Wolf D. Prix Architect, Coop Himmelb(l)au buildings, Austria design studio book, Vienna architecture practice

Wolf D. Prix Architect : Architecture

Contemporary Austrian Architecture Practice, Europe

10 May 2011

Winy Maas Honour

The Banal

Wolf D. Prix attack on banal Venice Biennale exhibition

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune.
The Titanic sails at dawn.
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You on?”

(Bob Dylan: “Desolation Row”, 1966)

post updated 29 Apr 2021

Wolf D. Prix Attacks Venice Biennale of Architecture 2012

If one did not know that the media constantly exaggerates, one could almost conclude – as the Süddeutsche Zeitung has – that the Venice Biennale of Architecture really is the world’s most important architecture exhibition.

Austrian architect Wolf D. Prix:
Wolf D. Prix Architect: Coop Himmelb(l)au
photo © Elfie Semotan

However, I believe that the word “exhibition” is not intended to describe an exhibition in this case, rather that the notion only designates the event per se. In other words an industry meeting, like a product fair. Other critics fail to even question the purpose of the exhibition, rather they immediately conclude that the coming together, the meeting, the networking is the key aspect. That’s that!

I would like to maintain at this juncture that the meaning of the Venice Biennale of Architecture for theoretical arguments has been increasingly losing significance since its beginnings with the Strada Novissima by Paolo Portoghesi in 1980. Even the personal significance for the participants is very low when compared to the Art Biennale. So let us not deny the truth. This event is an expensive danse macabre. In a city of plunder (an exhibition of plunder) hordes of tourists (architects) roll along broken infrastructure in order to satisfy their petit bourgeois desire for education (in the case of the architects: vanity, envy, schadenfreude, suspicions). Even the glamour that the visitors are supposed to feel is staid and faked by the media for whom a star architect is like a film star.

In truth it is all hollow, arduous, exhausting, bleak and boring. It is no longer about lively discussion and criticism of topics in contemporary architecture, but rather about empty, conservative and perhaps populist shells that are charged with feigned meaning. What a great Architecture Biennale it would have been had they established forums and put out themes which would have provided a chance to look behind the scenes at the decision-making, instead of boring exhibitions. Take for example the dispute about the train station in Stuttgart. The reasons for the cost explosion for prominent buildings such as, for example, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. The political arguments about mosques and minarets, in other words the disputes about the localisation of an idea. Why the market for single-family homes in the USA has collapsed and how power politics is conducted through settlement architecture. These topics would be worthy of discussion – not who is and who is not a star architect.

However, instead of that we face: “People Meet in Architecture” and now “Common Ground”. In other words: compromise. It cannot get any worse! This situation conjures an image of the Venetian carnival – one can imagine all the architects in Pierrot costumes surrounded by masked critics and dancing the Dance Banale, or, even better, the architects are playing on a sinking gondola like erstwhile the orchestra on the Titanic playing their last song, while outside in the real world our leaky trade is sinking into powerlessness and irrelevance. This is because politicians and project managers, investors and bureaucrats have been deciding on our built environment for a long time now. Not the architects.

While in Russia artists are stubbornly resisting the authoritarian regime, the current director of the Architecture Biennale considers these characteristics to be obstacles for our profession and he explains in an interview that space must be taken from the genius. One would have to show him Pussy Riots in order for him to finally understand our society. Furthermore, I consider that the Venice Biennale of Architecture needs to be reorganised.

Wolf D. Prix / COOP HIMMELB(L)AU 24.08.2012

Venice Biennale

Venice Biennale 2012 News



[English text]


Wolf D. Prix, born in Vienna in 1942, is a cofounder of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. He studied architecture at the Vienna University of Technology, the Architectural Association of London, and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles.

In 1993 Wolf D. Prix was named has been Professor for Architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. Since 2003, he has been Head of the Institute for Architecture, the Head of Studio Prix and serves as Vice-Rector of the university. He taught as a Visiting Professor at the Architectural Association in London in 1984 and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1990. From 1985 to 1995, Wolf D. Prix was active as Adjunct Professor at the SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. Since 1998, he has been a faculty member of Columbia University in New York. In 1999, Wolf D. Prix was awarded the Harvey S. Perloff Professorship at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2001 he was made an Adjunct Professor at UCLA. Since 2001 he has been a Doctor Honoris Causa de la Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

From 1995 to 1997, Wolf D. Prix was a member of the Architectural committee in the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts. He is a member of the Austrian Art Senate, of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts as well as of the Advisory Committee for Building Culture. Furthermore, Wolf D. Prix is a member of the Architectural Association Austria, Union of German Architects (BDA) in Germany, the Architectural Union Santa Clara in Cuba, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Architectural Association Italy. In 2006, he was the commissioner for the Austrian contribution for the Tenth International Architecture Biennale in Venice.

Wolf D. Prix received numerous awards including the Award of the City of Vienna for Architecture in 1988, the Award to the German Architecture Prize in 1999, the Great Austrian State Award in 1999, between 1989 and 1991 three times the New Yorker Progressive Architecture Award, in 2002 the French Award Officier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres as well as the Gold Medal for merits to the federal state of Vienna. In 2004, he received the Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Architectural Education for his commitment to teaching and training. In 2008 Wolf D. Prix was awarded with the Jencks Award: Visions Built prize. In May 2009 he received the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art.

