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My Name is Nikolaus Rach. On the photo you can see me and my project partner David Rasner while we were presenting our Wind Waves installation. The reason why I’ve chosen this picture to start my presentation is simply the fact, that this moment was one of the most delightful after a long time of hard work and shows my commitment to a project, which accompanies me for a while now. I’m looking forward for these moments and hope you enjoy my following projects I did during my studies in Vienna.


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3 BRiDGES introductory


Re-visiting the island is a series of interventions placed on the Danube island in Vienna. Built in the 1980’s for flooding protection, this 21 km long island is an artificial creation which diverts the stream of the Danube in case of high water. In addition to that an infrastructure of paths and trails for bikers and pedestrians was created to make the island accessible for visitors. The island was divided into 15 sections of a length of 1.4 km, each was assigned to one student. Every section was accompanied with a different set of conditions, which were mapped in a first step. The interventions were understood as a reaction to the existing conditions. Section 4 is coming with a unique set of conditions, incorporating a remnant arm of the wide and interwoven system of river arms the Danube used to «Section 4» on the Danube island

Overlapping of the Danube island and the Danube before the 1850’s 04

Overlapping of today’s status and before 1850’s

have before the great straightening in the 1850’s. This area provides an atmosphere opposed to the more artificial and straight character the island has after it’s creation in the 1980’s. This remaining estuary deals today as a protected eco-system and a retreat for herons.But the wild life is not the the only occupant in this area, inside this space a network of informal paths of visitor were created. People who are looking for a hidden and untouched area outside the city are coming here to hang out at the water and take a sun bath. My approach is to connect to this system of paths, to make this area accessible with a set of three small bridges. Each bridge provides a different character of space, which gives the visitor a different view on the estuary, while guiding him on the network of path.



Topographic model 1:500



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The semester of Analogue/Digital Production could be best understood as a process (a dialogue) in where analogue and digital methods are alternatively used to explore, construct and describe properties of space, material, program and environment. Starting with a block of foam, I investigated the behavior and amenities of the material for my purposes to create some protecting shell, some first basic architecture. Adding hard elements to the soft and flexible gave me possibilities to stress the flexible and compressible material. Tension systems, bones and surface extensions were applied.

Latex-spandex composite with bones

This first approach of physical experiments got it’s answer in the samples of digital production, which accompanied and stimulated the thinking of space towards the Flexible House, my final design of this semester. First foam models

Tension system


The digital response in Maya

Coco-caoutchouc plates with inlets

Foam stripes, cheese head screws and rubber strings


The Flexible House is a temporary house which is thought to be inhabitable for a small group of friends wanting to spend some time inside the nature. While hanging in it‘s bearing system it is thought to be floating over a canyon, just like an hang mat. The house consists of three basic more or less flexible components: The lower shell, the upper shell and the inner membrane. After connecting the shell-house to the load bearing ropes and letting the gravity work, the lower shell bulges and begins to form the inner space of the house. While tightening the ropes which are connected to the junctions on the upper shell, this one begins to bulges as well. The inner membrane is supplied with cuts and connections to the lower and upper shell, so that the bulging of the outer shells causes an stretching of the more flexible inner membrane. This mem-

Upper shell

Inner membrane Lower shell

Initial stage


Bulged stage

brane creates the floating shape of the inner spaces, which are divided into spaces above membrane and spaces under the membrane. While operating the tension of the ropes responsible for the upper shell, the size of the openings and inner spaces is regulate. This gives you the opportunity to open and close the openings just like eyes do. This gives you control over the degree of privacy of the house. For entering the house two suspended peers are connected to the openings at the longitudinal side of the house. The spaces on the front and back got big openings which point to the river stream which flows just about a meter underneath the lowest point of structure, so you are having a strong connection to the river and it‘s forces while being inside the structure.




