News Home & Design This Apartment Building in Vienna Is a Highrise of Huts Every unit has its own little Schrebergarten, or garden allotment and shed in the sky. By Lloyd Alter Lloyd Alter Facebook Twitter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated May 26, 2021 12:46PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email David Schreyer News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Many people in Germany and Austria have Schrebergartens, similar to allotment gardens with garden sheds. They are a place to get away from the city. A German Girl in America describes it as a place where "you could spend the day puttering in your little domain. Eat your own veggies, maybe grill some meat, and watch the sun set over your plot of land. You might not have a House… but you could have a beautiful (but tiny) plot of land, just like any Baron." Schrebergardens in the sky. BFA x KLK When Vienna architecture firm BFA x KLK was designing short-term rental apartments, it picked up on this idea and gave every tenant their own little Schrebergardens on the facade of the building, garden sheds in the sky, along with a little allotment of outdoor space on the tiny balconies. Gudrun Business Apartments. David Schreyer So that is why these Gudrun Business Apartments look the way they do, with a facade "comprised of stacked traditional Viennese Schrebergardens (small, intimate garden communities), expressing a strong character in terms of urban development in a neighborhood characterized by predominantly commercial use." David Schreyer All the Austrian Passivhaus architects will be appalled to see so much additional surface area, so much useless roof, so many thermal bridges—all just to give everyone this imaginary garden shed, David Schreyer But the space is charming, a lovely little spot. David Schreyer Compared to having just a wall with a window, this is creating lovely spaces, one outdoors, accessible through the giant pivoting door for nice days and the cozy nook for those not-so-nice days. Floor plan 2 through 4. BFA x KLK The floor plan is based on a single-loaded exterior arcade. This is a design type that used to be common before air conditioning became standard; it allows for cross-ventilation through the unit and because it has outside wall and windows on both sides, you can do a very simple, narrow plan with the bedroom on one end and the living on the other. David Schreyer The building type fell out of favor in North America because developers could pack in more units with a double-loaded interior corridor, but it is likely this will see a revival post-pandemic when people will probably prefer to have outdoor circulation instead of a pressurized corridor since most apartment buildings have terrible air quality. It is a great building form for "missing middle" type medium-density housing. David Schreyer While a virtue of the single-loaded exterior walkway is you can have windows on both sides, privacy can be a problem. Here they have left out the floor and put in a balcony rail to keep nosy people away from the bedroom window; it is a clever move. David Schreyer View of the exterior walkway overlooking the courtyard. BFA x KLK In North America, even when buildings have secure bike storage, they put it in the basement with the car parking, and bikes are often stolen from them because there are not a lot of people around in the parking garage. This building has a very interesting feature of the building that should be copied in North America: There is a ramp to underground parking for six cars to the upper right of the drawing, but people with bikes roll them right through the lobby and the big bike parking room right there on the ground floor. Nobody is going to be able to spend any time sawing through locks in a spot like that. David Schreyer There is so much to learn from the way they design housing in Vienna. Architect Mike Eliason explained how Vienna builds such terrific housing. BFAxKLK has added another interesting building to the mix with the Gudrun Business Apartments. There is a lot we can learn from it as well.