From tattoos to graffiti

In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Bolzano in northern Italy. After queuing there for an hour, I could finally enter a special museum and see the Iceman (Ötzi) found in the Alps ice. Through the research of archaeologists, I slowly understood the story of the Iceman. Who was he 5300 years ago? What did people eat and wear at that time?  Why did he die in this place?

Experts found out from the clues that the Iceman was a hunter, and was shot by the enemy from behind when he fled. 61 tattoos were found on his skin. This is the historical evidence of the oldest human tattoos found.

Speaking of tattoos reminds me of seeing a tattoo on a person’s back on a beach in Croatia. That tattoo was courage in Chinese writing, but I’ll never forget how those two words had been written flipped, like a reflection in the mirror. Seeing this tattoo felt like seeing graffiti on a building. My thoughts went back to a building full of graffiti in Vienna, a work designed by female architect Zaha Hadid. These two senses of conflict have a huge impact on my senses.

Graffiti refers to artificial and intentional marks on public or private facilities or walls. To some extent, this street art is endowed with a certain kind of acceptability. Sometimes graffiti becomes a criminal act, especially graffiti produced without the permission of the facility owner.

Zaha Hadid House in Vienna is the only one housing project from Hadid.

Zaha Hadid was the first female architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004. Before the award, she was commissioned to design a housing complex in Vienna. The base is located in the ring belt of Vienna. The traffic conditions nearby are multi-level and complicated – a feng shui nightmare. Boats on the Danube Canal (Donaukanal), cars and trucks speeding along an extremely busy highway, passenger and goods trains screeching by just below, and even cyclists and pedestrians on the bicycle path and walkways along the embankment. Add to all this the famous Hundertwasser waste incinerator right next door, and we have a fascinating scene; but for residential use there is simply too much going on. The even more difficult part is that the project had to be integrated into a protected viaduct designed by the Austrian architect Otto Wagner.

In addition to apartments, this building also has offices and artist studios. These spaces are distributed like a ribbon, crossing over and around the viaduct arch. There are interwoven and changeable indoor and outdoor spatial relationships. The old red brick bridge arch and the new white building form a tensioned dialogue. The interlacing of light and shadow is like playing hide and seek here.

The project took 11 years to build (1994–2005) and the construction cost was as high as 10 million euros. The original plan was to improve the city’s image in this area through the famous work of the architectural master. But it is a pity that the rent of the apartments is too high, and the local infrastructure (shops, kindergartens etc.) is insufficient. Even though the riverside view is excellent, the result is still empty apartments.

In order to increase the opportunity for rent, the developer rebuilt the indoor compartment without the architect’s consent. The open space becomes a bird cage in the form of a small student dormitory. This was the reason that Zaha Hadid distanced herself from this project. For many architects, their work represents their spirit and is also a work of art. Can you imagine future generations reworking Monet’s oil paintings?

My architecture professor Christian Kühn said in an interview to a newspaper that this plan was a “suicide project” and the developers’ plan failed. Even the Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper reported that these buildings are beautiful corpses. At the beginning of 2019, I passed by here and saw graffiti everywhere on the facade, which really shocked me. How did the work of a master architect end up like this?

A new developer had invited graffiti artists to create an urban island, a new urban art hot spot. pic taken 2020/05

However, in mid-May 2020, when I went for a walk near the Danube Canal, I discovered that the buildings had new, large graffiti on them. I checked the Internet to find out that it was a new developer who had invited graffiti artists to create an urban island. They plan to create a new urban art hot spot. Huge octopuses, floating bottles, and pigeons are the symbols of conveying urban messages.

Perhaps the building itself does not need to have any function. It sits quietly on the riverside and becomes a large outdoor sculpture. This is an architectural artwork full of climaxing stories. What will her fate be in another 10 years?

View to the housing complex from Danube Canal in 2019.




說到刺青讓我想到曾在克羅埃西亞的海灘上看到一個人背上的刺青。那個刺青是中文寫的勇氣,但是讓我忘不了的是那兩個字竟然是刺反了,成為鏡子中的倒影。當下看到這種刺青的感覺好像看到建築物上的塗鴉。我的念頭一下又回到一棟在維也納被塗鴉的建築物,而且是女建築師札哈·哈蒂(Zaha Hadid)設計的作品。這兩個違和感對我的感官衝擊巨大。


札哈·哈蒂是在2004年第一個榮獲建築界的奧斯卡金像獎的女建築師- 普利茲克建築獎 (The Pritzker Architecture Prize) 。在獲獎之前她被委托設計一項在維也納的集合住宅。基地位於維也納環城帶。附近交通情況交錯複雜,以風水來說真是個夢靨。多瑙河(Donaukanal)上的船隻,沿著極為繁忙的高速公路超速行駛的汽車和卡車,正下方有擁擠的地鐵乘客和貨車,以及沿路堤的自行車道騎自行車的人和人行道上的行人。還有附近有著名的百水先生設計的廢物焚化爐,這裡的確擁有特殊的景色。但是對於住宅而言,發生的事情太多了。更高困難度的部分是必須融入奧圖·華格納(Otto Wagner)建築師所設計的一段已列入保護的高架橋。


這個項目花了11年建造(1994-2005),建造費用高達一千萬歐元。原本開發商計劃希望能藉由建築大師的加持,將這一個地區的都市形象改善。但是很可惜的因為公寓租金過高,加上附近生活機能不足(商店, 幼稚園 ),就算河景觀超棒,還是造成了變空屋的命運。


我的建築教授坤恩(C. Kühn)在接受報紙訪問時說這個方案是一個「自殺式的項目」,開發商們的計畫是失敗的。甚至薩爾斯堡消息報稱呼這些建築群是美麗的屍體。2019年初時我經過這裡,看到外觀到處都是塗鴉,真是讓我震驚。建築大師的作品怎麼會變成這樣的狀況?

2020年5月中我去多瑙水道附近散步時,意外發現這群建築物竟然上面有大型塗鴉。上網查了一下原來是新開發商邀請塗鴉藝術家來打造都市島嶼(Urban Island)。他們計劃打造一個都市型態的藝術熱點。巨大的章魚,浮瓶傳信,還有鴿子是想傳達都市訊息的象徵。