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WiND WAVES PROJECT construction



The beginning of the controlling element


The semester Construction Material Technology focused on the development of a space, which interacts with wind. The task was to create a one to one model, which was exhibited at the Semper Depot in Vienna, an historical stage manufactory build by Gottfried Semper in 1877. Starting up with a research phase, me and my colleague David Rasner, brought together two different areas: The mechanics of a windmill and the physics of Ólafur Elíasson’s suspended fan installation. These areas of research lead to our project, which has another starting point on the installations of Reuben Margolin, a kinetic artist, who is focusing in many works on a cycle mechanism, which also creates the core of our installation. Our idea is to take this cycling mechanism as a translating element between the observer and the outcome of the installation. The wind waves instrument interacts with the wind in a rather unique way. No great strong winds are necessary to give this installation life, no dramatic gestures, but a movement from the observer,


similar to that of blowing out a candle. This quiet soft gesture is enough to bring our machine to life. A small wind sensor gathers the information about this tiny wind movement and translates this input to the motion of a reacting tube network located over your heads. Your breath has created the movements of this machine, which remind us to an animated creature. Between your breath and the instruments reaction many more processes are at play. There is our transmitting process starting with the analogue input (the breeze), which is translated to a digital signal that controls the motored system, the muscles of our reacting tube-network and the core of our installtion. In this concept the wind is a medium –the information input – and our construction is the translating element. While taking control over the sensor, the user controls the input of our machines brain, so he directly manipulates the installation. The wind connects the participant to the machine.

The final controlling element

The mechanism is a simple but very elegant solution for the translation of motion. The car which connects all the 32 strings cycles inside the outer ring which is fixed and holds the deviation points. The principle works cause the distance between the car and the deviation points vary throughout the turning. Each string is connected to one of the links of the suspended tube network, the distance between the car and deviation point will affect the length of the string which is holding one link.




Two stepper motors control the position of the car. The first one is controlling the direction and speed of the circular motion, the second one is connected to a spindle and affects the radius of the car’s cycle. The bigger the radius, the bigger are the waves of the tube network. While the car cycles the pulling and releasing of the strings is not a steady motion. In the moments when the distance between car and deviation point is the shortest/the longest, the string-length is changing slower. While passing the points which are located 90° from the shortest/longest position, the change in string length is accelerating.


Coherence of the moving tube network is the result of the positioning of the strings deviation points. Links which have deviation points next to each other, will react with the shortest shift in time.


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sustainabilit y


The task was to design an extension building for a Vienna based elementary school. In our concept we conceived our extension as a parasitic structure which attaches to the existing and creates some kind of tension between the old and the new spaces. We opposed the organisation of the spaces, the floor-plan and the choice of materials to create a symbiosis of the two structures, which are very different in nature and require each other. In the beginning we cleared the program of the existing school and distributed the functions within the new formation of the existing school and the extension. During that process we followed two principles. We wanted to keep the old class room to give the children a continuity of the space they know, as well as we designed the new spaces, so that they gave a new perspective on the existing school.

The site’s condition in 2012

Analysis of the existing school building The new entrance will generate a transition between the public and the school, so that the sensitive inside will be a safe and protected place.




The embracing of the two bars of our extension will create a new back yard situation which opens to the garden. A


The new multipurpose room opens up to the garden and creates a floating space between in- and outside.

We split our extension in two bars which were placed on the existing sport hall and on the opposite site of the newly created back yard. For our bearing system we choose a wooden frame structure, which allows us a to open the rooms to a great extend to the outside and to create a floating transition between the interior and the outside space. A stress simulation helped us to find the final form of the load bearing structure.

A garden for vegetable planting and biology classes will be places on the roof of the extension building.

Partially we opened up the rigid body of the old school building and exchanged the solid brick wall through glass panels, this generated a visual connection between the old and the new class room as well as it guaranteed that enough light is penetrating inside the structure since the extension will affecting the lighting situation.


+13.2m Dachgeschoss

+8.8m 2. Stock

+4.4m 1. Stock

+1.2m Erdgeschoss


Physical model 1:200

Physical model 1:100

Efficient usage of material is a key issue to sustainable architecture. Stress simulations will help you to design most efficient structures which bear the loads without wasting material.

+13.2m Dachgeschoss

+8.8m 2. Stock

+4.4m 1. Stock

+1.2m Erdgeschoss





UNDERSTANDING THE DRAWING : Constructing deconstruction is the work of a theoretical based studio. During this semester Luana Cortis and me analyzed Peter Eisenman’s concept drawing for the IBA (Internationale Architecture Exhibition) in 1984. We were starting off with an understanding of the concept and the dissembling of it’s elements, we approached our work on the reproduction and reinterpretation of Eisenman’s drawing in different medias. Goal of this semester was to make a contribution to the exhibition of our class’ works on a diversity of architectural drawings.

