The Future Art Lab on the University Campus offers a myriad of technical possibilities. Department heads tell us what they think of this new building—and how they’re doing with the big move that’s still underway.
New beginnings are always a bit wistful. “I’ll definitely be missing the red doors,” admits Christopher Hinterhuber, head of the Department of Piano, referring to his department’s long-standing home together with the Akademietheater on Lothringerstraße. Thousands of now-famous musical names have trained there since 1913, and the cafeteria—shared with the theatre since 1922—symbolised a long mutual history. At the cafeteria, one frequently encountered eminent figures like Peter Handke and Elfriede Jelinek. The pianist also met the latter at the world première party for Michael Haneke’s film adaptation of The Piano Teacher (2001), in which he participated. “The male lead couldn’t play, so it’s my hands you see on the piano,” remembers Hinterhuber, who—despite all this—does indeed look forward to the new spaces on the mdw Campus.
The recently completed Future Art Lab, after all, is far more modern and comes with a wide range of acoustic and technical possibilities. “This building is in equal measures functional and aesthetically pleasing; I’ve already been there a couple times, and it felt very good,” says Hinterhuber: “And the acoustics in the concert hall are really, really impressive.” The Future Art Lab, with its total floorspace of around 3,800 square metres, was created by the Viennese architecture firm Pichler & Traupmann and has four levels, one of which is below ground. The present move-in process involves four areas of training: the Joseph Haydn Department (chamber music), the Department of Piano, and the Department of Composition, Electroacoustics and Tonmeister Education will be using the voluminous halls, the Sound Theatre, and the Recording Hall located on the basement level. The first upper level, on the other hand, contains the spaces of Film Academy Vienna as well as a generous terrace.
“For us, the so-called Sound Theatre is set to be a very interesting performance space that’s especially well-equipped for realising the possibilities of contemporary electronic music and multimedia,” says Johannes Kretz, head of the Department of Composition, Electroacoustics and Tonmeister Education: “A huge complement of loudspeakers will be arranged at various heights there in order to create three-dimensional sonic images.” Furthermore, the infrastructure for film sound (a special film sound studio, a Foley studio, and the Arthouse Cinema) is ideal for synergies with the Film Academy, points out Kretz: “The people focused on film sound, in particular, can now collaborate more closely with the media composers; there are several networked studios where people can work together on projects.”
Danny Krausz, head of Film Academy Vienna, agrees in full: “The entire production processes can now be better planned; organisationally, this move will make everything easier in the long run.” And deputy department head Oliver Kunz elaborates on the Foley studio, where the various sounds that get dubbed into films can be recorded. “One feature of the new Foley studio is its six different floor types, which range from creaking wooden floorboards to gravel. And there’s also a pool where you can create and record sounds that require water.”
With the exception of the teaching studios, editing rooms, practising rooms, and other departmental spaces, the building is meant for more than just internal use. It also contains a multifunctional cinema for the Film Academy on its ground floor, where there will be film premières and events for which the department had previously been forced to rent commercial cinemas. But at the same time, emphasises Kunz, this cinema will also be important for educational activities: “It’s an ideal workplace for students to colour grade, mix sound, and finalise their films in a cinematic environment. It used to be that we outsourced these things to film labs and sound studios, but thanks to digitisation and the possibilities that come with it, these steps are now frequently handled by the students themselves, who can do so as part of their coursework.” For teaching, as well, the new building is a huge leap forward, adds Danny Krausz: “Before, we could only do film presentations and discuss them in seminar rooms, which was always a compromise in terms of projection technology. Now we have our own state-of-the-art cinema, which is an enormous improvement.”
The recording studios are also an upgrade, as Johannes Kretz explains: “Up to now, we’ve been located in what was basically a residential building that had been adapted step by step since the 1980s. But what we’re moving into now is a place that’s been purpose-designed for sound studios—in part with room-in-room constructions that are extremely soundproof. This means that you can record a violin soloist in one room and a big band in another without the two interfering with each other sound-wise.” Kretz is convinced that the Future Art Lab will prove to be “an attractive and publicity-friendly building where we can present a broad spectrum of multimedia works.” And the performance spaces in this building, which is unique Austria-wide, will also become known to the outside world in a special way thanks to guest performances and cooperative projects.
“The pianos are already there, and teaching can now begin,” says Leonhard Paul, head of the Joseph Haydn Department of Chamber Music and Contemporary Music. “How COVID-adapted teaching will look this winter semester is the only thing that still needs to be clarified.” Paul knows from his experience as a musician that a university campus provides a ton of advantages. “I know that from my concert tours in the US with Mnozil Brass. No matter how large a campus is, it still feels like a self-contained village. You’re more or less part of the family, and that closeness makes a lot of things possible.” On such a campus, everything is directly accessible—the various departments, the library, and (not unimportantly) the cafeteria. What’s more, chance encounters are everyday occurrences—so people know each other or get to know each other quickly. “I’m convinced that this new building will give rise to a new spirit on our campus. It will be up to all of us to do justice to the name ‘Future Art Lab’—but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll succeed.”