G-Tower Arenbergpark

Codename “Baldrian”

Location

Vienna, Austria

48.199, 16.393

Author

Friedrich Tamms

Architect

Built in

1944

In 1999 the former director of the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Peter Noever, launched a project entitled CAT: Contemporary Art Tower. But the proposed repurposing as a public museum was never implemented and the tower remains a depot to this day.

In 1942 Adolf Hitler decided to build six flak towers to protect the historic city centre of the so-called Gauhauptstadt Vienna from destruction from Allied airstrikes. The existing towers in Berlin and Hamburg served as models for the architect Friedrich Tamms. All the flak towers are grouped in twos, with a Gefechtsturm (combat tower) and a Leitturm (lead tower) forming one pair. These pairs of towers are arranged in a triangle around the heart of Vienna’s historic centre, the Stephansdom. Originally, the Nazis planned to convert the flak towers into gigantic victory monuments to fallen German soldiers. After the war, the towers were to have been clad in white marble. Fortunately, history turned out differently.

After the defeat of the German Reich in May 1945, the flak towers stood empty for many years. Unlike in Berlin and Hamburg, the Allies did not attempt to destroy these giant grey blocks. One reason might have been Austria’s long-standing claim as a victim of Nazi aggression. As a result, the towers remain as concrete witnesses to the crimes committed by the Nazi dictatorship and as unforgettable reminders and warnings of Austria’s culpability. But until now there has never been an active historical reappraisal. After more than 70 years, the concrete towers are now an essential and integral part of the city of Vienna and its inhabitants.

The Arenbergpark Gefechtsturm is owned by the Republic of Austria and administered by the public sector real estate management company, the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG). During the war, the tower was used as an air-raid shelter but also as an aeroplane factory (Wiener Flugzeugmotorenwerk Ostmark), the Gau propaganda headquarters (Gaupropagandaleitung), the district administration (Kreisleitung), a radio station and by the company Siemens & Halske. Shortly after the war, the Gefechtsturm was used by a pharmacy company, and the Austrian military, as a storage facility for medical equipment.

The military ran the tower until 1990 when it was handed over first to the Bundesgebäudeverwaltung and then the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft. The Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) has had a depot inside the tower since 1995. Since 2002 the Gefechtsturm has been used for art projects such as the light installation by American artist Jenny Holzer presented in May 2006. In 1999 the former director of the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Peter Noever, launched a project entitled CAT: Contemporary Art Tower. But the proposed repurposing as a public museum was never implemented and the tower remains a depot to this day.

The square Arenbergpark Gefechtsturm is 47 meters long. It is 42 meters high, has a basement and 9 storeys plus an added level for cannons. The outer walls are 2 meters thick and the walls on the last two floors are up to 7 meters thick. The uppermost ceiling is around 4 meters thick. Like every flak tower, this one also has an integrated natural climate system, which has remained almost intact. The whole of the technical infrastructure (electricity, water, gas, lift) has either been demolished or has not been preserved. 

TEXT BY JOSHUA KOEB

Function

1944Infrastructure: flak tower and air raid shelter

2018 Infrastructure: depot of the museum for applied art – MAK (since 1995)

Ownership

1944 Deutsches Reich

2018 Republik Österreich

Condition

1944 Good

2018 Fair

Property Management

1944

2018 Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft (BIG)

Form of government

1944 Dictatorship

2018 Parliamentary Republic

Spatial Planning Agency

1944 Organisation Todt and Wiener Stadtbauamt

2018

Type of heritage and protection

1944

2018 National Monument (BDA 5.4.2000 GZ 39.086/2/2000)

Interview with Eva P.

Nurse

Transcription
Well, I don’t know much about it. All I know is that, back then, during the war, it was some sort of shelter, is that right? I think. It was a means of protecting against attacks, bombing raids, or firearms. I wouldn’t pull it down. But, if it was possible, I could imagine perhaps having some bars or restaurants in there or even apartments. I think that would be a good idea. Don’t know if it’s possible, from a construction point of view. I don’t know enough about it.

Interview with Gerhard R.

Local resident

Transcription
Monument! Something to make you think, right? People from abroad go past and ask what it’s about. well, it’s Hitler, isn’t it? – You had the bomb craters, and the earth mounds, that were there when I was a kid. There was an arms factory underneath. There’s still a chimney stack at the back, a factory chimney stack round the back. – We used to run around it as kids. You had the sports grounds: that was a water tank, where the underground car park is now, a water reservoir for fire fighting. And there, where we’re standing, were the earth mounds.

Interview with Silvia E.

Teacher

Transcription
It is important to remember the Nazi era, of course. And if these things could be removed – as you know, you can’t blow them up otherwise you’d destroy most of the surrounding area – it would, of course, be aesthetically much nicer all over Vienna, including the one in the Augarten, at least I think so. On the other hand, since you can’t get rid of these things, I think it makes total sense to do something with them and, ideally, create some cultural projects. If the state has money to spend on things like that. – There are things stored there that belong to the University, what used to be the Applied Arts and is now the University of Applied Arts. So personally I wouldn’t have anything against it if there was more going on or if new ... I don’t know what it looks like inside; I’ve never been inside, even though apparently there are guided tours now and again, but I’ve never managed to go on one or never found out in time. But that would be great if you had the combination of contemporary history references, remembrance work of some kind, plus something topical and some initiative. I’d really be in favour of that!