Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Hi, my name is Paula and I am in love with the Funkhaus.

The "Funkhaus" was built in the 1930's. It is located close to Karlsplatz, in the centre of Vienna, and hosts various national radio stations in Vienna. Today it is known as the "ORF Funkhaus". Funk - as in radio, not as in James Brown.
The central stairway in the Funkhaus, facing southeast.

I started working for the cultural radio station Ö1 more than 20 years ago. If someone would have told me back then, that the Austrian national broadcasting company wants sell the building to survive, I might have raised my eyebrows and wondered what on earth this person is talking about. It seems as if my life at the Funkhaus is likely to come to an end in the near future. Not because I quit. No. It's the ORF who wants to quit the Funkhaus. 

As a consequence all editorial departments and studios will move in at the TV-headquarters in the suburbs of Vienna.

Last weekend when I left the building at the usual late hour, after having spent hours of editing, got on my bike and a profound sadness struck me. Usually when I leave the building, I am very content, having done my job, ready for a good night of sleep. Not this time. The moment I pedaled away on my bike - just like hundreds times before -  I suddenly felt a pain. Not in my knee, not in my neck. It was the pain of loss. I was surprised, how much the mere possibilty of leaving this place (it has not been decided by the management yet) affects me so badly.

Fence in front of the Funkhaus

You probably noticed it by now -  I want the radio departments to stay at the Funkhaus for sentimental reasons. No other building has been with me for such a long time span as the Funkhaus. I grew up in the Funkhaus, career wise speaking.

This is where it all happened: The long  nights in the studio with tapes hanging down from my neck, covering my feet on ground, two Revox machine in front of me. Yessss, I wasted a lot of tape. *swoosh swoosh* was the sound the floor made, when I made my way through the cut pieces of tape. Then came the evolution from tape to DAT which I luckily missed, due  thanks to some quite important exams that needed to be done ;-), I returned to meet the MiniDisc and for now it is flash drives and SD cards. 

Even though the summers in the Funkhaus get unbearable hot and the air in those tiny offices becomes airless, because there is no propper air ventilation, and the windows squeak every time you try to open them and some windows even are so skewed, that you can open them, but you will not be able to shut them again - still the departments wants to stay here. 

We are not talking about a building, that has lost its purpose, due to the lack of interest of the public. f.e. like old movie theatres. No. Hundreds of people work here day and night. Millions of people listen to the programme, via radio and online. Hundreds of people come and visit the building and book guided tours. School classes come here. The architecture builds the unique framework for all this. 

The programmes depend on experts to give us their time for free. The station does not pay for expert interviews. Those guests as we call them happily visit the studios at the Funkhaus for free. The environment is a key asset to this fragile relationship of us depending on them: the location but also the architecture. Many guests come, because they don’t want to miss the chance to see the building from the inside. In the future  – if the management decides to give up the Funkhaus – those guests would have to drive all the way out to the suburbs of Vienna and the departments don’t even have budgets to cover the bill for the taxi and the public transportation there is slow. So you can say the decision will directly affect the quality of the programme.

Another reason, why it would be is wrong to give up this building, is is maths. Many calculations are floating around. Depending on whose side the calculators are on.

This building, built for the sole purpose of broadcasting radio programmes* provides all the infrastructure the programmes need. (*later they added the (quite small) local TV station) Moving all the departments and establishing a new infrastructure will cost ... did anyone make that calculation by now? 
A listed doorhandle

How will the new owner deal with the old (infra)structures? Of course this last question will not bother the ORF, because it will be none of ist business. The building is listed, so there is some protection. As long as no one thinks about a "hot restoration". They are quite popular in Vienna, whenever investors restore listed buildings. You know - accidental fires and so. What is gone does not need to be restored. 

I guess I can call myself lucky, having had the opportunity to fall in love with a workplace. Not everyone can say this. And it seems as if I am not alone with my love for the Funkhaus. Noble prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, the artist Valie Export and many more also want the ORF to stay at the Funkhaus.

Lets fade out with some more photos ...


  1. This is such a heartfelt posting, Paula and the photos are a valuable record of the building. I especially like the almost floral metal fencing outside the building and the symmetry of the facade. It does seem to be unwise to move from a good, central position when so many of your speakers give their time for free. It's sad to have to leave somewhere where you have been happy for a long time. (I am very bad at 'moving on'!) But hopefully you will fall in love with your new workplace when the time comes!

    1. 4 years later and we are still at the Funkhaus. The development of the new site did not go as planned. Well ...