MuseumsQuartier Wien

 

 

Umbrella brand MuseumQuartier Wien (museum district Vienna) has an extraordinary amount to offer in the way of culture. Fashion stores, digital culture, performing arts, architecture, traditional museums, a design forum, dance and children events are just a few of the attractions to be found in the district which is located in Vienna's center. With approximately 70 different offerings to choose from, MQ Wien stands for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Since April 2000, a year before the official opening, Daniela Enzi has been in charge of nurturing the label. Her main area of work is communications for the entire venue, and she is responsible for everything that happens in the outdoor spaces of the museum district. Together with Andreas Miedaner, the manager of design agency Büro X, she launched the brand MQ Wien.

Daniela Enzi is a human whirlwind. She whooshes into the room for the interview, a ringing phone in one hand which she answers while shaking hands. "Yes, yes, thank youuu!" she laughs. And then turns in the other direction saying: "I'm hanging up. Over, out, finished!" Daniela Enzi even speaks when she is not talking. Never simply saying "yes," she gives off a kind of permanent murmur: "Ah-aha-hm-mh-mh. Okay, okay, mh-mh," while she is listening. The sound fades as she moves away from the table during our conversation to fetch yet another something (a drink, a poster, or a day planner), but regains momentum as she returns to our discussion. When she speaks, her eyes open wide and draw you in with their sparkly green irises. In the background we hear birdsong that is piped into the main inner courtyard in the MQ district.

Culture for everyone

The MuseumsQuartier Wien functions as an umbrella brand for a variety of cultural institutes. Though, in this context, Andreas Miedaner does not consider the expression umbrella brand to be adequate.

Umbrella brand implies that the institutions are under our wing. If anything, we should call it a "pedestal brand" because we want to provide a platform for other brands.

And Enzi adds, "We wanted to create a label that provides common ground, but leaves the participating institutions absolutely independent." The intention was to make culture available to as broad a spectrum of visitors as possible without becoming mundane. This was not a simple task, mainly for two reasons: "The immense diversity of our public was the largest challenge. Our visitors are a mixed bag – anything from children or art lovers to bus tourists who come to see the Leopold museum," Miedaner explains. "And each type of visitor has entirely different needs. But because our job was to create access for everyone, that is exactly what we want. Not just a high-end audience – that would never be profitable. And, naturally, a gigantic project like this comes with financial considerations." The second hurdle was posed by the venerable, slightly fusty Viennese institutions. In their eyes they have absolutely nothing on common with "low-threshold" culture such as Game Design or modern dance. Enzi says: "The aim was to find a common denominator and provide a venue where all kinds of people come in contact with culture and are inspired by the creative environment. With the brand's image and the world of experience that was created, we have certainly produced added value for all involved." The number of very young, well-educated and culturally interested visitors who have been attracted by this approach bears witness to the effectiveness of their strategy. Even the long-established houses are starting to come round. Miedaner comments, "As I said, things here were very traditional, dusty, as in:

Art stands for museum stands for no fun, so hush! Quiet!

So, according to Miedaner, making the museum district more approachable without becoming loud and pushy was a great challenge.

A cultural shopping mall

Now, over ten years down the line, the intended paradigm shift has taken place in the Austrian cultural scene. Enzi says, "Today, we consider it quite normal to have various extras such as shops, gastronomical venues and a variety of other offers when we are on a cultural outing."

Until two years ago, heavy debates were still going on in the city about the modern furniture we had placed in the outdoor areas. People said that the young folk who climbed on them barefoot during the summer months or used them for smooching could not be considered a cultural audience!

The furniture pieces have been dubbed Enzis after Daniela Enzi. Providing seating elements proved to be a crucial step in turning the space into a living space, in turning it into "Vienna's living room" where people can sit and linger. Enzi herself is not one for sitting and lingering. "Relaxing is just not me," she announces loudly across the table as if it were at least three times as long as it actually is. Nonetheless, she is obviously pleased that, with this mini label, a part of herself is contributing to MQ Wien. She compares her actual task with that of an orchestra conductor. She and Miedaner neither have nor try to influence the activities of the various establishments – not with regard to their communication, and not concerning content. "We simply observe and ensure that the result works as a whole." Enzi goes on explaining energetically without once getting lost in her convoluted sentences; occasionally Miedaner throws in a beautifully turned phrase to summarize the content. "A shopping mall for cultural objects of devotion, as it were."

We don't intend to form – we intend to enable

Real estate branding
Design and presentation of living space (e.g. real estate, city district) as a brand that communicates a unique attitude towards life.
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Unlike with other products or corporate cultures, it is not Enzi and Miedaner's role to imbue the brand MQ with their own values and tastesInstead, they see the purpose of their work in providing a platform that allows the participating institutions to retain their individual and independent identity. As a result, there are no guidelines, nor is there a concrete concept for the brand; instead it is an ongoing, continually developing process which nonetheless never loses sight of basic catalysts such as controversy, curiosity and diversity.

No exact blueprint could be made for the brand because some things only become apparent with time.

Amidst all the complications that the coordination of these diverse interests entails, it is essential to find a balance. “To always be prepared to do a tightrope act," as Enzi puts it. "And in order to create a strong product, a lot of mutual understanding for each other's work and amongst the participating institutions is absolutely necessary.

The fantastic thing is, if a trash can falls over in this one-of-a-kind environment, you don't actually know whether it simply happened, or whether it is part of an installation. It's this melting pot of living space, creative space and cultural space which allows another view on things.

Both hope that artists will also soon come to see the funny side of this. It might take a while yet, but they are optimistic.

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