographs Hufton + Crow/VIEW

COPYRIGHT 2003 EMAP Architecture

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group