20 Years of AllesWirdGut

Katinka Corts
24. April 2019
Alte Börse assembly halls, Vienna, 2018 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 

It is the longest relationship they all have had, the owners of the office AllesWirdGut say sometimes jokingly about their partnership. It is 20 years since Ingrid Hora, Andreas Marth, Friedrich Passler, Herwig Spiegl, and Christian Waldner founded their architectural office. Herwig Spiegl tells us about the past, reasons to celebrate now, and their plans for the future.

The architectural office AllesWirdGut ("EverythingWillBeAlright") became known for, among other things, the subsidized D9 residential quarter in Aspern Seestadt, an urban development project in Vienna, and "Haus Krems," Austria's largest passive office building. The architects have also been successful in Germany: last year, the LR1 Provincial Government Office in Erlangen was completed according to their plans as was the company headquarters of the Funke Media Group in Essen. At present, projects in Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, and Slovakia are in the works, all of which are in residential, office, and educational sectors. "Today, we have two offices in Vienna and Munich and employ 70 people," says Herwig Spiegl. "This was unimaginable when we started the office!"

House of Life – Aspern Seestadt, Vienna, 2015 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 
Unfulfilled prophecy and the new time

Many trends came and went and influenced the development of the office. But not all promises came true. During their student days, everyone spoke of a "new nomadism": people would live without a permanent home and be more mobile than ever before in times of globalization. "Looking back, fortunately for us, this did not prove to be the case," says Spiegl. Other topics, however, are firmly anchored in the office, such as sustainability. "This topic only emerged on a broader scale when we founded the office. I have a similar feeling about BIM at the moment — we will see where all this will lead to." Another important development is the marketing area in architecture, which has grown steadily in recent years. "When a magazine first reported on the work of AllesWirdGut about a year after the office was founded, it felt like an accolade," Spiegl describes the situation. “Today we have our own team working on publishing and marketing."

Administrative district office, Erlangen, Germany, 2018 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 
The office needed a name

The zeitgeist contributed to the fact that the five founding partners did not name the office with their initials. You no longer had to be this or that person; you belonged to an office and identified yourself with it. "This was the way to set ourselves apart from the previous generation, also towards the outside world. The young ones always want to be different," laughs Spiegl. There had already been collectives with abstract names in the 1960s. Later on, offices were once again established with the name-giving architects in the forefront — and the principle of stringing names was often overused. At AllesWirdGut, the name also resulted from the fact that some of the founders were still studying in 1999. "At the beginning, we only had one small project that wouldn't occupy and support five people. We thought about how we wanted to communicate: Should we only name those who are actively involved in a project, or all those who are generally involved," explains Spiegl. The decision: Everyone contributes to the common success. "That's why we still name the employees working on the project today, but not the partners."

Funke Media Office, Essen, Germany, 2019 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 
"It's not a matter of course that you start something and still love it 20 years later. We still understand each other blindly and would like to go on like this for at least another 20 years."

Herwig Spiegl

From the Web to Instagram

The name AllesWirdGut in mind, you read about 70 equal friends, you hear about working hours without overtime, and in the online team list, the office dogs Miuda and Traudel wear party hats. Is everything sunshine and roses in the everyday routine of projects? "Of course not," Spiegl replies. "But everything revolves around the question of how to get the people involved enthusiastic about a common goal. In our profession we negotiate sensitivities and this has a lot to do with emotions and sensuality. We therefore try to principally approach things with an optimistic attitude and achieve the best possible results."

Outwardly, AllesWirdGut communicates in various ways — another area that has undergone constant change in recent years. "We want to show appreciation for the projects and our employees. But, of course, it also has to do with vanity and self-portrayal," says Spiegl with a wink. The founders belong to the generation when architecture offices began to have their own websites. They observed the fruit of this new world with interest and adapted accordingly: What started with the office's website and a Facebook account now also includes Instagram and Pinterest. Soon, however, the principals also realized how short-lived so-called social media are and how broadly you can present yourself there, if so desired. "You also have to be able to afford that and you have to want to manage all these channels — in addition to day-to-day business, because first of all we want to build," Spiegl explains. Nevertheless, the medium of the postcard also remains important to the office: "This may be more appropriate for a different generation, but we like to send them out as well."

