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2011 OAC | Sample Sites | Flak towers in Vienna

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History

After the German Luftwaffe attacked Warsaw, Rotterdam and London, the Royal Air Force replied with bombings on Berlin in October 1940. As a reaction, the national-socialist regime constructed a series of flak towers to protect its cities against the allied air threat. The first three pairs of towers were erected in Berlin in 1940, followed in 1941 by another two pairs in Hamburg and finally the three pairs in Vienna, which were constructed between December 1942 and January 1945. All sixteen flak towers were designed by German architect Friedrich Tamms for the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production. They were built by hundreds of forced laborers and war-prisoners from all over Europe. The massive reinforced concrete structures were erected in the middle of the urban fabric with a height similar to the surrounding buildings. The main military functions were located on their roofs, which were equipped either with artillery (fight tower / 'Gefechtsturm' / G-Tower) or with radars (guide tower / 'Leitturm' / L-Tower), whereas the lower floors provided other military functions as well as air raid shelters for civilians. The towers were constructed in pairs: the fight towers were always accompanied by a guide tower less than 500m away. The three Viennese gun-towers were part of a wider defensive network with another 60 artillery bases in and around Vienna, but the military concept had very little success and was soon out-of-date, actually even before the three pairs of towers were erected in the city. Nevertheless, they were built and served as propaganda tools to demonstrate the power of the "Third Reich". They were meant to be turned into monuments after the war, by covering the concrete facades with stone plates, but history proved different.

Since World War II

After the war, the allied forces destroyed all flak towers in Berlin and only two towers were preserved in Hamburg. The six Viennese flak towers, however, remained almost unchanged until today. One of the towers is used as a visitable storage facility for the museum of contemporary art MAK, another one has been transformed into an aquarium and climbing wall, a third one is located in the middle of a military complex and used by the Austrian army. The other three are unoccupied since the end of the war and their access remains restricted. There have been an endless number of projects for the re-use of the single towers. Most of them were commercial projects trying to convert the towers into saleable real estate regardless of their historic substance. Today the towers are owned by the State and the City of Vienna and some of them are leased to private companies, a confusing situation that leads to an increasing inconsistency when dealing with the historic fabric.

Problem

Although the six flak towers can be seen from almost all over the city (especially from the Wienerwald hills or the high-rise buildings like Jean Nouvel's new Sofitel tower), they are completely neglected in the historic perception of the city. They are briefly mentioned in some architectural guides but the common visitor does not find any indication about the past function and history of these massive structures which were built to last forever and became huge vacuums in the urban landscape.

The Viennese flak-towers are the only leftovers of their kind as a whole (the towers in Berlin were destroyed; those in Hamburg destroyed or transformed). Because they do not serve any specific purpose they are perfect reminders for World War II atrocities. But some of them have already been completely or partially reused, others remain inaccessible. The design challenge aims to find an overall concept for the six towers. Whether reversible or irreversible, permanent or temporary, the project should emphasize the urban structure of the six towers in the historic center of Vienna, by taking also into account the surrounding areas and parks.



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Downloadable materials:

  • Project Brief [pdf]
  • Pictures [zip]
  • Plans and sections of the G-Towers [jpg]
    source: Ute Bauer, Die Wiener Flaktürme im Spiegel österreichischer Erinnerungskultur, Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2003

  • Plans and sections of the L-Towers [jpg]
    source: Ute Bauer, Die Wiener Flaktürme im Spiegel österreichischer Erinnerungskultur, Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2003

  • City map [dwg][jpg]
    source: Magistrat der Stadt Wien (MA18), and Ute Bauer, Die Wiener Flaktürme im Spiegel österreichischer Erinnerungskultur, Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2003

  • Fact-sheet [pdf]
    data: Ute Bauer, iFAG (Interdisciplinary Research Association for Architecture and History)

Additional information:

  • iFAG, Interdisciplinary Research Association for Architecture and History
  • Faktum Flakturm, Organization for the promotion of interdisciplinary Art and Culture in the Arenbergpark L-Tower
  • Project CAT, Contemporary Art Tower in the Arenbergpark G-Tower
  • Haus des Meeres, in the Esterhazypark L-Tower

Relevant articles and publications:

  • Wolfgang Freitag, Zu den Schattenorten von Wien, Metroverlag, Wien 2011 [order]
  • "Quasis", Flakturm wird zu Datenspeicher, Der Standard, September 29, 2011 [read]
  • Markus Berger, (In)convertibility and Memory. Conversions of Vienna's Flak Towers, Interventions and Adaptive Reuse Vol. 02, Department of Interior Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design 2011 [download]
  • Ute Bauer (Ed.), Erinnerungsort Flakturm. Der ehemalige Leitturm im Wiener Arenbergpark, Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2010 [order]
  • Wolfgang Freitag, Fünfzig Weiber und kein Wasser, Die Presse, November 26, 2010 [read]
  • Julia Schilly, Frische Brise für ein dunkles Labyrinth, Der Standard, November 22, 2010 [read]
  • Franz Pieler, Ute Bauer, Historical Archeology im Flakturm Arenbergpark, 1030 Wien, Archäologie Österreichs, Heft 21/1 2010
  • Ralf Leonhard, Streit um Wiener Hochbunker, die tageszeitung taz, February 18, 2010 [read]
  • Ingrid Salazar, Towers of Burden, The Vienna Review, October 1, 2009 [read]
  • Robin Stummer, Secret History, New Statesman, July 31, 2008 [read]
  • Ute Bauer, Die Wiener Flaktürme - Verwertbarkeit des Unbrauchbaren, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege, n.1/2007, pp47-67 [download]
  • Wolfgang Etschmann, Ute Bauer, Der Luftkrieg um Österreich und die Flaktürme Wiens, ÖMZ Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, Heft 2/2006 [read]
  • Ute Bauer, Die Wiener Flaktürme im Spiegel österreichischer Erinnerungskultur, Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2003 [order]
  • MA 18 (Ed.), Erich Pieler, Wiener Flaktürme, Werkstattbericht Nr. 53, Stadtentwicklung Wien, 2002 [download]
  • Henning Angerer, Flakbunker. Betonierte Geschichte, Ergebnisse Verlag, Hamburg 2000
  • Hans Sakkers, Elmar Widmann, Flaktürme Berlin-Hamburg-Wien, Fortress Books, Nieuw-Weerdinge 1998
  • Jan Tabor, Erich Bernard, Barbara Feller, Die Wiener Flaktürme. 50 Jahre Auseinandersetzung mit Betonmonolithen, Bericht im Auftrag der MA 19, Wien 1994

Contact information:

  • Kay Strasser, LS Ing. Dipl., Architecture for Humanity, Vienna
  • iFAG, Interdisciplinary Research Association for Architecture and History
  • Faktum Flakturm, Organization for the promotion of interdisciplinary Art and Culture in the Arenberg L-Tower


Location

Vienna
Austria
Project posted by challenge team

Comments

Project Details

NAME: 2011 OAC | Sample Sites | Flak towers in Vienna
PROJECT LEAD: Kay Strasser
LOCATION: Vienna, Austria
START DATE: July 10, 2011
CURRENT PHASE: Design development

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Please direct inquires regarding the 2011 Open Architecture Challenge: [Un]restricted Access to: challenge@architectureforhumanity.org

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