Zaha Hadid Chosen to Design Vienna Library

January 20, 2009

By David Sokol

The largest business school in the European Union, the 20,000-student Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, has increased its head count by two a half times since 1981. Yet it has accommodated this explosive growth hastily, scattering four academic campuses throughout its home city.

Gehry Partners is expanding into larger headquarters.
Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
Zaha Hadid Architects won a competition to design a new Library and Learning Center for the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.

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In October 2007 school and government officials announced the university would consolidate into a 22.7-acre site just south of the city’s fairgrounds. And this past November a six-person jury determined that Zaha Hadid Architects would realize a competition design for the Library and Learning Center at the center of that complex. The firm was chosen from a shortlist that included Morphosis and Hans Hollein.

Although the 430,000-square-foot building will contain classrooms, a bookstore, and cafeteria and hangout spaces, it will be devoted primarily to administrative offices and a library with integrated study zones. “We wanted to get these two program parts very clear,” says Cornelius Schlotthauer, project architect and one of two heads of the firm’s Hamburg studio. “We created basically two volumes within this space, and they shift around each other to define an internal open space.”

The two volumes appear freestanding, but actually form a canted, six-story polygonal structure largely comprising four reverse-tapered trapezoidal cones of structural concrete. In order to suggest that the administrative and library volumes occupy separate volumes, the exterior of the library-programmed space will be clad in fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels that are darker than the offices’ skin. Schlotthauer adds that the color scheme accentuates the library’s cantilevering top floors.

Inside, the winning design articulates the distinction by distributing rooms into seemingly disparate volumes—as if programs occupy different towers, or, as Schlotthauer calls them, “canyons.” The gesture evokes the concrete cones framing the composition, introduces a curvilinear vocabulary that contrasts with the facade’s straight edges, and yields a large public atrium.

The Library and Learning Center should be completed in 2012. It is one of five buildings that will make up the new campus, according to a master plan conceived by local design studio BUSarchitektur.  

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