We used to call Metternichgasse 12 the Film Academy. There was a semi-basement there that we referred to as the cellar, and in this cellar was a designated office for the department’s student reps that we called the ÖH Room.
“We” refers to those people who know the Film Academy lingo. Such people know that “over there” used to mean the mdw Campus, and they also know why the lounge was sometimes redubbed the “wardrobe”.
We are those people who went in and out of Metternichgasse 12. There, we studied, organised, taught, researched, wrote texts, tore up texts. Some of us phoned, calculated, debated, exported, unlocked, and locked again. Others squabbled, consulted, slept, researched, cried, celebrated, and even took showers there—and a few weeks ago, we moved.
The Film Academy’s departmental building is no longer on Metternichgasse; it’s now the Future Art Lab. Somewhat unusually, we’re still calling this new building exclusively by its proper name.
So far, I can’t say much about the Future Art Lab—and what I can say is only superficial. There are new things there that we’re happy about—like the cinema, a balcony, and editing room air conditioning units that can be individually controlled. But so far, I can only guess at what studying there is like.
I’m waiting with baited breath for my first lecture. My course schedule says it will take place at “Future Art Lab-VZG-34-Seminarraum 3”.
For as long as that room still lacks a nickname, I’ll probably be getting there late. But lucky for me, it typically doesn’t take long for the Film Academy’s special vocabulary to grow by a new word. We’re extremely gifted when it comes to renaming indoor spaces.
This gift was nurtured in part by how the Film Academy’s former departmental building at Metternichgasse 12 got adapted again and again to meet new needs.
Temporary adaptations—like when we’d convert the Mirror Room into a makeshift bar at short notice for this or that special event—led to new nicknames.
Long-term adaptations, like when a film studio got turned into a lecture hall, a lounge became a library, and—not unimportantly—a porter’s lodge was eventually repurposed as the OH Room, led to new signs outside the doors.
Some adaptations, though, took place with no renaming at all. After the analogue editing tables had been removed and replaced by computers, we just kept on editing.
For us student representatives, it was important that the ÖH Room be adaptable not only to our needs but also to those of the students. And with its door mostly open, the ÖH Room was indeed used for all kinds of things.
When films got discussed there, it was a conference room; when someone needed a break from working at the editing table, it was a break room; and after a production where the student crew had needed to buy high-visibility vests, they got stored in the ÖH Room until another film team needed them.
A new ÖH Room doesn’t yet exist. While the department relocated a few weeks ago, we mostly just moved out. We had help from our department, from the Office of the hmdw, from the Facility Management staff, and from other students. By now, all the stuff from there will have been put somewhere—but that’s just part of the work. After all, the ÖH Room wasn’t just a place to put stuff; it was also eminently adaptable.
I’m optimistic that a new place will be found for everything—I just don’t know exactly where, yet. I think that whether—and how much of—what used to exist will ultimately re-establish itself at the Future Art Lab will depend on how adaptable its spaces are to new needs … which constantly arise. The paint on the Future Art Lab is barely dry, but I do think that this building will only do justice to its name if it ends up undergoing continual adaptation. Otherwise, it’s probably the case that we’ll eventually start calling it just “Art Lab”—and that would be a shame.