P.Eisenman’s IBA competition drawing - 1980

Friedrichstadt in 1980

Animation 01, duration: 01:47 20

Part one was the understanding of the concept, it’s reference to the history of the site and it’s relation to the Berlin of the 1980’s. Eisenman applied with his concept for the competition of the reconstruction of the so called Block 5 located in Friedrichstadt in Berlin, directly adjacent to the Berlin wall. His office won the competition, so that a part of the concept was realized in the context of the IBA in 1984.

Digital reproduction as starting point

• accessing towers

«Our strategy for developing the site was twofold. The first intention was to expose the particular history of the site; that is, to render the visible it’s specific memories, to acknowledge that it once was special, was someplace. The second one was to acknowledge that Berlin belongs to the world in the largest sense, that it’s specificity and identity have been sacrificed on the altar of modern history, that is now the crossroads of every place and no place.»

• l shapes

P. Eisenman

• yard pattern

• mercator grid «The ground becomes an archaeological site. The most important tool for digging is the Mercator grid; this becomes the means of access to the archaeological artifact, the implement of anti-memory. A universal geometric pattern without history, place of specificity [...] it is the most neutral and artificial system of marking.» P. Eisenman

DISSEMBLING THE CONCEPT: To show the site’s inherent characteristics Eisenman incorporated elements in this concept, which refer to the history of the site, as well as elements, which deny any connection to any place or time. With this interaction of elements he created some place, which flips forth and back between history and the present and gives a new perception on time of this historically loaded site.

• historic grid

• block substance

• the site



Final reproduction, spraypaint on 10 plywood panels, each 400mm × 760mm

VISITING THE SITE: Photos by me, autumn 2012


& CONSTRUCTING THE DECONSTRUCTION : Animation 02, duration: 00:58 62558265 23

DWELLiNG UTOPiA geography



Starting point of the last semester with the emphasis on urban developments was the reading of J.G. Ballard’s novel «High-Rise». The utopian destructive scenario of the story set the manifesto for the collective design for our class’ high-rise for Vienna’s 20th district. 11 teams were assigned to one of the sections inside the tower’s bearing system. The task was to create a living space for 200 inhabitants inside one section. The goal was not to create ordinary housing units but rather to develop a new type of vertical city, where dwelling, working and social activities happen in direct neighborhood – a vertically condensed city for the future of Vienna. «By its very efficiency, the high-rise took over the task of maintaining the social structure that supported them all. For the first time it removed the need to repress every kind of anti-social behaviour, and left them free to explore any deviant or wayward impulses.»

Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation we took three elements to lead our design. The first principle is the brise soleil. Basically our structure is a over-dimensioned brise soleil as inhabiting space. It’s the space where the social life of our inhabitants takes place. The second principle is the incorporation of an central market space inside the structure, it is the entrance area where you arrive with the general lift system and change to our transport system, which organize the vertical movement inside our section of the high rise. The third principle is the integration of a communal bathing area, which serves the basic human needs of cleaning and hygiene, but also acts as a place of communication and coming together.

High-Rise, J. G. Ballard, 1975

general lifts

private units

intern transport system WC/bath

communal area

bearing structure

neigboring project communal bath / sauna 24






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The grid of our structure is based on the «private Unit», which we defined with 2.4m × 3.0m × 2.2m (dark-grey), it serves the minimal space for one of our inhabitants. The private units are accompanied by the communal inhabitable brise soleil, which is made up by the mid-grey and light-grey boxes, the «communal Units».

Towards the inside of the structure the spaces are getting narrower and darker, the degree of privacy increases. On the outside the largest spaces are located, these are light filled and serve the impulse of activity, sports and communication.

Through a series of scaling, shifting and cutting we create an overlapping of the former fitting grids of the private and communal units, so these key elements of our concept are set to a spatial diverse relation.


The stacked ÂŤprivate UnitsÂť create some bigger formations with their neighboring units. Families and friends can dock to the adjacent units or extend their own private space. A flexible neighborhood is possible.

The entrance area and market place marks the center of our section. The red lines indicates the way from the general lift to the in-section transportation system.

Children's room

4-person family in 3 interconnected units

Parents' bedroom

Entry room

The transport lifts run in between the private units and the communal area. They deliver goods between the levels of the communal area and deal as the entrance hub for the private units.

Single occupancy unit

Previous version of the private unit 26

Renders of the 1:100 model

Final model 1:100 27

Thank you and bye! I hoped you liked it.


Nikolaus Rach_Portfolio spring 2014  

Student projects, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. 2010-2013