Vienna’s architectural vision
Delegates visiting Vienna this September can enjoy some architectural gems
Modern architecture isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you think about Vienna. And indeed, that’s the way they want it. Vienna’s inner city, with its Baroque buildings, gardens and monuments, was designated a UN Heritage Site in 2011; as recently as early 2017 the UN reminded Vienna that an intrusion of modern buildings would jeopardise its standing. UNESCO was reacting to a project, planned to break ground in 2019, that proposes a new conference centre, hotel, fitness facilities and high-rise apartment on the south side of the 19th-Century Stadtpark.
It’s the height of the high-rise that causes the problem. The proposed tower is 66.3 metres, reduced, following protests, from 75 metres. Forty-three metres is the appropriate height limit in Vienna’s city centre, according to UNESCO.
Back in 1990, when Haas House appeared in the old town, it wasn’t the modest height of the building but its stone and glass frontage that caused the most controversy. The building stands eye to eye with the iconic St Stephen’s Cathedral, which is reflected in the glass structure. The Viennese architect, Hans Hollein, explained that his building referenced the Roman watch tower that once stood on this site. Today, however, it’s largely accepted, like an inoffensive old man with spectacles in conversation with his neighbour, the 12th-Century cathedral.
Since then, modern developments have been kept away from the inner city. In 2016, a start was made on Aspern Lakeside City in Vienna (about a 20-minute taxi ride from Reed International Conference Centre) for what will be the cheerfully named ‘HoHo Building’, the ‘tallest wooden skyscraper in the world’ according to its developers. The 84-metre tower is due for completion in 2018 and will comprise 24 floors of timber-based hybrid construction. It was designed by the Viennese architects RLP Rüdiger Lainer + Partner. (At the moment, the world’s tallest wooden building is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway.)
Also well away from the old town, in fact just a five-minute walk from the Conference Centre, is a newly developed area any modern architecture enthusiast would enjoy visiting. Still settling into its landscape, criss-crossed with bike tracks and walking paths, the new campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration caters for 25,000 students in a cluster of buildings, each designed by a world-renowned architect. The centrepiece, and centre of attraction, is the imposing Library and Learning Centre designed by Hamburg’s Zaha Hadid.
The Architekturzentrum Wien offers two-hour guided tours of the campus. Registration required: contact firstname.lastname@example.org, Minimum number of participants: 15 people, Meeting place: U2 station Messe-Prater (Messe exit), Price per Person: €18.
3 for a stroll
A look at Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s eccentric work. The metro station Landstrasse puts you in the neighbourhood. The Hundertwasser-Krawinahaus, a 52-unit apartment house that opened in 1986, is at Kegelgasse 36-38. Trees grow out of the facade, grass sprouts on the roof and rooms feature undulating floors, “a divine melody for the feet” according to the architect. The interior can’t be visited but nearby you’ll find a museum and cafe also designed by Hundertwasser, where your own feet can experience the melody. (Careful!) Open year round, free admission. Then stop at nearby Hundertwasser Village, for a coffee and a souvenir. From here it’s a 10-minute walk to KunstHaus Wien, a museum hosting a permanent exhibit of Hundertwasser’s work.
After playing an important role in the life of Vienna for 800 years, the Jewish community was almost obliterated after Austria’s annexation by Hitler’s Germany. A one-kilometre walk in Vienna’s 1st district provides insights into this tragic history. Begin at Albertinaplatz with the Memorial against War and Fascism. Follow Dorotheergasse to the Jewish Museum in Palais Eskeles. Take a break in their cafe. Continue to Judenplatz for the poignant Holocaust memorial and to visit a branch of the Jewish museum that focuses on Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Note: both branches of the Museum are closed Friday afternoon, Saturday and high holidays.
A walk off-the-beaten-track, fine art, plus great shopping… that’s the Wiener Moderne – Beauty and the Abyss tour. Commissioned by the Vienna Tourist Board, it was inspired by the 100th Anniversary of the passing of four of Austria’s most important artists and designers – Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner and Koloman Moser – all of whom died in 1918. In the course of a leisurely three-hour stroll you visit design boutiques with actual works by these men, or with works inspired by them, as well as shops that were around during their lifetime. Maximum number of participants is eight; private tours possible. For further information, visit ShoppingwithLucie.com.