Christian Knapp – Co-founder of URBANAUTS

Kohlmayer Lutter Knapp Office for Systemic Design is a design agency based in Vienna, Austria. Following a post-structuralistic point of view, their credo is the creation of systems, not buildings. Each of their approaches into the fields of urbanism, architecture, and design consider a wide range of aesthetic, social, economic, and ecological aspects focusing on intelligent, clear, and down-to-earth solutions.

Last year, three young Viennese architects—Theresia Kohlmayr, Jonthan Lutter, and Christian Knapp—decided to take the concept of “boutique hotels“ literally when they seized on the idea of turning empty storefronts in the city of Vienna into standalone guestrooms. They have dubbed the project “URBANAUTS”—they say because the geography of the hotel encourages visitors to get out and explore the neighborhood. The breakfast room is a traditional cafe around the corner; the spa is a Moroccan hammam two streets away. The whole infrastructure of a four-star hotel is spread over the surrounding area.

What are you working on right now?

We are currently developing more Street Lofts in our local environment. The testing phase of our first prototype was quite successful. So we decided to establish one complete segment with 10 to up to 12 rooms and all the services you are used to in a traditional hotel, provided in our neighborhood. Then URBANAUTS can be called a real small boutique hotel.

Where did the idea for URBANAUTS Street Lofts come from?

Due to the fact that we are three young architects with a strong focus on urbanism, we started to think about the development and gentrification of European cities. There are thousands of unused square meters of space in our urban areas that went useless in the last decades. We wanted to establish a social and economic function in this microcosm that satisfies the needs of independent city travellers combined with a strong experience on one side together with a soft reactivation of our local resources on the other.

What does your typical day look like?

We are working with concentration and dedication on our daily tasks. The architectural office is designing, planning, and consulting. Theresia is managing the daily hotel business. We do have a really amicable, relaxed, and humorous atmosphere in our studio, which makes it a gorgeous place to be.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Together in our teams! Depending on the specific condition, task, or vision, we have a lot of great people around us, sharing, developing, and bringing ideas into action.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Life that moves back into city centers.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

Once I was a bartender in a really fancy club in central London. It was quite a weird time and a tough job. What I learned there was to keep things simple, serve where you need to serve, and enjoy your time.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We just started bringing our ideas and visions into life. And we will definitely make a lot of mistakes; some of them will be recognized, and some will stay unnoticed. From this present point of view, I have the privilege of not wanting to change anything.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am very careful with recommendations. They should only be given for very special conditions. Undiscriminating, they can come across as vague. One thing that’s turned out to be good advice for myself is to stay hungry and foolish.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Starting your own business or being in charge is always a tough thing—you are facing so many more and multifaceted problems when you start being independent. It is pure curiosity which makes you move on.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I really hope that none of your readers will missunderstand this statement: I am already changing a lot in this world. So are you. It is a completely natural and fair situation. Everyone is responsible for himself and his direct surroundings, to change the world little by little, day by day.

Tell us a secret.

I just nicked a chocolate bar from my colleague Jonathan.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

1.  The Atlantic Cities – Great blog about urbanism.
2.  Materia – Database for innovative materials.
3.  Bustler – Daily architectural news.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. It is a great introduction to post-structuralistic thought.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

None of us is using Twitter.  Sorry.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? Who caused it?

Five minutes ago; my wonderful wife.

Who is your hero?

Luigi (Super Mario’s little brother).


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