Competition for the MedUni Campus Mariannengasse Vienna

On 10 September 2021, Thomas Feuerstein and Toni Schmale won BIG’s invited artistic competition for the campus of the Medical University of Vienna.

The jury provided the following reasons for its decision:

Metabolische Landschaft (Metabolic Landscape) – Thomas Feuerstein:
“The concept on which Thomas Feuerstein’s piece is grounded is strong and multi-layered, both in terms of meaning and artistically, and forms an interface between intellectual and associative thinking. The work encourages communication about research topics while creating an inviting atmosphere. The content quality and graphic quality complement each other; research and art blend to form a lively symbiosis whose linguistic irritation and irony never cease to surprise.”

Handgriffe (Manual manoeuvres) – Toni Schmale:
“Handgriffe is an emotive piece that shines a spotlight on care as one of the fundamental objectives of the medical profession and appeals to both teachers and students. Toni Schmale draws inspiration from the fragmentary aspect of classic sculptures, which she transfers into the present day, thereby also successfully depicting the meeting of old and new structures. At the same time, the installation illustrates how the history of the human body and its depiction is inextricably linked with the history of medicine. The forms are representations (3D scans) of actual bodies that do not correspond with the standard ideal of beauty but rather depict reality. The placement of the forms allows a variety of perspectives, which it also connects with aspects of construction, deconstruction and representation of the human body.”

Winning project 1: Metabolische Landschaft (Metabolic landscape)

Thomas Feuerstein’s proposal connects, at both a literal and metaphorical level, the research topics addressed at the various medical centres of the campus with the metabolic processes that are found in the body’s cells and at the same time represent artistic development. This 30m-long panorama mural will be realised in the campus canteen. It combines a real topographic map with a diagram of the metabolic pathways in the human body. In front of these juxtaposed images are four screens that call to mind the speech bubbles found in WhatsApp messages or comics and that display associative dialogues at short intervals. These dialogues are generated by a software application that automatically scans the current publications of the research centres on campus and translates them into a simple language structure.

Winning project 2: Handgriffe (Manual manoeuvres)

Toni Schmale drew her inspiration for her piece from the ancient Aegina sculptures in Munich’s Glyptothek. Fragments of the human body are cast in concrete and arranged in a way that creates a visual analogy between the historical sculptures and the representation of basic first aid measures. The body parts are scaled to 1.5 times their actual size and form a 3D ensemble within the large concrete frame in the foyer. The fragments are arranged to depict four medical procedures: the Heimlich manoeuvre, placing someone in the recovery position, cardiac massage, and providing a comforting hand. The superimposition of the people sitting and moving on the steps behind the piece marries the artistic intervention and everyday life and creates constantly changing tableaux.


Peter Kogler’s proposal is a large-format, two-tone inlaid floor piece depicting the human brain. A terrazzo technique is used to create the logo-like motif (inspired by the logo signets of US American campus universities), which is embedded in the polished screed floor, thereby becoming an integral part of the building. The motif has a universal character, its meaning self-evident in the context of the Medical University. Terrazzo is an ancient technique; its range of possible design applications is extended here thanks to the use of digital production techniques.


Ulrike Müller proposes a mural for a well-frequented staircase in the building. The basic idea is to inscribe an organic form into the building’s orthogonal, rationalist architecture, namely a “staircase creature” that draws on the divided creatureliness of human and animal bodies from other pieces by Ulrike Müller and enhances it for the specific location. The figure allows for a variety of possible perspectives and interpretations, and is also a historical reference to the public artworks of 20th-century Vienna (e.g. façade art on municipal housing complexes). Like some of these artworks, Müller’s piece combines commercial white tiles with freely designed mosaic elements. The coloured mosaic lies on top of the tiles in the form of a circulating system.   

Late Night Group Therapy als bewegliches Zeitdokument (Late Night Group Therapy as a mobile contemporary document)

Susanne Schuda’s piece is based on her concept entitled “Late Night Group Therapy”, which is an interdisciplinary show format focusing on society, politics and the unconscious mind. Based on this, her video work “Late Night Group Therapy at the MCM Construction Site” is a contemporary document relating to a topical issue in modern medicine. The issue is addressed in a hidden systemic constellation, and the resulting video will be available online. A mobile consisting of digital collages derived from the video will be developed for the campus foyer. Both the mobile and the contents of the video work will be “reflected” on the floor beneath in the form of graphics and words.


Three-dimensional illuminated letters making up the words “UNDIAGNOSED BIAS?!” are mounted on two walls forming a corner in the foyer. The letters can be individually controlled, illuminated and dimmed, and their colours changed. On the one hand, Stefanie Seibold’s piece is a pulsating (in the form of a breathing rhythm) play of colours, lights and letters, while also addressing the issue of equal opportunity and the discrimination of certain groups in the medical profession. The arrangement of the words across the corner and the individual illumination of individual letters or groups of letters serve to highlight different interpretations and to constantly change the focus on the question(s).


Sophie Thun’s proposal comprises life-size images of all the objects she had in her flat during the first COVID-19 lockdown that fit onto an 8×10” negative. She depicts these objects with the help of the photogram technique, which does not use a camera but rather works with direct contact and transillumination. The process is similar to X-ray imaging in that it makes information about the inside of an object visible. By depicting 400 everyday objects, the artist creates something of an indirect self-portrait that reveals much more than a mere picture of a body could.