In a city where good architecture is practically de rigueur, Graz still manages to surprise and inspire with the strength and sheer variety of its built environment. In fact, the city’s stable of progressive architects seems intent that it should not simply rest on its laurels as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Leading the charge is architectural outfit Ernst Gis-elbrecht + Partner. Since founding the firm in 1985, principal Ernst Giselbrecht has parlayed his passion for light - filtered and mechanically controlled light to be precise - into a series of bold and generously lit public buildings. Thanks to his training as both architect and mechanical engineer, the Giselbrecht oeuvre is extensive, covering everything from clinics, railway stations and schools to research facilities and university extensions. In particular, the Biocatalysis lab building at the Graz University of Technology and the EN&T-clinic at the University Hospital of Graz all demonstrate Giselbrecht’s sensitivity to a building’s site orientation and his interest in assembling various elements of steel and concrete frames, metal panels, glass and louvres to create spaces that are well-ventilated, well-lit and energy efficient.
His most recent work for Kiefer Technic is a high water mark for these ideals. A manu-facturer of doors and equipment for hospital operation theatres and stainless steel furni-ture, Kiefer asked for an airy showroom - overlooking a park - that showed off the firm’s products to best effect. Giselbrecht’s solution was to clad the entire southern end of the showroom with a wall of white aluminium louvre panels that open and shut using an ar-ray of electronically-controlled horizontal hinges. The result is a building whose façade gracefully morphs in a series of concertina folds depending on the light requirements and warmth tolerance of those inside. The system can be programmed to display countless patterns and configurations, giving what could have been a humdrum office a fascinating animated façade. These are especially busy times for the 15-member team. After wrapping up the Kiefer Technic office and a shopping centre in Ljubljana, up next is a business centre in Graz. It’s clearly impossible to pigeon-hole the Giselbrecht style, but we suspect he likes it that way.