Congress House

 

The Bad Gastein Congress Center is located in the center of the Bad Gastein community in the St. Johann im Pongau district in the State of Salzburg. The congress center, completed in 1974, has been unused since 2007. The congress house planned by Salzburg architect Gerhard Garstenauer is an imposing concrete building from the 1970s in the town center, which was built in place of the old walkway. In 1975, Gerhard Garstenauer received the first architectural award from the State of Salzburg for this building. The operation for congresses and events was discontinued in January 2007, and the rental contracts of some business premises were terminated. The building belongs to the Viennese investor Philippe Duval, who took it over from his father Franz Duval in 2013. Currently (2016) signs from AHB GmbH allow access to the outside areas, and a Gasteins Historic City GmbH is showing a plan for a cable car station on the building.

 

History

The congress house planned by Salzburg architect Gerhard Garstenauer is an imposing concrete building in the style of brutalism from the 1970s in the town center, which was built in place of the old walkway. In 1975, Gerhard Garstenauer received the first architectural award from the State of Salzburg for this building. The operation for congresses and events was discontinued in January 2007, and the rental contracts of some business premises were terminated.

The building belongs to the Viennese investor Philippe Duval, who took it over from his father Franz Duval in 2013. Currently (2016) signs from AHB GmbH allow access to the outside areas, and a Gasteins Historic City GmbH is showing a plan for a cable car station on the building.

 

Damp cold, a lot of mold, moss and lichen, a leaky attic, water-based paints on several floors, in places even stalactites on concrete beams. That is the current situation. How times have changed: 38 years ago there was also the legendary appearance of the American multi-talent Liza Minelli and a big band from overseas in the then glamorous Bad Gasteiner Kongresshaus - at the New Year's Eve gala on December 31, 1982. This cool show from back then The young actress, jazz singer and daughter of superstar Judy Garland was broadcast by television stations in many countries.

Damp cold for many years
Not long ago, insiders in Gastein first saw photos that document the structural decline in the house, which has been closed since 2007. The old furnishings from the good times were still there and grew more moldy from year to year.

Discussions about dump in front of the house
Two years ago, the Viennese real estate developer Philippe Duval had the carpets, solid wooden partition walls and furniture torn out and properly disposed of. Previously, this garbage dump on the bottom floor caused heated discussions among the Gastein population.

Between optimism, new shores and skepticism
After the death of his father, Philippe Duval is now the owner of the property that previously belonged to the Congress Society of the Bad Gastein community. The Viennese now want to push ahead with the general renovation that has been necessary for decades. He confirmed this to us by phone a few days ago on request. So far, Duval has not wanted to comment on this in front of an ORF Salzburg TV camera.

And the skeptics are no less after all these years. Businesses and tourism professionals from Gastein are also wondering whether the huge building could ever be operated profitably again. Ronny Katsch heads the booking center for renters of holiday apartments and private rooms in Bad Gastein. He welcomes the latest renovation projects east of the waterfall at the Hotel Straubinger and would be "happy as a snow king if a sustainable future could be in sight for the desolate congress center."

As a neighbor of the property, Katsch worked out various options with construction experts on its own initiative. He sees no reason for joyful dances: “You just have to look at the huge cubature. The heating costs alone, the technology costs. After the complete renovation, you will have to invest millions in your hand as an investment volume. This also exceeds the limits in terms of management. "

Owner favors special cable car station
Philippe Duval doesn't want to be put off. The owner also relies on civil engineers and structural engineers. They certify that the extremely solid concrete framework has an excellent construction quality and an almost indestructible structure. There are also architecture and art connoisseurs who want to see a groundbreaking design saved. Duval has long had a modern old town center for Bad Gastein in mind. With its own brand name: Gasteins Historic City. The manager also operates his own YouTube channel and website.

At its core, the Viennese are interested in a modern cable car station on the former congress center. The town center would then be perfectly connected with the Graukogel chair lift and the cable car to the Stubnerkogel on the other side of the valley, says Duval. On his website he also names the head of the Gasteiner Bergbahnen as a supporter.

Cable car manager sees plans critically
When asked about Philippe Duval, CEO Franz Schafflinger from Bergbahnen said that there was a phone call some time ago. However, he would not consider himself a supporter of the previously known plans, according to the senior manager: “The first topic would be the profitability of such connections. A pure feeder train without repeated trips during the day and only with the guests who live in the center of Bad Gastein, such a train could not be financed profitably. "

Schafflinger adds that the route of the cable cars is also difficult because the routes could come too close to some hotel buildings: "That would cause problems with the construction and fire police."

Garstenauer's work belongs to "brutalism"
And it could also be a problem with monument protection. The former congress house occupies a globally unique place next to the waterfall and has the captivating design of the Salzburg architect and designer Gerhard Garstenauer. It is - and so far only few people know that - already under the protection of monuments by the Republic of Austria.

 

The planner died in 2016 at the age of 92. In addition to solid concrete, he also loved local wood and had it built in large quantities inside the Bad Gastein project - with the participation of local carpenters and joiners. In domestic and international specialist circles, Garstenauer is a prominent representative of "brutalism", a design trend of the 1960s and 70s. It goes back to the French architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965), who remains an icon of the 20th century for many modernists. “Brutalism” can be derived from: “béton brut”, raw concrete or exposed concrete in French.

Legal dispute about monument protection
During our research, the responsible federal authority in Salzburg learned that the house owner Duval had challenged the monument protection that had been in place for some time. This procedure is still ongoing and will only be finally decided. Therefore, she does not want and should not say anything about it, emphasizes Salzburg's state curator Eva Hody from the Federal Monuments Office:

“The congress center is a difficult topic, especially for the Bad Gastein community, because it is a large building in the center of the village. And you cannot dispose of its future. It is a large building volume with a strong architectural language. And how the community can deal with it in its center is currently completely open, ”says Hody.

Now, not only in Gastein, many are waiting eagerly to see whether the Federal Administrative Court will lift the state monument protection or not. The future of the building also depends on this.

Regardless of these debates, architecture and culture fans do not see this future as a cable car station.

Ideas asked: What would really be in it?
Avant-garde dreams range from an internationally influential and well-stocked art museum to a campus for a completely new type of university - in combination with the neighboring House of Austria with its classical architecture. With a heat exchanger heating of the ensemble with recycled Gastein thermal water from the spa houses.

This university could devote itself to the regional development of recreational areas worldwide, ecological tourism and global skiing and mountain sports with its numerous varieties, according to a detail from the pool of ideas. There are universities with a similarly exciting landscape in Boulder in the Rocky Mountains not far from Denver (US state Colorado) or in Bozeman (Montana).