Helmut Haberl mit Gitarre | Foto: aau/tinefoto.com

In the cosmos of… Helmut Haberl

My cosmos is a house in Maria Anzbach on the western edge of the Vienna Woods. The beauty of the location and the surrounding garden were important motives for the relocation away from Vienna. I grew up in a rural area in Garsten, Upper Austria. When I turned 40, it dawned on me that I could no longer bear to live in a big city and that I needed to change my residential environment. I bought the house in 2011, together with my sister. It was in a pretty desperate state, and we renovated it from the ground floor to the roof.

The house is situated on a south-facing slope, and the views are tremendous. The balcony faces west and south. My father and I designed the eaves on the southern side in such a way that I would be able to enjoy sunshine in the winter months and shade in the summer months. It works perfectly: You can gaze out into the sunny landscape, without needlessly allowing the summer heat to seep into the building.

Some of the time, I work from home, and I would describe myself as a weekly commuter. In Vienna, I live with my girlfriend. One of the advantages of this location is that it is possible to manage without a car, and the regional express reaches the Westbahnhof train station in Vienna in thirty minutes. Of course, as a social ecologist, I try to live my life in a sustainable manner. When the house was refurbished, we achieved what is pretty much a low energy standard, by using 20 cm thermal insulation, a solar system for hot water, triple glazing, and a ventilation system including heat recovery. That’s not bad. My mobility behaviour is rather less sustainable. I fly a lot for work, within Europe as well, because managing the many journeys by train would exact a heavy toll on me personally, and on my family life. This is a good example that clearly illustrates that the opportunities to choose a sustainable way of life are very much determined by the framework conditions that surround us: In order to succeed as a scientist, it is necessary to travel frequently. Any attempt to do so sustainably will soon run up against boundaries. That is why I think it is important to consider the following question: What design should the structures surrounding humans have that would not only facilitate a good life with low resource consumption, but would render such a life the most attractive? There may always be people who feel the need to boast about their car. But for young people living in cities – take my 16 year-old daughter, for instance – the car is not likely to be a status symbol in the future.

In order to off-set the rather cerebral work as a scientist, I turn to music, to the Blues, to be precise. The 12-bar blues pattern allows you to play without having to think too hard. I also quite like being on stage as part of various formations. We perform rarely, and mainly in Viennese clubs. Performing as Doc Dooley I sing my own songs, solo or with friends. Sometimes my brother Arno accompanies me. He is a professional musician – a cellist, and he performs avant-garde music and creates conceptual art under the name noid. For the past 21 years I have also been a member of the rock band Hotel Atom, playing the electric guitar and singing. The name can be traced back to the hotels that used to be built next to every nuclear power station in eastern parts of Europe, and that carried this name.

I write between one and five songs a year, usually when I am travelling or when I find myself with some time on my hands. A new song might emerge from a line of text or from a guitar melody. The Berlin Blues, for instance, came about in 2014, during my research semester at the Humboldt University.

Barbara Maier for ad astra


About the person

Born: 1965 in Linz, Upper Austria

Profession: Associate Professor for Human Ecology at the AAU/Advanced ERC Grant

Degrees: Biology and Mathematics at the Universities of Salzburg and Vienna

Cosmos: His home in Maria Anzbach in the Vienna Woods