“Being human”: WG3 and the Hypercubus

Named after the mathematical hypercube shape, the Hypercubus is a mobile hotel room. As part of the Graz Designmonat, from 9th May it will be installed in public space in Mariahilferplatz with support from Kapo, Mayr-Melnhof Kaufmann Gaishorn and Proholz Steiermark and used during the day as workspace for designers. Essentially, the project reinterprets the “hotel” concept. The Hypercubus is designed in such a way that it can be totally independent technically; installation can be temporary and several Hypercubus units can be grouped into clusters. Transport is straightforward, meaning that Hypercubuses can be used on a seasonal basis and according to demand, moving around according to where they are most needed.

Its creators are WG3, a young Graz-based group of furniture designers and architects. Albert Erjavec, DI Matthias Gumhalter, DI Christian Reschreiter and DI Jan Ries spoke to Kate Howlett-Jones about the philosophy behind their designs and their Hypercubus project.

KHJ: There are four of you. So where did the name WG3 come from?

AE: Matthias, Christian and I studied architecture together at the TU Graz. Even then we were already a tight-knit group, always going around together. So it started off as a joke among our friends: “Here comes WG3” (WG = Wohngemeinschaft, German for “commune”). Now Jan has joined us but the name has stuck.
MG: And we are still a close-knit group, we really work as a four. It’s about being human: we cook together, we eat together. It goes far beyond a convenient working arrangement. We are not loners, we like being with other people.
CR: And we just enjoy working with other people.
AE: We generally start with a core idea, which is then intensively discussed, refined and sharpened. It’s our working process as a team.

KHJ: Why the ‘Hypercubus’?

CR: The shape derives from a mathematical hypercube: the 4D cube. Its design is extremely minimal, stripped-down and back to basics. Inside there are three different levels, giving a range of viewpoints onto the outside world. An internal spatial living experience combined with an outside experience. The smaller an architectural volume is, the more directly its external shape and its interior correspond, and so it becomes more important that you manage to harmonise functionality and spatial aesthetic quality. The three levels inside the Hypercubus are arranged so that they are spatially connected and this minimal quantity of space can offer a high quality of spatial experience.
AE: The space inside challenges you to experience it: it’s very exciting. We also wanted to show that you can use a sustainable material (the Hypercubus consists largely of Cross Laminated Timber) to make innovative shapes. CLT is great – it’s structurally stable, it’s heat-insulating, it provides a finished surface on the interior. It’s an ecological, local product. It’s also easy to work with – the shape of the Hypercubus is fairly complex, but using CLT this presented no problem.

KHJ: Where will the Hypercubus be used?

CR: The Hypercubus is in principle about ”moving space”, applied to tourism: it’s a mobile hotel room. It’s immovable property that has been made movable. Transportation is straightforward: there are even hooks for the crane already fixed to the outside.
MG: It’s basically a hotel room with all the comforts of a normal hotel, but one that doesn’t have to wait for its guests; rather, the Hypercubus goes wherever it is needed or wanted. Thus in the course of one year it could be used in a variety of locations according to where the demand is. The location-dependent lack of utilisation that occurs out of season can be compensated in this way. One can either connect to the infrastructure to provide water, drainage and so on or the Hypercubus can function self-sufficiently. For larger events Hypercubuses can be grouped into clusters. There are a number of advantages: you can set them up quickly in areas with special events or attractions but with little accommodation. It can react quickly to changing market situations and can achieve nearly 100% usage. In city centres it could potentially be used on flat roofs.

KHJ: Do you have a ‘design philosophy’?

MG: Before studying architecture at the TU Graz, we trained as carpenters and furniture designers. This naturally creates a shared focus on craftmanship, together with a high interest in quality. It has also resulted in our very practical, ‘hands-on’ approach. We moved into architecture because we wanted to design the space around the furniture too: not just the interior but the shell, the whole entity.
AE: It was the next logical step. We were lucky enough also to be taught by Peter Schreibmayer, who conveyed the minimal housing concept to us.
MG: Nowadays styling is sold as design. But there is a big difference between a trend and what is real and justified, which is design. One needs to distinguish clearly.
CR: Our approach is very practical, we are happy to work with tricky conditions. The “It won’t work” challenge just makes a project twice as interesting. We enjoy conversion and alteration, reacting to circumstances and to historic substance. Take our conversion of a 100-year-old farmhouse in southern Burgenland (currently nominated for Das Beste Haus 2011): we were careful to maintain a sensitive dialogue between the existing building and new substance. On the other hand, the changes were clearly signalled mainly through the use of exposed concrete.
AE: We are very open to tackling problems and finding solutions on the construction site. Spatial experience is always very important to us. And we are careful to find out the actual needs of the client, and to explain what materials can do.

KHJ: Does this approach inform your furniture design also?

AE: We designed the C3 console table simply because we ourselves wanted a higher, practical table.
MG: At first it was a case of our knowledge of statics feeding into the design, which then became a challenge to exhaust the limits of statics: what can be achieved, how far can we push a material, how far can the console table stand out without tipping over?
AE: Another important aspect of all of our work, from architecture, to furniture design, to designing bags, is forming contacts with other fields of activity. Interdisciplinary work is one of the most significant approaches in our projects.
CR: Our approach tends to be very flexible, it’s about finding solutions that are good for everyone involved, that evolve as a process. Yes, sustainability is important. It’s important to us to support timber construction in Austria. But in terms of, for example, the passive house, one has to achieve a compromise between useability and sustainability. There are extremes – it’s about finding a middle way. I don’t want to have to think about whether I’m allowed to open a window or not in my own home. It’s common sense.


Designed / Made in Styria by WG3
Mariahilferplatz, Graz
9. Mai – 6. Juni 2011

Marienplatz 1, Atelier 2
A-8020 Graz

Curricula vitae:

DI Christian Reschreiter
* 1982 in Altenmarkt, Salzburg
1996-2000 Fachschule für Tischlerei - HTBL Hallein
2000-2002 Kolleg für Möbeldesign – St. Pölten
2003-2010 Architekturstudium TU Graz
seit 2007 Studienassistent Modellbauwerkstatt TU Graz

DI Matthias Gumhalter
1980 * in Wien
1995-2000 Fachschule für Tischlerei - HTL Mödling
2000-2002 Kolleg für Möbeldesign – St. Pölten
2003-2010 Architekturstudium TU Graz
seit 2007 Studienassistent Modellbauwerkstatt TU Graz

Albert Erjavec
1982 *in Villach
1996-2000 Fachschule für Tischlerei - HTBLuVA Villach
2000-2002 Kolleg für Möbeldesign – St. Pölten
seit 2003 Architekturstudium TU Graz
seit 2006 Studienassistent am Institut für Architekturtechnologie TU Graz

DI Jan Ries
1981 *in Novy Jicin, Tschechien
1997-2002 HTL 1 Bau & Design, Abteilung Hochbau, Linz
2003-2009 Architekturstudium TU Graz
seit 2010 Mitarbeit bei Architekt Geldner

Kate Howlett-Jones, interview


Wed 04/05/2011

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