The architect Jakob Wohlschläger (1869 - 1934) planned the original eye-catching, round, late-historicist building close to Vienna West station. Image: Archiv
Development

Radical Simplification

Bayerische Versorgungskammer acquired the Stafa Tower last June. Immediately prior to the transaction, BEHF Corporate Architects refurbished and modernized the 100-year-old Viennese building.

Bayerische Versorgungskammer acquired the Stafa Tower last June. Immediately prior to the transaction, BEHF Corporate Architects refurbished and modernized the 100-year-old Viennese building.

The rapid sale of the Stafa Tower, which was built in the Austrian capital in 1911, proves that functioning, mixed-use real estate is in great demand in the European market. Immediately after the complete refurbishment, Bayerische Versorgungskammer bought the distinctive round tower on the famous Mariahilfer Straße from Richard Schöps & Co AG.

The Stafa Tower in 2016 houses 6,300 sq m of retail and 6,300 sq m of Hotel space. Image: Bruno Klomfar
The Stafa Tower in 2016 houses 6,300 sq m of retail and 6,300 sq m of Hotel space.
Image: Bruno Klomfar

BEHF Corporate Architects was responsible for the refurbishment of the 10-story, 12,600-sq-m retail and hotel building.

Armin Ebner, Partner at BEHF, explained: “Although it went through many conversions and altered uses, this more than one-century-old property was never successful. In retrospect, it can be said that no one ever had the right concept at the right time. It may be late, but the Stafa Tower is now emerging as a model project. For example, the rooms in Ruby Hotel Marie, which is housed in the building, are 98% booked.”

The three retail tenants also express satisfaction with the site. These are the Italian fashion brand Terranova, the Austrian supermarket chain Billa, and the Austrian brand Reiter Betten & Blinds GmbH. Before the refurbishment, the Stafa Tower housed several more retailers in its curvy spaces—with moderate success at best.

Oldest building in Europe with LEED Platinum

What did BEHF do for the refurbishment? The Viennese architecture firm used a contemporary, future-orientated design of radical simplification, paying special attention to quality and technical innovation.

The facades found in Stafa Tower’s rotunda atrium have been specifically developed for the building and constitute a significant innovation. Image: Bruno Klomfar
The facades found in Stafa Tower’s rotunda atrium have been specifically developed for the building and constitute a significant innovation.
Image: Bruno Klomfar

The structure and facade construction of the 1950s department store provided the design initiative for the conversion. The facades found in the rotunda atrium have been specifically developed for the building and constitute a significant innovation. In cooperation with the lighting laboratory Bartenbach, a special reflective metal facade was developed, which guides daylight down even to the lower floors and thus enables all the interior rooms to be used in multifunctional ways.

The project obtained a LEED Platinum certificate for its comprehensive sustainability concept, which makes it the oldest European building to receive such an award.

In 1911, the Austrian Sculptor Anton Hanak (1875 - 1934) created the facade relief panels. They now shine again in their original colors. Image: Bruno Klomfar
In 1911, the Austrian Sculptor Anton Hanak (1875 – 1934) created the facade relief panels. They now shine again in their original colors.
Image: Bruno Klomfar

The bottom line is that this was a radical simplification, as Ebner stressed: “We’ve only known for a few years that multi-story shopping malls, as the Stafa Tower was before its refurbishment, don’t work. Now, its only three retailers benefit from large areas and multiple entrances. And it simply makes sense, thanks to its location within Vienna, to turn the building into a hotel from the second floor up. That completes the concept.”

Demolition considered

As simple as the concept seems, it’s implementation was very particular. For starters, there was the architectural challenge in the retail spaces that there are simply few possibilities for altering the construction of such an old building. The building would have had to have been dismantled and re-built—which was originally definitely an option.

In the course of the refurbishment, the architects had to cope with the variety of static zones caused by the round shape. The retailers had to deal with numerous pillars within their sales areas. In addition, rectangular rooms are easier to set up than circular ones like à la the Stafa Tower.

As noted, the mixed-use property’s quick sale immediately after the completion of the refurbishment shows that the result works. Ebner is not surprised, because “the building became immensely more efficient. It now contains hardly any unusable spaces and the concepts it houses are clear and without compromise.”

behf-boardmarkus-kaiser_big-775
The BEHF Board with Armin Ebner (second from left). Image: Markus Kaiser

About BEHF Corporate Architects

BEHF Corporate Architects is an international architectural firm founded in Vienna by Armin Ebner, Susi Hasenauer, and Stephan Ferenczy in 1995. With around 100 employees, it is one of the largest and most powerful architectural firms in Austria.

Its team boasts a broad array of qualifications, allowing it to deliver not only sophisticated and creative designs, but also to ensure budgets, schedules, and quality are all maintained. BEHF’s portfolio is divided into the business areas Retail and Center, Office,

Refurbishment, Residential, Interior, and hospitality. Its contemporary architecture and careful renovations of old, listed stock have been awarded with numerous prizes.

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