[German text]


Wolf D. Prix, 1942 in Wien geboren, ist einer der Gründer von COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. Er studierte Architektur an der Technischen Universität seiner Heimatstadt, bei der Architectural Association in London und am Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles.

1993 wurde er als ordentlicher Professor für Architekturentwurf an die Universität für angewandte Kunst in Wien berufen. Seit 2003 ist er Vorstand am Institut für Architektur, Leiter des Studio Prix und Vizerektor der Hochschule.

Als Gastprofessor lehrte er 1984 bei der Architectural Association in London und 1990 an der Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Von 1985 bis 1995 war Wolf D. Prix als Adjunct Professor an der SCI-Arc in Los Angeles tätig. Seit 1998 ist er Fakultätsmitglied der Columbia University in New York. An der University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) übernahm er 1999 den Harvey S. Perloff-Lehrstuhl und 2001 eine Gastprofessur. Ebenfalls 2001 verlieh ihm die Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires die Ehrendoktorwürde.

Von 1995 bis 1997 war Wolf D. Prix Mitglied des Architekturbeirates im österreichischen Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung. Er ist Mitglied des Österreichischen Kunstsenats, der Europäischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste sowie des Beirats für Baukultur. Des Weiteren gehört er der Architektenkammer Österreich an sowie dem Bund Deutscher Architekten (BDA), der Architektenkammer Santa Clara in Kuba, dem Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), dem American Institute of Architecture (AIA) und der Architektenkammer Italien. 2006 war er Kommissär für den österreichischen Pavillon der 10. Architektur Biennale in Venedig.

Wolf D. Prix erhielt zahlreiche Auszeichnungen, etwa den Preis der Stadt Wien für Architektur 1988, den Deutschen Architekturpreis 1999, den Großen Österreichischen Staatspreis 1999, zwischen 1989 und 1991 dreimal den New Yorker Progressive Architecture Award, 2002 die französische Auszeichnung Officier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres sowie das Goldene Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um das Land Wien. 2004 erhielt er den Annie Spink Award for Excellence in Architectural Education für sein Engagement in Bildung und Lehre. 2008 wurde Wolf D. Prix mit dem Jencks Award: Visions Built Preis ausgezeichnet. Im Mai 2009 erhielt er das Österreichische Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunst.

Location: Vienna, Austria

Wolf D. Prix Practice Information

Coop Himmelb(l)au

Partners: Wolf D. Prix + Helmut Swiczinsky

The practice is famous for unusual, angular buildings. A key early project was a prosthetic guest attached to, and invading, a Vienna building, a major influence on many architecture students in the early 90’s. Their architecture could be equated to Expressionist art in that the projects ‘explode’ and are almost defined by non-cartesian form.

Austrian architects – Coop Himmelb(l)au

Panel discussion with Wolf D. Prix during the 20th Anniversary of MIPIM in Cannes, France at Palais des Festivals on 11 Mar, 4:15 pm

The exhibition “COOP HIMMELB(L)AU.Beyond the Blue” will be shown at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, USA from 2 Apr – 26 Jul 2009

Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art

Vienna Architects

Coop Himmelb(l)au Project
Swiss Expo 02 – ‘Fractured towers’, Bienne

New Book
Dynamic Forces
Coop Himmelb(l)au – BMW Welt Munich

Coop Himmelb(l)au book

Coop Himmelb(l)au Book & Exhibition

Blue Universe

COOP HIMMELB(L)AU is pleased to announce the release of the book “Dynamic Forces” on the project BMW Welt in Munich. This first publication on BMW Welt must work on several different levels if it is to do justice to the building and its author. One level is the key role played by this building within the overall oeuvre of Coop Himmelb(l)au; another is the design and construction process, which is presented by way of a dialogue between technical explanations that are always interesting and highly informative and detailed photos that provide fascinating last-chance views of the hidden world behind the now-finished facades of this complex construction.

In view of the extraordinary cultural and spatial dimensions of what is a unique building in recent architectural history, the entire theoretical and architectural scope of the oeuvre of Wolf D. Prix unfolds here.

The German Version has just been released, the English edition will be available from December, 12 (German speaking countries).

Editor: Kristin Feireiss
Publisher: Prestel
Languages: German/English
46 colour illustrations, 96 b/w illustrations
272 pages, Hardcover, Size: 240 x 295 mm.
ISBN 978-3-7913-3875-0 (German Version)
ISBN 978-3-7913-3876-7 (English Version)
EURO 39.95, US $ 49.95, GB £ 25.00

Building Designs

Contemporary Buildings – recent architectural selection on e-architect below:

American Architecture

Contemporary Architects

Similar architects to Coop Himmelb(l)au include Morphosis Architects, Günther Domenig and to a lesser extent Bernard Tschumi and Daniel Libeskind

Architecture Studios

Comments / photos for the Wolf D Prix Architect page welcome.

Website: www.coop-himmelblau.at