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In commemoration of the 250th Birthday of Mozart

Preliminary Concepts for Expansion Enhancement: Figaro House

Introduction

The Wiener Holding GmbH of Vienna, Austria, with the generous support of Raiffeisenlandesbank Wien-Niederosterreich, recently commissioned internationally renowned design consultancy Pentagram to prepare a conceptual study as a basis for decision- making in connection with assessing the opportunities for the refurbishment and enhancement of the "Figaro House", located in Vienna, Austria which was occupied from 1784 to 1787 by the world famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Gordon Linden acted as advisor to Pentagram and assisted in developing preliminary concepts for the project as well as outlining a comprehensive "Project Development Plan" to guide implementation of the work. This new project opportunity is summarized in the following paragraphs:

The occasion of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth in 1756 will be celebrated in the year 2006, providing an appropriate timeframe for the necessary analyses and studies to assess the opportunities for enhancements to the Figarohaus, as well as to design and implement a comprehensive program of improvements.

Although Mozart lived in several other places in Vienna and elsewhere during his life, the Figaro House, so named because it is here that the famous musical work was written, is the only remaining apartment in the city which he occupied which has endured the destructive forces of war, urban redevelopment and change. Thus, the significance and intrinsic value of these rooms to us today is quite clear and the opportunity for their enhancement for the benefit of future generations is worthy of careful, yet deliberate action.

The current situation of the Figaro House is telling: in spite of having a relatively small facility for visitors to experience (180 m2/1900 s.f.) with a modest exhibit inventory consisting primarily of facsimile materials, the property draws an annual attendance of approximately 70,000 people. Given the many competing attractions of Vienna, one must conclude that the Mozart "brand" is compelling and that, in spite of little promotion and a modest offering in terms of the visitor experience, the Figaro House attracts a considerable audience and, perhaps without enhancements, can continue to do so into the future. On the other hand, if the property were to be enhanced, it is highly probable that not only would the historical and cultural mission of the Figaro House be repositioned, but that sufficient revenues could be generated to pay for the enhancements as well as to generate income to comfortably sustain the operations into the future.

Location

The Figaro House is located in the historic center of Vienna, near the St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Stephanplatz, a well- known and busy commercial district frequented by many tourists and visitors as well as residents of the City; a variety of modes of public and private transportation are available in this area. The House is sited at Domgasse 5, a short, narrow street which is primarily limited to pedestrian use, although service vehicles are permitted at certain hours. The location of the house, and the limited signage and information indicating its whereabouts causes many first- time visitors to pass by the main entrance (guidebooks in hand); there is a plaque identifying the house on the outside of the building, in German, but the location of the plaque and the actual entrance to the interior courtyard creates additional confusion.

Access

Visitors to the Figaro House must pass through a small alleyway into a service courtyard (which contains trash receptacles from the apartments on the upper floors) and must walk up one floor, via a wide staircase, to enter the apartment. Limited signs are available to direct visitors to the entrance. The general condition of the interior courtyard is acceptable, but there is an evident lack of maintenance including painting and the condition of the balconies, as observed from the ground floor, indicates rust and oxidation; the handrails have been partially repaired, but appear somewhat unstable and could be damaged should there be a large queue of visitors. It is possible, that due to the somewhat dingy appearance of the entryway, some visitors are discouraged from entering the Figaro House.

Visitor Experience

Upon entry into the main door to the Mozart rooms, visitors arrive at a ticket sales area which also has a small offering of merchandise and a coat rack. Entering into the actual rooms visitors can inspect numerous artifacts and interpretive exhibits, including some with headphones for listening to Mozart's music. The rooms are arranged according to various themes and topics (e.g. "Physical Appearance [of Mozart]", "Biography Mozart's Lifelines", "Le Nozze de Figaro" and others. Visitors may purchase a small guide booklet which describes the various items; most of the exhibits are actually facsimiles of documents. One of the rooms is the purported bedroom of Mozart and has an elaborate frescoed ceiling while another room has the original plaster around the windows. Perhaps the most compelling exhibits are those which feature music, as the dearth of other "authentic" artifacts makes for a rather minimalist experience. There are two or three staff persons in the rooms, however their function appears purely to oversee the exhibits and ensure security. When visitors have concluded their visit they can either exit a door to the stairwell or return back through the rooms to the ticket sales area. For visitors without the patience or inclination to read the guidebook, the entire visit could be conducted in less than twenty minutes.

