L-Tower Arenbergpark

Codename “Baldrian”

Location

Vienna, Austria

48.198, 16.391

Author

Friedrich Tamms

Architect

Built in

1944

Many plans for the repurposing of the Leitturm have been drawn up over the last 70 years. The last one, for a data centre, was cancelled only in 2016, following citizens’ protests. Other proposals have included a multifunctional leisure facility, in 1979, and refurbishing as a hospital, in 1986.

 

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 Leitturm is the only flak tower owned by the City of Vienna. It was given to the city by the federal government of the Republic of Austria in 1991. The Leitturm is administered by the municipal department for facility management, the MA 34 Bau- und Gebäudemanagement. The municipal gardens department have used the ground floor as a storage facility since 1992. In 2002 an antenna system was installed on the roof. Many plans for the repurposing of the Leitturm have been drawn up over the last 70 years. The last one, for a data centre, was cancelled only in 2016, following citizens’ protests. Other proposals have included a multifunctional leisure facility, in 1979, and refurbishing as a hospital, in 1986.

The rectangular Arenbergpark Leitturm is 38 meters wide and 19 meters long. It is 39 meters high, has a basement, 9 storeys plus an added platform on top for the Funkmessgerät radar installation. Most of the outer walls are 2.5 meters thick and the uppermost ceiling is between 3.5 meters and 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. The façade has a graffiti reminder of the war that reads: ‘historysteria WA(R)S YOU tie(d) world’.

Function

1944Flak tower and air raid shelter

2018 Mixed: storage for the city gardens MA 42 (Wiener Stadtgärten) in the ground floor (since 1992), antenna system on top (since 2002)

Ownership

1944 Deutsches Reich

2018 Stadt Wien

Condition

1944 Good

2018 Fair

Property Management

1944

2018 MA 34 Bau- und Gebäudemanagement (facility management)

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 Magarete V.

Pensioner

Transcription
Yes, I’ve always admired the City of Vienna for doing this in the first place. Because there are lots of cities with something similar and it looks terrible. But, overall, of course, I think something needs to be done, no question about it. But when I think about it – I’ve travelled a lot in America, in Britain, all over the place, and there too they’ve got… but these towers are still an old relic from the war. That’s why I think they’re still there and are treated as such. And over there, the second tower, that’s an entrance, isn’t it. Isn’t there an entrance there somewhere? I’ve never been inside.

Interview with Maria R.

Local resident

Transcription
I was there when it all happened, from the age of 10 onwards, so from 10 to the age of 14 or 15. And the flak towers, well, that was because of the aircraft flying over to spy, and I think they were dropping bombs, weren’t they? First to spy, and then they dropped the heavy bombs, right? I was living at No. 18 Eslarngasse. The caretaker from our building, he always refused to go down into the basement; he always said, ‘no, I’m staying in the building’. And then a bomb fell directly onto the building and he was gone. He just refused to go down into the basement. And all those bombs that were dropped, they were meant to bomb these towers, all these flak towers. And they never hit them. Instead, they dropped those bombs the whole length of the Eslarngasse, instead of here. They wanted to drop them there anyway. And the whole of Eslarngasse, half the row of houses down there on the right, they were all gone. I can still remember it.

Interview with Wolfgang F.

Local resident

Transcription
Yes, of course, I grew up in the park there, it’s always looked like that. The only thing that’s changed is the playground roundabout. – In the late 1930s is what I heard before the war had even begun. It was meant for the army before, and now they’re using it, the City of Vienna that is, they’re using it to store pictures and stuff.