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Vera Kumer

Retrieving the archive.

Directed by Vera Kumer and produced by Belinda Rukschcio, "HOTEL PRINZ EUGEN - 1040 WIEN" is a film that explores the past and the present of a historic building. Vienna, stage for many of the big transformations that invested Europe in the past century, is, as well as other cities, the result of the stratification of events, places, building and people. How can we look into them?

Kumer here deals with two ontological states of the Hotel Prinz Eugen: how it looked in 1958, when it was finished by architect Georg Lippert, who produced numerous buildings in Wien and Austria after the war, and how it looks in 2017. The hotel, in fact, still exists, located near one of the main stations of the city, a place that makes this a small landmark that has welcomed visitors for as long as 60 years.
Lucca Chmel was the Austrian photographer documenting architecture and urban Vienna after WW II that happened to capture the hotel when it was inaugurated: the idea behind Vera Kumer and Belinda Ruschcio was to tell its history, thanks to this documentation, still held in the Austrian National Library.

Here, at the Austrian National Library, Belinda Rukschcio was able to scans of the original negatives by Lucca Chmel. However the question for Kumer and Rukschcio was how to use them? Krumer says that at the beginning "there was an instant frustration as it felt wrong for me to use high-res digitalized data of old images for the film. Also, I had a problem with the upright format of some of the negatives. I had to change the configuration".
What she did next, was setting up a camera right on top of a light box and place the glass negatives on it in order to film them, so that she could capture the haptic and media specificity of the thin sheets of glass showing the hotel much better: we see her hands touching them, putting them straight, revealing how the hotel changed and how it looked to the first guests.
"I liked the idea of showing the whole process, including my hands in gloves putting the pictures on the table", she commented to The Architecture Player, "Together with the atmospheric sound of the library and the hard sound of the glass negatives coming into contact with the light box, the result met my intentions".

Then filming on site, she tried to match Lucca Chmel's negatives regarding position and angle as much as possible: the story and sequencing of the film evolved pretty much out of this idea, which might look pretty simple to the viewer, but that enhances the idea that cities, buildings live through time and that our perception of spaces is influenced by the perceptions of others, but still can change as the world spins. What is Wien to us today? What is a hotel, this one or an ideal one, to us? How did change the idea of "wordliness", "cosmopolitism" and architecture from the '60s to today?
In the film the camera moves from the outside showing today's surroundings to the inside of the hotel, it moves up to the rooms, to the backyard and the bar. At the very end we also hear the voice of Georg Lippert, who's the architect's grandson, a scriptwriter in Germany now, and is also doing voice-overs professionally speaking.
The last shot is a blending of a night shot by Lucca Chmel and a shot taken at dawn by Vera Kumer: two shots, that are separated by nearly 60 years, merged to one.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)


Architect: Georg Lippert
Mentioned project: Hotel Prinz Eugen (1958)
Project location: Wien, Austria
Production: Belinda Rukschcio
Camera, Editing, Postproduction: Vera Kumer
Photographs: Lucca Chmel
Voice over: Georg Lippert

Austria 2017
Duration: 6'03"