 

Attendance

The Figaro House is currently open 6 days a week (Tuesday- Sunday) and closed on 3 holidays. The hours of operation are from 9:00AM until 6:00PM. Attendance at the Figaro House over the past three years has dropped from a high of

about 72,000 visitors (1999) to 69,000 (2001) to 65,000 last year. During this period tourism worldwide has dropped due to economic conditions and security concerns, therefore the decline is not surprising. Given these conditions and the relatively modest offering in terms of the visitor experience, the number of visitors is quite robust and supports the conclusion that the Mozart "brand" is quite powerful and can be the basis for an increase in visitation. Looking at the individual monthly figures for 2002, the lowest attendance occurs in January (2567 visitors) while the highest  attendance occurs in August (8369) during the high tourist season. On a daily basis, the peak month generates an average of about 320 visitors over 9 hours or about 35/hour.

The Opportunity

Recently, discussions with the building owner in which the existing Memorial Rooms (on the 1st floor) are located have focused on the potential for gaining the use of additional space on other floors of the building. Specifically, the opportunities for additional space include the ground floor, two lower basement levels, the second and third floors; the upper levels would remain in use as private apartments.

The apartments on the second and third floors have been unoccupied for many years and although they have been utilized as living quarters as recently as the 1980's, the spaces appear to have suffered relatively little modification or "modernization" other than painting and minor repairs; the woodwork and windows probably date from the early to mid 1900's and although requiring cleaning and repair are not beyond salvage and restoration. Concurrent with discussions about the reuse of the apartments on the second and third levels for an enhanced and expanded Mozart-related visitor attraction, archaeological efforts have been undertaken under the supervision of an architect engaged by the building owner in the various rooms to assess the potential for incorporation of rediscovered historical decoration and structure.  The exposure of the various layers of paint in several areas of the rooms provides a highly unique opportunity to view the past glories and history of the rooms themselves. In one area, some 38 layers of paint have been exposed, revealing various decorative motifs and color schemes. The archaeological investigation has included opening ceilings and floors to gain an appreciation of the structural methods and systems used in building the apartments. Thus, given these unique archaeological findings, as concepts for the creation of a larger, more extensive visitor attraction are more fully developed, appropriate means of display will be developed to highlight these "windows to the past" thereby incorporating information about the architecture and interior design of the apartments, which will provide a unique dimension to the experience of visiting the Figarohaus.

The lower levels in the building also provide significant opportunities for incorporation into the expanded attraction. The lower levels consist of a series of spaces with vaulted ceilings made of brick. These types of cellars are in use in many places in Vienna as restaurants and bars and with relatively little investment are attractive very comfortable spaces. Because of the ability to control light and sound in these areas, some of the audiovisual displays which can be used in the Figarohaus exhibits and presentations and which are more suitably presented in controlled light and sound conditions could be located in these cellar areas. Also, at least one of the rooms is a relatively large space and could accommodate larger groups of people than could be comfortable in the upper level apartments. The cellars have a direct connection to the hotel next door, via a staircase, which will allow an alternative means of egress in the event of emergency.

While the additional space creates the opportunity to expand and enhance the facility, there are several challenges that must be addressed:

  • Although visitors have demonstrated a willingness to walk up one flight of stairs to reach the attraction, it is unlikely that many would walk up two or three flights of stairs to explore the upper levels; likewise, is probable that only a small percentage of visitors to the attraction would take the trouble to descend the existing stairways to gain access to the lower levels.
  • The basic layout of the various levels, with many load- bearing walls, small rooms and narrow corridors and balconies, will require skillful planning in order to create a visitor environment which will permit a logical, safe flow of people.

The Concept

Space Utilization: The possibility of utilizing the various additional floors (3, 2, Ground, - 1, - 2) would increase the total available space from 177M2 to a total of 990M2. In terms of organizing and zoning the space, it appears that the upper levels (i.e. 1 through 3) can lend themselves best to the displays and exhibits which are most readily presented in environments with natural light and ventilation and which are consistent with the authentic historical character of these spaces including some areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors which permit an archaeological presentation of the building's architecture and decoration from the past. The topics presented on these upper floors, which would be supported by the archaeological presentations, would include a presentation of "The World of Mozart and Vienna" during the period when he lived in the house from 1784-1787; subtopics include musical contemporaries of Mozart, politics, architecture and decoration, etc. The 1st floor, being the actual Mozart apartment, would logically accommodate historical artifacts associated with Mozart such as original musical compositions, a series of musical exercises written by Mozart for his students, etc. The emphasis in the apartments will be on a relatively sparse environment which will highlight Mozart's family and private life in this space, as opposed to a more standard museum with furniture, glass boxes and displays.

