Yes, the title is very eye-catching and all, but it puts me in a self-imposed predicament. First, picking a few of the many well-designed buildings that have taken over this beautiful city is no easy task, but after many hours of reading, studying and analyzing, I am certain I arrived at a solid and infallible list (please note the sarcasm). In addition, it is not my intent to write another “Things to do in Vienna” article. And lastly, I hope the buildings described hereafter are of your liking, so you keep coming back week after week to read my journal. Now that all my complaining is out of the way, there’s something important I should point out. Vienna was founded around 500 BC (it was called Vedunia then, but that’s beside the point). The City has had quite a few centuries to develop its own architectural identity. The city’s architectural landscape is continually changing, evolving. Here, the old and the new are interwoven to create something completely different. There are 4 buildings in particular which should come to your attention. The first three are listed in no particular order, but the fourth one is personally my favorite. I’ll explain why when we get to it.
The first one is The Spittelau District Heating Plant (try saying that 3 times fast). This converted heating plant is an unusual piece, designed by eco-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. In fact, Hundertwasser was initially against the idea of this project. He had fundamental objections to a garbage-incineration plant as long as all possibilities for avoiding garbage were not exhausted. He only agreed to undertake this project after he learned The Spittelau District Heating Plant would serve to provide heat for 60,000 apartments. In addition, he was assured the Plant would be equipped with the latest technology for emission-purification. The building’s façade was redesigned after a major fire damaged part of it in 1989. Not only does this Plant provide heat for thousands of apartments, it also provides a spectacle. It is useful, colorful, irregular, unsettling, and just plain weird.
Unlike the Spittelau plant, The Vienna Twin Towers aren’t a combination of contemporary architecture with previous styles. It’s not until you take a step back and take another look at them that you realize how odd they look in the city’s skyline. The farther away you look at them, the more alien they seem, surrounded by orange and brown rooftops, short and stubby houses and large apartment complexes that give the impression of the old Soviet Union. But let’s take a step forward and extract the towers from this architectural jungle and try to analyze them in a vacuum. If you suffer from any degree of OCD you will hate me, but I hope you understand why they are so fascinating. Most notably, I find the name “Twin Towers” to be false advertising. The positioning and orientation of the towers looks random, and their height differs by a few meters (127m and 138m). Not exactly twins I would say!
The towers are connected at an obtuse corner by a series of bridges irregularly positioned at various heights. Fuksas, the designer of the towers, claimed that his intention was to give his oeuvre dynamism. He said “… for those arriving from the South and running along this area by car, the towers always occur with a different look. They’re never still or incumbent”. And, well… it worked. I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen loads of pictures (which is obviously equivalent *ahem*) so I can vouch for that declaration.
(2014, Archdaily, Photograph by Iwan Baan)
If you thought the Twin Towers had an interesting look to them, wait until you see this one. The Library and Learning Centre at the University of Economics is certainly the most contemporary looking of the bunch (and a paradise for anyone wanting to do some architecture photography) with all its lines and angles. It is one of seven buildings that make up the new campus at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, or Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien if you’re feeling wordy.
“The interior of the LLC is informed by the external circulation of the masterplan which maps out the different levels of the building. The straight lines of the building’s exterior separate as they move inward, becoming curvilinear and fluid to generate a free-formed interior canyon that serves as the principal public plaza of the centre, as well as generating corridors and bridges ensuring smooth transitions between different levels.” (2014, Archdaily)
Well, that’s a rather technical description of the construction, so let’s simplify it a bit; there is a clear separation of the various elements of this building. This is achieved by the numerous corridors, colors, and textures that outline the limits of the library. It looks like the Citadel from Mass Effect (hello to the 10 people reading this who are familiar with this reference).
(Photograph by Hans Peter Schaefer)
As I promised, my favorite for last. You may be surprised with this one since is not nearly as modern or contemporary looking as the previous structures, but hopefully, you’ll understand the reasoning behind my choice. The central place of remembrance on Judenplatz is the Schoa memorial by Rachel Whiteread. “The tiles set into the ground around the memorial bear the names of the places where Austrian Jews lost their lives during the Nazi period.” (n.d., wien.info). This incredibly powerful piece of art made of reinforced concrete resembles a four-sided bookshelf. The cube looks like a library with its volumes with their spine to facing the back of the bookshelf, the shelves holding what appear to be endless copies of the same book, which stand for the vast number of the Jewish victims of World War II. The names of the Austrian Jews who lost their lives during the Nazi occupation are engraved on the tiles placed around the memorial. I hope you can, at least for a moment, view this art piece for how it presents its message, which carries with it powerful dread and purpose, for representing something truthfully is what we all want to achieve.
These 4 buildings reside in the same city (fun fact: it would take you 51 minutes to drive by all of them), they are part of the same architectural fabric that has been evolving for thousands of years, yet they are wildly different. And I’ve only given you only 4 examples. There are hundreds or thousands more that one can easily find by exploring Vienna. In conclusion, the contrast, creativity, intent, and ideas the authors of these buildings transmit through their creations is what makes them so unique and innovative.
Architecture & Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/architecture-design Library and Learning Centre University of Economics Vienna / Zaha Hadid Architects. (2014, July 07). Retrieved from https://www.archdaily.com/523598/library-and-learning-centre-university-of-economics-vienna-zaha-hadid-architects Museum Judenplatz Vienna. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wien.info/en/vienna-for/jewish-vienna/museum-judenplatz Baan, I. (2013). Library and Learning Centre University of Economics Vienna[Photograph found in Vienna]. Retrieved August 25, 2018, from https://iwan.com/portfolio/library-and-learning-centre-university-of-economics-vienna/ (Originally photographed 2013) Schaefer, H. P. (2005, December 27). Rachel Whiteread, Holocaust-Mahnmal, Wien, Judenplatz[Photograph found in Modern artists, Vienna]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rachel_whitereadwien_holocaust_mahnmal_wien_judenplatz.jpg (Originally photographed 2005, August) N. (2005, July 22). Vienna Twin Tower[Photograph found in Vienna]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vienna_Twin_Tower.jpg (Originally photographed 2005, July)