An unmarked door is the first hint that cocktail lounge Krypt is shrouded in secrecy; that patrons must ring a bell to gain entry is the second. Neither prepares for the sense of awe that awaits 25 feet below this circa-1825 building close to the Sigmund Freud Museum and neo-Gothic Votivkirche in Alsergrund, Vienna’s ninth district.
Serendipitously, this subterranean lair was only discovered during a renovation of the historic upper level. Owners Teresa Kerbler, Chris Schilcher, and Andy Pust, with respective backgrounds in real estate, hospitality, and design, instinctively felt it should become a bar channeling 1920s-era speakeasies. The original listed staircase now lies beneath a dramatic floating version fashioned from walnut with brass inlays on the joints. Patrons descend, and are greeted by original brick walls and a freespirited atmosphere that was likely on display in the 1950s and 1960s as well, when the underground retreat was an informal and semi-legal jazz club.
Referencing history with inspired new touches
For nearly two years, local architects Büro KLK worked on bringing the basement back to life, aiming to create a bar at once mysterious, lively, and timeless. “The hardest thing in our work is to feel the essence and generate the expressions,” says partner Christian Knapp. For Krypt, this approach translated to a vision he describes as “a badass dream out of a David Lynch movie, mixed up with some seductive Brazilian avantgarde, finally refined with a touch of Sunset Boulevard.”
With the discovery of this deep cellar and “these cryptic marks from times past,” adds partner Jonathan Lutter, “the search for traces was a big adventure. The more you find out the more your joy arouses.” Yet the team did not want to overwhelm the space with references to its history. “We grabbed the aesthetic of something alien to augment the space with our inspiration,” Lutter adds. “We tried to be as modest and simple as possible, but we gave every gesture something specific and concise.”
Exquisite details enhance the simple space
Details are indeed rich at Krypt. The centerpiece is the 23-foot-long bar with a base crafted from Sahara Noir marble streaked with gold veins, and for textural contrast, a European walnut top. Overhead, on the vaulted ceiling, pipes plated with composition gold and painted in shellac add industrial flair. The floor, laid in a herringbone pattern, showcases yet another burst of sleek marble, this time of the Nero Marquina variety. Instead of an expansive display of bottles, a lush green mural from Austrian artist Alexander Ruthner dominates the wall behind the bar, meant to engage customers as they drink.
Guests who don’t want to perch on a stool here can pull up a Platner chair on either side of the walnut table extending directly from the bar. The table, which would be just as at home in a vibrant hotel lobby, invites conversation and cocktail sipping underneath an Ingo Maurer lighting installation made from slender rods. Just beyond, there is a nook for more intimate imbibing.
Past a curtain, next to a museum-esque display case of glassware, is a subdued, dimly lit hangout featuring Alexander Wang beanbag chairs and a coated-brass chandelier from local designer Patrick Rampelotto. Behind that is a den for private gatherings, which calls to mind midcentury cocktail parties, complete with a sunken seating pit, blue velvet furniture, and gleaming black-and-white flooring.
From the smallest gallery in Vienna—a showcase for rotating artworks in the corridor—to the classy DJ station and bespoke walnut shuffleboard table that provides entertainment between beers, interactive moments fill the space. “At the end, every place has something personal, locating it in a certain context,” Knapp says. “We had great luck that our clients were passionately involved in the design and planning process. Every piece and detail carries their individual notes.”
who Architects and interior designers: Büro KLK and BFA Architects. Architecture and interior design project team: Heinz Lutter; Jonathan Lutter; Christian Knapp; Fabian Lutter; Jürgen DePaul. Contractor: Handler Bau GmbH. Building technology consultants: Ingenieurbüro Lakata GmbH. Lighting: Molto Luce GmbH. Structural engineering: Fröhlich & Locher ZT GmbH. Kitchen: Lohberger GmbH. Site supervision: Cetus Baudevelopment GmbH & Oliver Gusella.
what Masonry walls: Handler Bau GmbH. Hard flooring: Das Steinprojekt GmbH. Recessed and track lighting: Molto Luce. Pendants and chandeliers: Flying Flames; Ingo Maurer GmbH. Glass: Tischlerei Franz Walder GmbH. Seating: Alexander Wang for Poltrona Frau; Knoll Intl.; Ubaid Klug for De Sede; Daast. Upholstery: Vienna Fabrics & Design GmbH. Tables: Classicon; Tischlerei Franz Walder GmbH.