Sanatorium is the speculative proposal to adapt an old nuclear power station into a sanatorium dedicated to rheumatic diseases. Eight storeys of patients rooms are
superimposed on the reactor building while spaces dedicated to therapy are in part carved into the existing volume of thick concrete and in part utilize existing conditions such as the flooded reactor.
Patients are received on groundfloor and are given the option to either take a really long escalator which runs on the outside or to take the long stairs up through the turbine hall. Either way they arrive in the lobby, which is the former roof of the
reactor building, from where all other features of the building are accessible.
The spatial experience is varied and characterized by opposites. A 360 degree view over the river, the nature reserve, the fields and the village is possible while there is also the option to dive down into the flooded steel bowl security containment.
Some spaces are superexposed in terms of light and view while at the same time being climatically enclosed and vice versa. Emphasis is put on the choreography of spatial sequences - especially on the staging of threshold conditions. Movement through
the building becomes a diverse experience targeting all senses as well as preconceptions on physiotherapy.
As it is an essential concept in treatment of rheumatic diseases to get the patient out of bed, thats what the building attempts to do. It substitutes the steril, controlled spaces of common hospitals with a variety of conditions and climates and provides
threshold conditions between opposite phenomenas in contrast to the specific beneficial climate of the modern architectural machine.
This project is not just about hospitals. The core of the underlying thesis consists in the assumption that sustainability is just another chapter in modernism. At the threshold of modernity, the human body, in its biological reality, was identified as a valuable resource; now the climate is recognized as the decisive factor to guarantee further development of productivity and economy on a global scale. The pursuit of economic and technological progress is the main objective and the driving force shared by the discourse of classic modernity and the contemporary discourse on sustainability.
In classic modernity, the organization of bodies in relation to the milieu was led by an idea of hygiene. Nowadays, bodies and climate are being organized according to the idea of energetic efficiency.
The aim of this project is to question the regime of efficiency and to try to conceptualize an architecture which positions itself beyond the territory of power but is modern and sustainable nevertheless. Sanatorium proposes a haven for escapists who seek refuge from ecological panopticism and the uniformity of green buildings. It aims to achieve this through creating an entirely dialectic situation. Illness and wellness, efficiency and extravagance, hygiene and filth, interiority and exteriority, exposure and enclosure, heaviness and lightness come together to create something unclassifiable: a misfit which yet consciously acknowledges the same goals as the mechanisms of power. Sanatorium does not play by the rules of power, but nevertheless pursues the optimization of life.
(The nuclear power station Zwentendorf is the only one in Austria and it has never been used despite that it had been completed and was fully operational back in 1978. It sits on a wide clearance next to the river Danube within a nature reserve approximately one hour from Vienna.)