Zentralsparkasse, Wien, 1976–1979
© Photo: Gerhard Maurer, 2022
Günther Domenig received an invitation to design a branch of the Z‑Sparkasse in the Vienna Favoriten district during the construction at the Schulschwestern. It came directly from Karl Vak, the bank’s director at that time. (During this period, not only were other branches realised by renowned architects, but the bank also began to collect contemporary art). This was a period when the Zentralsparkasse saw itself not just as a financial service provider, but also assumed cultural responsibility. These conditions played perfectly into the hands
of the architect’s intentions – only in this context could he develop a building that negated any conventional notion of a bank – even against the client’s own resistance.
The design is determined by dynamics. Every element, whether façade, staircase or the visibility of the infrastructure, works towards this moment. In the context of Favoritenstraße, Domenig’s building has a sculptural impact that is reinforced by the form of the three-dimensional façade bulging out from between the two neighbouring houses. It is a mixture of an organic, skeletal body reaching into the public space like an octopus (or hand) and a gesture stretching protectively over anyone passing by (in the design drawings this is emphasised and projected even further).
The building site became a field of technological experimentation and Domenig himself was deeply involved. Much was decided on site, deviating from the plans. The sculpture of the architect’s hand is a key feature of the building. The internal spatial organisation can be read from the outside. The half-storey staggered floors of the lower part of the building form a unit that is structured by a central, organically winding stair element.
The structure and building services are visible and every material used, whether concrete, steel or sheet metal, is allowed to appear in its unaltered character. Their interaction results in the complexity of this unique architectural design.
From the very beginning, the Z‑Sparkasse polarised opinion and brought Günther Domenig international attention. Debate over the building continues. What is certain is that this projectcreated an architectural landmark for the city of Vienna that clearly communicates Domenig’s formal and constructive attitude.