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Grass in Vienna | icon 033 | March 2006

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photo: Hertha Hurnaus

words Alex Wiltshire

"We first thought about broccoli, two metres high, but it was too expensive," says Franz Sumnitsch, partner of Austrian architects BKK3. The practice has just installed 104 giant blades of grass outside an office building in its home town of Vienna.

The "grass" is part of a sculptural installation called Grasshopper. The two-metre high blades, made of green-painted steel, flank a 47m-long walkway leading to a bar and restaurant on the first two floors of the office building, also designed by BKK3 and completed in 2003.

Grasshopper is located on the edge of the district of Ottakring, on one of Vienna's busy inner ring roads. BKK3 intended the large-scale greenery to be clearly visible by passing motorists. "We wanted a playful mood," says Sumnitsch, explaining that the project, commissioned by the owners of the office building, was intended to connect the restaurant with the street and help beautify the area.

"It creates an interesting atmosphere in winter when everything is white and you see this greenery," he adds. "It's artificial nature: nature in the city is always created by people. It's nature that isn't really nature. This is a step further - not that everything in the city should be artificial, of course."

During warmer months the structure, which is 4m at its highest point, acts as an extended beer garden for the bar-restaurant.

The installation has been so popular that now the adjoining Josefstadt district wants grass on its own side. "Maybe we'll do it next year," says Sumnitsch. "We want to grow the grass everywhere. Maybe it's even a good idea to sell it at Ikea."

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