The Ground Floor, being readily accessible to visitors and passersby on Domgasse, will logically accommodate the entry and exit points for the attraction as well as service access; access for the residents on the upper floors of the building shall also be maintained to and from Domgasse. A ticket sales area, including queuing, gift shop, and small café will be located on this level. It is understood that the current entryway into the building is not the original one and therefore it is intended that the original entry from Domgasse be opened and restored.

The lower levels of the building provide sufficient space to accommodate a variety of uses including the aforementioned audiovisual presentations requiring control of light and sound, as well as restrooms, maintenance and storage and administration. The audiovisual area could also be utilized as a dinner theater space with musical performances and food and beverage services.

 

Visitor Flows: The basic concept is for visitors to have direct access to 3 areas from Domgasse St.: the primary entrance to the Visitor Attraction is one of these access points, while access to the merchandise area and a café would also be available. By allowing the café and the merchandise areas direct access to the street, it is possible that some visitors who do not have time or the interest to visit the upper floors could patronize the shops, thereby experiencing some of the attraction, while generating revenues.

As with many historic buildings and facilities which are opened for public access and are not "purpose-built" for accommodating large numbers of visitors, the Figarohaus with the additional rooms and levels beyond just the "official" apartment on the 1st floor, offers several possible ways for people to circulate into and around the building. A primary issue in the circulation of visitors within the Figarohaus is the aforementioned problem of requiring large groups of people to ascend and/or descend several flights of stairs; this is a condition which is impractical for many visitors due to age, infirmity or other restrictions (including families withsmall children). Another practical concern is that of attracting substantial numbers of people to the facility and providing too many choices in terms of where they can go without considering the potentials for conflicting movements of persons attempting to ascend the relatively narrow staircases while others are descending; as fire and life safety conditions in the facility will be reviewed by the authorities in order to reduce the potential for conflicts of circulation during an emergency, additional detailed studies are warranted in order to fully explore the advantages and disadvantages of various circulation routes. For example, while the opportunity for visitors to traverse the stairs which were once trod by Mozart in entering his apartment is undoubtedly of significance and should be made available to those who wish to do so, this may require that compromises be made to the possibilities for larger groups of people to visit the facility. On the other hand, with an appropriate level of operations staff and a relatively straight-forward ticketing and signage program, it may be possible for small groups or individuals in guided tours, to have this experience while the more conventional routing for casual visitors, accommodating a greater volume of people on an hourly basis, is maintained.

Therefore, for purposes of the present effort, a "base case" concept which addresses the major issue of circulation (i.e. multi-level) is recommended. This "base case" approach would require that visitors desiring to enter the upper floors be received in a ticket sales and queuing area and wait in this area until admitted to an elevator which then go up to the third floor to enter into the exhibits area. Following a counter- clockwise route, individuals will view exhibits at their leisure until reaching the end of the rooms whereupon they will exit the exhibit area and descend the stairs down to the second floor. Again, visitors can circulate through the rooms in a pre- determined route, exiting the exhibits area and descending to the first room and so on until returning to the ground floor whereupon they descend to the –1 level. In the restored cellar area, visitors would be admitted in groups of up to thirty to forty persons to a theater-like environment where they would view a very high quality audiovisual presentation featuring film and music portraying the life and art of Mozart in the Figarohaus. Upon the conclusion of the presentation, which would run approximately 10 minutes, the visitors would be directed to the stairs or the elevator to return to the ground floor where they would exit through the merchandise shop and café to eventually make their way onto Domgasse St.

 

Visitor Experience: It is estimated that the visitor experience which could be developed utilizing the 3rd through Ground Floor space could have a duration of approximately 45 min. assuming a 10 min. film (7min. Film plus time for entering and exiting the viewing area), a 3 to 5 min. elevator ride (allowing time for loading and unloading) and approximately 10 min. exhibit viewing per floor (3 floors of exhibits). Additional time would be spent in the merchandise area and the café. In addition to the film presentation, the visitor experience could include:

Use of multilingual handsets for the film soundtrack and exhibit descriptions.