School campus, Hamburg, Germany, 2019 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 
Competition for young architects

The words "no overtime" and "architect's office" seem somehow difficult to reconcile. I broach the subject again. But Spiegl does not relativize; he concretizes this issue: Everyone is expected to observe the official working hours and not stay late in the evening. "We don't do this because we're nice guys, but because we believe it makes everyone work more rested, with a fresher mind and greater commitment," explains Spiegl. "The model of the authoritarian boss is no longer successful today! You now have to tout for employees, compete for them. We want to offer the best conditions to good people." Today it is no longer just money that is negotiated, many other aspects also play a role for young architects when deciding for or against an office. People really appreciate when they are given the clear promise that normal working hours apply. Hobbies should be lived out; everyone benefits from it according to Spiegl: "People need a balance."

"The term 'danger in delay' is very clear to everyone and it's good that it exists. But it should also be used that way and not inflationary. It's good not to be available at times."

Herwig Spiegl

"Powerful cooperation" is given priority in everyday office and project routines. This is why a workshop day is held twice a week, when the principals are available in the office; the project teams book appointments to jointly discuss pending issues. The four founders, who remained in the office until today (Ingrid Hora left in 2001) and have established this discussion culture from the beginning, stand by the system. "It is good to listen to a different opinion and to integrate it into one's own opinion making," explains Spiegl. "We acquired this at university, and we've continued it all these years."

"alles isst gut" ("all eat well") – the canteen of AllesWirdGut, 2018 (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie) 
All eat well

With this approach, it does not come as a surprise that AllesWirdGut took another step last year and opened an office canteen. "Over the years, we had greatly missed our joint lunch, which was customary when we started the office. But eating together every day in the surrounding area is impossible, both financially and logistically." When the opportunity arose to take over rooms on the ground floor of the same building, a decision was quickly made. The canteen is a place that is connected to the office and, at the same time, makes it possible to get away from everyday business. Here, all employees have the opportunity to eat fresh, good, and inexpensive meals. AllesWirdGut also uses the new location for celebrations and activities such as the annual forum, birthday parties, or networking events. "We have received more positive feedback on this than in the past 19 years," laughs Spiegl.

The AllesWirdGut team (Photo: tschinkersten fotografie)
May is the time to celebrate

The office compares favorably when it comes to the compatibility of family and career. In addition to maternity leave, fathers can also take paternity leave in Austria. According to the office philosophy, the smooth re-entry of women must also be ensured. "After all, we were in the same situation, and over the years we have developed different part-time models for fathers and mothers to make sure our employees come back." The high number of young people — the average age is 36.31 years according to the office’s information — and the nevertheless low fluctuation rate in the office confirms this. 

The first of May marks the 20th anniversary of the office's founding, a circumstance that Spiegl describes as an amusing chance considering the coincidence with Labor Day. They will celebrate in mid-May. There is no strategic planning for what the future could look like. "The machine is running smoothly," says Spiegl. In the future, the issue of succession will come up, because the partners would like their offices to continue to exist for a long time. "As a principal, you often wish you could get back closer to the roots — the image of the pen in your hand and the sketch roll on the table," says Herwig Spiegl. "Despite this nostalgia, we are incredibly curious about what will happen in the future with regard to the digitalization of architecture."

Open Air Festival Arena, St. Margarethen, Austria, 2008 (Photo: Hertha Hurnaus) 

We congratulate AllesWirdGut on the anniversary and wish the office many more interesting and challenging projects and a continued congenial cooperation!

Stahlhof Belval-Ouest, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxemburg, 2011 (Photo: Roger Wagner) 

This article originally appeared as "AllesWirdGut – seit 20 Jahren" on German-Architects. Translation by Bianca Murphy.

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