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Vienna’s Vision

modern architecture: intriguing but not intrusive

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, which 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 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 which 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 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,  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 centre piece, 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 essl@azw.at, Minimum number of participants: 15 people, Meeting place: U2 station Messe-Prater (Messe exit), Price per Person: EUR 18,00.

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