A good half century ago, the Vienna Flak Towers were erected, which, in addition to their military function, also served as shelters at the time. Although the original use of the towers was soon no longer given, they were not demolished by demolition due to the chosen construction method. The tower objects (Augarten, Arenbergpark, Esterhazy Park) have long since been “integrated” into the cityscape and the question has long been raised as to how these objects could be dealt with. This topic thus starts in the area of programmatic development. From this point of view, structural acts could be set which, in dialogue with the existing buildings, make a new use possible or at least expand the object functionally. In the course of the program, the location and form of the arrangement are to be sounded out, as well as the extent of possible supplementary measures themselves. Furthermore, questions concerning the structural connection “old-new” as well as the individual transitions are to be dealt with in the design process.
If one considers the available designs for the new use and redesign of selected command and control towers, the first thing that strikes one is the range of possible uses. Obvious uses such as a library or a cinema are just as apparent here as potential uses such as a youth hostel or a meditation hostel, which at first glance might hardly be suspected. The use of one of the towers as a public viewing platform or as a congress center are just some of the possibilities that the silent witnesses of time have to offer according to the projects.
In most cases, it is the dark interior that serves as the starting point for a series of considerations regarding a meaningful use, but it is also important for the students to consider to what extent it makes sense and is realistic to break up the monolithic construction and to separate out selected segments or even subject them to a transformation.
In the course of such a process, it becomes clear all too quickly that the towers represent a weighty challenge in terms of a possible design reworking. They are not only of enormous dimensions but also of an almost excessive dominance. Not least for this reason, they have left a lasting mark on the Viennese cityscape to this day and function as stone witnesses of time and a memorial at the same time. However, they do not actively act in this role, but rather remain as silent relics, which merely elude any use.
The majority of the present design work is therefore not aimed at eradicating the towers from the cityscape or even making them invisible, but rather focuses more on a transformation of the existing structures. A transformation in terms of opening up and “making tangible” what was previously “intangible”. As a result, the hermetic appearance must be broken down in order to make the towers “approachable” in the literal sense of the word and to make the empty and unused interior one’s own. The process of opening and transformation ultimately serves as a vehicle for making the existence of these hitherto inaccessible relics of history more comprehensible.
The diversity of the individual design approaches and the weighting of the propagated measures could therefore also be seen as an abstract reflection of their respective processors. How else could it be explained that in some cases only the spatially limited treatment of individual floors and sections of the tower is aimed at, while in other cases the tower as a whole is subjected to a comprehensive transformation, both internally and in terms of its external appearance.
For the students involved, the task in each case was to find a use for the available volume of space and to enter into a constructive dialogue with the relics relevant to contemporary history. The results clearly show that such an examination of these buildings, which shape the cityscape, has by no means come to an end, but rather that a further step has been taken on the path of an active dialogue. It becomes clear that a further discourse is to be strived for in any case.