Vienna International Center: A beautiful tour through a “schiache” area

On an island between the Neue Donau and the Alte Donau lies what some may consider as the diplomatic and international proud of our Bundeshauptstadt: the Vienna International Center (VIC). Among others, one of the four major international offices of the United Nations (UN) is located here.

In this article I would like to take you on a tour through these buildings and show how beautiful and magnificent they are…not. No, instead I’ll try to explain why they are so schiach.


The start of our tour – U1 station Kaisermühlen

Exiting the U1 line at station Kaisermühlen – Vienna International Center you immediately smell the ‘70s/’80s style. As with most stations in the Viennese U-Bahn network, they are designed by the same company and in the same appearance. This station was opened in 1982 and hasn’t changed since that time. Unless you are born in that period and haven’t really moved on or you just like it, I cannot imagine why you would think it is a nice building style.


The UN buildings

Continuing our tour, we arrive at the building for which this area was named for. Designed in 1969 by architect César Pelli and built in the early ‘70s the main buildings at the VIC are those of the UN. It is made up of six Y-shaped office buildings and they surround a cylindrical construction which is being used for conferences. As with a lot of building established in that time, it was filled with asbestos and starting from 2004 the whole compound underwent major renovations to remove this substance. As is with the U-bahn station, the design still is the same as it was originally. With its yellow-ish buildings it is a strange sight compared to all the other more darker sites in the area. The whole stretch just breathes the ‘70s. Of course I understand that they are not just going to set up new buildings there, but a new layer of paint may change a whole lot.

UN buildings with the U-Bahn station

The Austria Center Vienna – A new era of building

For a time, the Vienna International Center consisted mainly of the UN site. The first building to be erected after it was the Austria Center Vienna. This conference location was opened in 1987 and lies directly next to the UNO City, which it is also connected to. Used for many different events, you can immediately see the differences between this building and that of the UN. Instead of a more coherent architectural style, it is completely different from it.

Austria Center, UN buildings in the background

Schiaches high rise

Even from a distance the constructions that catch your eye the most, are the high skyscrapers built in this area. Starting with the Andromeda Tower in 1996, the IZD Tower in 1998, the Ares Tower and Tech Gate Vienna in 1999, the STRABAG House in 2001, the Saturn Tower in 2003 and finally the DC Tower 1 in 2010, these buildings are all high-rise office buildings containing several national and international companies. Although it is debatable if you like this kind of architecture or not, you almost cannot deny that it is a lot better than the ‘70s/’80s style of the UN and Austria Center buildings.

The main problem for me in this area is the inconsistency of the buildings. From the older styl of the UN to the modern DC Tower, it is all completely different. The area was not designed with a general idea of what it should look like. The different architects of all the different buildings had their own ideas for their projects which has made the area a collection of styles, colors and ideas.

DC Tower 1 – Real buildings have curves?

The Reichsbrücke

Okay, let’s continue our tour now. Discovering the area a bit. First the bridge over the Neue Donau towards the city, the Reichsbrücke. Or to be more specific: the third Reichsbrücke. The first one was built in 1872 and replaced with a suspension one in the 1930s. Due to cracks in the construction the second Reichsbrücke collapsed on the 1st of August 1976. Two years later work on the third, and final bridge started. The first bridge resembled some of the old architecture of the rest of Vienna, the second and the current one really do not. Although the bridge itself is okay, I have seen worse in my life, the part that bothers me the most is the ‘entrance’ to the brigde. To be specific, the area between the U-Bahn railway and the VIC. It is if they didn’t know what to do with this spot, and just left it. In the meantime it is covered with grass, graffiti and rubbish. It just doesn’t acknowledged the international allure of the whole surrounding area.

Compared to the rest of the city I think the surroundings of the Vienna International Center are a bit off. Yes, I know the other buildings are from an entire different time period, but to me they are so completely different. Considering that the City of Vienna paid a large part of the UNO City, I would have expected them to choose a design which more relates to the rest of the town. Not something yellow-ish in weird Y-shapes.


But of course this is only my opinion and I do invite you to take a look yourself and make up your own opinion about this.

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