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Olifantslvei - Architektur für kleine Menschen - Architecture for small people/Big plans for small people

6 weeks in Africa. 42 15-hour days. 32 students and 2 teaching assistants, who were all true architects for these few weeks. Never before has anyone studied architecture or built (and landscaped) a building so quickly. And what a building! The old priest who performed a moving blessing ceremony for the kindergarten - during which we each felt that we could understand Zulu perfectly - and who then hid himself like a child in a concrete pipe from which he neither emerged nor wanted to emerge?! The parents and teachers who, accompanied by their families, paraded singing through the garden greeting each new room with the joy reserved for special friends?! That is the gratitude which these students earned. In comparison - the certificates which my university will later award to these students are as dispensable as the envy which will accompany them throughout their professional life here in Old Europe. Our students have built a special place for the poor. I take my hat off to them all. Architects can give no more than this. And those for whom the students carried out this project understand this completely.

Volker Giencke

Project Leader

Astrid Dahmen | Walter Prenner


Walter Benzer | Daniel Brecher | Ulrike Brinsa | Eva-Maria Brunnauer | Birgit Dejaco | Isabella Dorigo | Albert Elmenreich | Paul Giencke | Claude Flener | Peter Griebel | Patrik Hämmerle, Simon Hölbling | Marc Ihle | Erwin Jank | Angelina Köb | Veronika König | Lukas Kornmüler Kai Längle | Daniel Luckeneder | Nina Maccariello | Lukas Maehr | Ivan Niedermair | Christoph Nösig | Susanne Plenk | Judith Prossliner | Magdalena Rauch | Verena Rauch | Pia Sandner | Christian Schgör | Hubert Schlögl | Katherina Schmiderer | Stefan Strappler | Michael Zopf


Technical Description

1:1 Building

Written by Walter Prenner

As a humanistic discipline architecture means far more than just building.

But the additional issues touched upon during the course and in particular during design projects – whether emotional, spatial, experimental, technical or aesthetic – are inadequate when it comes to carrying out the real task on site. Such issues are limited to the design process and cannot convey certain essential information and intentions which distinguish building from architecture.

1:1 projects fill these gaps and make it possible to turn designs into reality and to test them accordingly.

For me, such projects are essentially about the realisation of an architectural design through a process which sees building not as a simple act of implementation but rather as a creative activity which touches upon the many faces of architecture.

In this sense, the opportunity to realise 1:1 buildings during a course of study presents the opportunity to come into real contact with architecture. The energy released by such a building process ignites a sense of enjoyment and passion. Such a process naturally demands more of the participants than the normal daily routine and the shared activity of building becomes a challenge, an experiment which demands a sense of cohesion and team-spirit from the group. The shared goal of realising an architectural design at full scale becomes a driving passion.

In such a way, students can learn that even the most complex geometrical tasks can be solved through physical and mental work, personal application and the motivation which increase with practice. The awareness gained through this process both strengthens and confirms the student as they confront the possibilities and infinite variety of architecture.

In South Africa we had the additional opportunity of experiencing architecture in the context of unfamiliar social and cultural challenges.

Our 1:1 building site in Olifantsvlei, Johannesburg, saw students become individuals who took the opportunity to gain experience, find solutions, take decisions and, finally, accept the responsibility of giving architecture life.