It's been called a cross between Blade Runner and the Easter Island sculptures. New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp said it "seems designed to shear away the popular image of Austria as a place of prancing white stallions, cherubic choirboys and pastries slathered with clouds of heavenly whipped cream." It's got a vertebra, a core and a mask. What is it??? Read on.

WHERE WE WERE From 1963 until 1995, our home was a six-story town house on Manhattan's East 52nd Street. The Procter family had built it in 1905 on the site of a barn. By the early nineties, the eclectic sandstone building, with its French Gothic-style facade and renaissance-style interior, was badly in need of repair. Wedged in between a 24-story hotel and a 38-story office tower, the building also happened to occupy one of the most valuable pieces of land in the city. After carefully weighing the options, the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs concluded that the best solution was to replace it with a new building. Which meant that we'd have to go elsewhere during the construction phase.

WHERE WE ARE And so it was that we packed up our books, our computers, our files, our desktop memorabilia and our coffee cups and moved into temporary quarters on the twentieth floor of a Third Avenue office building.

Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. We still have our library (well, part of it is in storage), and you can pick up all of the publications you can order here and more. But, most important, you can meet us in person.

Austrian Cultural Institute
950 Third Avenue
20th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Tel: 212/759-5165
Fax: 212/319-9636

WHERE WE WILL BE Because ACI and its activities and programs had grown quite a bit since the sixties, the challenge was to design a structure with three times the floor space on a very small site. The Ministry organized an open architectural competition, and the response from architects was overwhelming. There were 226 entries in all, far more than expected. After a lengthy deliberation process, the jury selected Austrian architect Raimund Abraham's entry as the winning design.

Abraham's solution arranges fire stairs, elevators and other services across the back of the twenty-story tower, freeing the full width of each floor at the front of the building. The new structure will offer three floors of exhibit space arranged on various levels, together with a multi-functional hall for lectures and recitals, a film theater, an enlarged and fully computerized library, classrooms and administrative offices. Additional facilities include four floors of office suites and seven floors of apartments for Institute staff and guests.

ACI, in cooperation with the Architectural League of New York, organized an exhibit featuring fifty of the competition entries. This exhibition has been shown in several museums and architecture galleries in the US and in Canada and is now on display in Europe. The catalog is an illuminating primer on contemporary architectural design. Aside from a detailed treatment of the fifty designs in the show, it has a photographic index of all 226 entries. A hardcover edition was published for the trade by Haymon-Verlag, Innsbruck. Contact ACI if you're interested in obtaining a copy from this publisher. Raimund's design was also featured in a separate four-week show at New York's Museum of Modern Art in October 1993.

Read more about the ACI's new building in the articl e in Austria Kultur and more about the architect in his portrait .

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Last updated: Feburary 1, 1999