CASE STUDY // Austrian Cultural Forum

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Address: 11 East 52nd Street New York, NY 10022

Director: Christine Moser

Institution type: Austrian Consulate

Prices: Admission to all ACFNY exhibitions, concerts, and other events is free.

Visit Hours:

Gallery Hours

Open Daily from 10 AM to 6 PM

Library Hours

MON  10AM – 5PM
TUE   10AM – 8PM
WED  10AM – 5PM
THU   10AM – 8PM
FRI    10AM – 5PM


The Austrian Cultural Forum New York(ACFNY), an agency of the Republic of Austria, is located in an extraordinary architectural landmark building in Manhattan.

It is a cultural, academic, and intellectual meeting place for Austrians, Americans, and citizens from all over the world. The ACFNY seeks to enhance the appreciation of contemporary Austrian creative achievements in the United States. It offers programs focusing on current artistic and intellectual challenges and controversies, and cooperates with cultural and academic institutions throughout the United States.


Brief History + Input:

Established in 1942 by Austrian emigrants, the goal of the institution was to reach out to both the Austrian and American communities in an effort to share the Austrian culture. The institution is especially  interested in sharing Austrian ‘contemporary creative achievements’ and does this by focusing on mediums such as art, music, and literature and offers over 200 events every year. Twenty-one years after the establishment, the Austrian Cultural Forum moved to their current address and in 2002 moved to the new building designed by Austrian architect Raimund Abraham at the same location.

The new building by Raimund Abraham was the winning design from a competition the ACF held in 1992. There were over 226 submissions and the organization says an important factor in determining Abraham’s design as the winner was his decision to locate the the two required sets of emergency stairs in the back of the building. This opened up more room for Abraham to work with in placing the required programs in the building which is located on an incredibly small site 25ft wide and 81 ft deep.

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While Raimund Abraham was able to skillfully work around the difficulties posed by the dimensions of the site in order to accommodate the needs of the institution, the tour guide, Susanne Kirchgasser, pointed out some ways the building could be improved in its function. One of the issues was that the building had no collective space for the staff members to gather. A conference room of sorts would have been fulfilled this need but the competition guidelines at that time had not included this program requirement. Another issue that was evident was that while the stairs and their placement made the space an efficient one, the fact that those stair could only be accessed during emergencies made it more difficult to travel to different floors.

However, the overall space is a great example of architecture that took strict limitations and turned that into great opportunities to invent new techniques and approaches with a great example of that being the piano lift in the auditorium. The tight space of the auditorium required for it to be a flexible space in order to accommodate a variety of events, but the piano that in the room couldn’t be taken out the door so the solution was to have a lift that could raise the piano up into the ceilings when not in use.


Tour Guide:

Susanne Kirchgasser, Head of Library


Susanne Kirchgasser has been an influential figure in the institution to start sharing the sheer amount of information the library has with the public. The library at the cultural forum had been a reference library with none of the books available for checkout. However, she has worked to expand the library’s collection to be shared with the public. She is currently working to extend the presence of the library and its wide collection of Austrian literature and text through ebooks though the lack of Austrian books as ebook formats have made this effort difficult. However, for the time being, those out of state can still borrow books through the online program that has started where individuals can register online to have books from the library sent to them by mail. The next step Susanne Kirchgasser is now looking to is to have more school groups and college graduates to come visit the space and learn about the culture.

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General Information:

  • Site Dimensions: 25′ x 81’4″
  • 24 Floors, Height: 278’6″
  • 33,000 sqft
  • Austrian Cultural Forum New York is established in 1942
  • Moved to 11 East 52nd Street New York, NY 10022 in 1963
  • Competition held in 1992 and Raimund Abraham wins out of 226 entrants
  • Construction of new building is completed in 2002 and the organization moves into new building at same address

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