FWF-Forschungsprojekt „The Sun Houses of Konrad Frey: Environmental Research and Solar Design Knowledge“

Environmental Research and Applied Solar Design Knowledge

Since the mid-1960s, the Austrian architect Konrad Frey (*1934) has conducted solar research studies and applied his design knowledge in a series of sun house prototypes – like the first Austrian Solar House (1972). The unifying theme is to rethink modern premises, like functionality and flexibility, environmental control versus responsive, well-tempered environments, in terms of regional contingencies and sustainable resource use. His work comprises of climatic sundomes, greenhouses, infrastructural systems, suit-able service modules, sun houses (Fischer House, Zankel House), and the Solar Houses I–III, among others. Frey’s theoretical investigations at the Graz Institute of Environmental Research and international alliances with theorists (CERN, Arup, TU Vienna) are widely published (1989 manual Handbuch für Energieberater) and initiated the Austrian Energy Advise Service. Yet, Frey’s work has been identified with fundamentally different assessments, mainly focusing on the avant-garde of the Graz School, or post-modern vocabulary, critical regionalism, and participatory typologies. However, since unpublished sources and solar performance data have not been operationalised in previous examinations, existing research does not provide sufficient means to define a consistent interpretive framework that overarches Frey’s oeuvre and critically assess his approach within the global discourse.

The planned project will fill this gap in basic research, first, by scientifically processing and evaluating new data, measuring and re-conceptualising the energy performance, in order to issue the catalogue raisonné with critical commentaries and a digital database (Part 1). Second, the research will identify key narratives and analyse Frey’s design knowledge in order to publish an intellectual biography of Frey, focusing on his scientific approach towards architecture, the modern narratives within the history of solar ideas, and the instrumentalism of the environmental discourse (Part 2). Its relevance will be grounded on the potential of paradigm shifting insights into solar research, based on Frey’s exploring the viability of solar energy and promoting a new resource policy.

The innovative aspects of the research will also be grounded on an interdisciplinary approach using both quantitative and qualitative research methods of the theory and history of architecture, combined with building physics and building technology as well as cultural studies, such as sociology of technology. The documentation, critical analyses, and energy evaluation of Part 1 will use digital measuring (fieldwork), collecting primary sources (archives), interviews, parametric simulation models and maintenance concepts of three case study houses. On the basis of the catalogue raisonné of Part 1, the methods of Part 2 will deploy discourse analysis, sociological and historical approaches as interpretive framework.

Anselm Wagner (Professor of Architectural Theory/TU Graz), Ardeshir Mahdavi (Professor of Building Physics /TU Vienna), and Ingrid Böck (post-doc scientist) will establish scientific co-operations with Daniel A. Barber (Professor of Architecture/University of Pennsylvania) and Albena Yaneva (Professor of Architectural Theory/University of Manchester).


FWF-Forschungsprojekt P 28677

Laufzeit: 2016–2019
Projektleitung: Anselm Wagner
ProjektassistentInnen: Ingrid Böck, Sophia Walk

Link zum Werkkatalog