Display of household furniture, furnishings and musical instruments (authentic for the period of Mozart's residency)

Guided tours on specific subjects

Special events including musical performances

Opportunity to purchase items from a "branded" array of merchandise

Light food and beverage service

 

Amenities: Public restrooms will be available on the - 1 level for use by visitors and patrons of the café. A cloakroom and small package storage area will be provided in the entry to the visitor attraction adjacent to the ticket sales area.

 

Operations: Operations staff will be required for the following functions/areas:

Ticket sales

Group guides (to lead visitors into the film presentation and into the elevators)

Facilitators: two persons/floor will be required to provide assistance to visitors as well as maintain security for exhibits.

Facility and exhibit maintenance: two staff persons will be required to ensure the daily operations of the facility and the equipment. Specialized equipment repair and service will be on an "as-needed" basis.

Salespersons (for the merchandise area)

Catering (for the café)

Other: assistance to disabled and physically challenged visitors.

Administration

Attendance Scenarios

Assuming that about 50% of the exhibition space will be needed for exhibits and for circulation, the remaining space can accommodate visitors. Thus, taking the 3rd floor exhibit area of 180m2 (1944s.f.), we can estimate that the available space for visitors would be 90m2. If each visitor occupies between 2.3 and 2.8m2 as a ‘rule- of- thumb' for public spaces - the space would accommodate between 32 and 39 persons. Taking the mid- point of 35 persons/floor, for 3 floors, we could simultaneously accommodate 105 persons. The queuing area could accommodate another 20 persons while the lower level audiovisual presentation could accommodate, say, 30 persons on average, providing a total of 155 persons. Since the facility now receives an average of 35 persons per hour, as previously calculated based on the peak month attendance, this number seems a plausible total. Since the total visitor experience is approximately 45 minutes, not including a visit to the merchandise area or the café, we could estimate a daily turnover of 1,860 visitors (assuming a 9 hour operation, as is the current practice). This number could also include some patrons to the dinner theater operations in the evenings; for purposes of this analysis, we have not included the shoppers and patrons of the store and café who would also add to the total number of persons visiting the facility. For the peak month of August, this would result in an attendance of 11,160 per week or 44,640 a month, an increase of about 5 times the current attendance.

In order to achieve an increased attendance it will, of course, be necessary to not simply add space to the facility, but also provide compelling, entertaining and educating content which will expand the interest on the part of the general public. In addition, it will be necessary to provide appropriate marketing and advertising support to ensure that potential visitors are made aware of the facility and the fact that a visit is worth the time and expense involved.

Financial Parameters

The sources of revenue for the enhanced and enlarged Figarohaus facility would include the following:

  • Admission tickets:

  • Individual visitors

  • Groups

  • School groups

  • Seniors

  • Organized tour groups

  • Dinner theater and/or performance tickets

  • Merchandise

  • On-site sales

  • Internet sales
  • Food and Beverage
  • Coffee Shop
  • Special Events
  • Dinner Theater

It is also probable that a sponsorship program could be developed and implemented which could generate a variety of contributions to the Figarohaus including:

  • Financial support for the construction and outfitting of specific areas or exhibits in the facility
  • Cash for naming rights
  • Contributions of goods and services for such items as audiovisual equipment, telecommunications, musical
  • instruments, etc.

  Next Steps

Engineering Studies: It will be important to establish the physical suitability of the structure to accommodate an expansion of visitor traffic. In order to do this, a survey will be needed of the structures especially with respect to the capabilities of the floors in the apartments as well as the internal corridors and handrails. An examination of the electrical installations should also be undertaken. Because a key component of the potential success of the expansion project is based on the feasibility of utilizing an elevator to convey visitors from the ground floor to the upper floors, an elevator company should be consulted to ascertain the detailed physical requirements for the equipment and ensure that a "holeless"- type elevator can be installed in this setting. The "holeless"- type elevator does not require a pit or

substructure which is characteristic of more standard equipment. Other considerations, such as noise, vibration and power requirements should also be studied as well as costs.

Visitor Experience: A multidisciplinary team, headed by an experienced Project Manager, should be organized to prepare a preliminary concept package for the Visitor Experience. Among the disciplines required for this team are: history, music, interior decoration, acoustics, film making, exhibit design, architecture, engineering, cost estimating and others. The team should produce a document which can be used to guide more detailed design and implementation. The timetable for this work should be no more than four to six months. The report should contain the following basic information:

  • The scope of the project
  • The narrative of the Visitor Experience (including identification of key exhibits and components)
  • A schedule for the development of project
  • A cost estimate