From the metropolis Vienna to idyllic Annaberg in Lower Austria’s “Mostviertel” region – the two places are only around 100 kilometres apart, yet the contrast could not be any more stark. The two architects Veronika and Johannes Wagner-Pesendorfer consciously chose to say goodbye to the hectic city life and together with their children they moved to tradition-steeped Stadlerhof, which has been in the Wagner family’s hands for generations and is loacted at an altitude of 1,000 metres. In her interview with La Loupe Veronika Wagner-Pesendorfer talks about the reasons for this decision and grants insight into her numerous projects.
L.L. / You both were successful architects in Vienna for more than 20 years – and in 2004 you made a decision: to leave the big city and move to the country. What does the Annaberg region give you that the metropolis couldn’t?
V.W. / We wanted our children to grow up surrounded by nature. To be able to go skiing or tobogganing after school and to grow up with animals is something very special. The extended family on the farm makes it possible for us to work as architects alongside the agricultural business.
L.L. / Now you run Stadlerhof together, a farm with 7 guest apartments which was been in the hands of the Wagner family for generations. Has this always been your big dream?
V.W. / Not really, no (laughs). It turned out this way and we don’t want to miss a minute of our varied work life now.
L.L. / At Stadlerhof you live in a place where others go on holiday. How did you design the building? What was your vision?
V.W. / We transformed the guest rooms from the 1970s into spacious holiday apartments that we rent out on an annual basis. That way our time management is more flexible and on top of that we’ve won really nice guests with an attitude similar to ours.
L.L. / Anna-Alm also bears your architectural signature. Even though it’s quite modern for a hut, it fits in perfectly with the surrounding nature. What aspects were important to you here?
V.W. / It was extremely important to us to use regional materials. We built our hut with our own wood. We collected rocks here and used them in different parts of the hut. Aside from that it was important to us to realise the traditional style with a modern architectural language. In order to make sure the cube doesn’t seem to bulky we moved the lounge into the basement where, because of the slope, there still is a large glass front and a terrace with a panoramic view.
L.L. / A little ways away from the slopes of the ski resort Annaberg is Stadleralm, Lower Austria’s first mountain hut for bon vivants. The refuge was originally supposed to be for private use only, now guests can also enjoy the hut’s rustic atmosphere. What comforts can guests look forward to?
V.W. / Stadleralm is extremely cosy but makes do without kitschy elements, our guests like that. Bathroom and toilet have been built from natural rocks collected in the area. Heating with the clay oven and wood that you have to chop yourself is a popular pastime. Sitting outside the hut by a fire and enjoying the evening while curious animals come close to the hut, that’s among the most harmonious moments on the Alp.
L.L. / In 2015 you also realised the nature park centre Ötscher Basis, for it you received a lot of praise and the Lower Austrian Timber Construction Award 2016. What materials were used here? What criteria were applied to decide on them?
V.W. / Here it was all about regional products again. Not just in terms of materials, where we used local larch and spruce or natural rock, which again came from our Alp, but the craftsmen also were from the region and they created a building where the basic shape is similar to that of a typical “Stadl” (a kind of barn) from the region.
L.L. / You are responsible for numerous projects around the Annaberg. How would you describe the region’s typical building style? What does it take to make guests here happy?
V.W. / Our Lilienfeld district is considered Austria’s most densely forested, which is why we focus on traditional timber construction. In the Alpine foreland with steep slopes and small agricultural spaces the buildings are traditionally of small structure and because of the large amounts of snow saddle roofs are predominant. We planned a modern interpretation of these traditional elements and our guests feel this is authentic and they appreciate it.
L.L. / Your husband still works in an architecture firm in Vienna during the week. You take care of the farm, the guests and the numerous animals on Stadlerhof. How hard is it to juggle all this?
V.W. / My husband and his team are responsible for the big projects in the city, I get to take care of the special tasks, usually in the country. That way we don’t get in each other’s way. Especially on the weekends the work on the farm has to be taken care of, if we want to do nothing for a change, we have to go away, otherwise we hardly manage.
L.L. / You are both very busy people. What plans do you have for your private and professional future?
V.W. / Professionally my husband wants to realise real estate projects abroad and I want to make more time for the garden, the animals, and our big passion, travelling.
Veronika Wagner-Pesendorfer's Wordrap
In Annaberg we like to spend our time … with friends on our farm.
Three generations under one roof ... easier than four, but still not all that easy.
This architect is my role model: Peter Zumthor
On Stadleralm one should definitely … spend more nights.
I most like to use this material … glass, rock, and our own wood.
For a summer barbeque in front of the house … Stadlerhof is my favourite spot.
That’s what we pass on to our children: Honesty, hard work, and a good education.
Veronika and Johannes Wagner-Pesendorfer
Veronika and Johannes Wagner-Pesendorfer met during their studies at the Vienna University of Technology and fell in love. After their graduation they first worked as self-employed architects independent of each other, later they realised common projects in their architecture firm pumar. As curator of monuments Veronika Wagner-Pesendorfer renovated traditional buildings such as Looshaus on Vienna’s Michaeler square and Demel on Kohlmarkt square. Her husband Johannes on the other hand specialises in residential buildings and hotels. Today the family lives on the Stadlerhof farm in Annaberg which was been in the hands of the Wagner family for generations.