L-Tower Augarten

Codename “Peter”

Location

Vienna, Austria

48.228, 16.378

Author

Friedrich Tamms

Architect

Built in

1944

After more than 70 years, the concrete towers are now an essential and integral part of the city of Vienna and its inhabitants. Today, the overall appearance of the Augarten park is defined by the tension between its tranquil idyll and acts of violence and destruction.

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 air strikes. 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.

The two flak towers in the baroque Augarten gardens were completed just a year before the end of the Second World War. However, with the Allied bombers flying at such high altitudes the towers were rendered almost useless for military reasons. 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. Today, the overall appearance of the Augarten park is defined by the tension between its tranquil idyll and acts of violence and destruction.

Both towers in the Augarten park are owned by the Republic of Austria and administered by the Burghauptmannschaft. Although they have been leased by a data company (since 2002), to be renovated and used as huge data centres, they remain empty and closed to this day. The only other usage ever suggested for the Augarten Leitturm has been as a data centre, in 1986.

The rectangular Augarten Leitturm is 31 meters wide and 15 meters long. It is 53 meters high, has a basement, 12 storeys plus a 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 entire technical infrastructure (electricity, water, gas, life) is either been demolished or not been preserved.

TEXT BY JOSHUA COEB

Function

1944Flak tower and air raid shelter

2018 Unused

Ownership

1944 Deutsches Reich

2018 Republik Österreich

Condition

1944 Good

2018 Fair

Property Management

1944

2018 Burghauptmannschaft

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 Joachim B.

Computer scientist

Transcription
I think the flak tower was built towards the end of the war, in 44/45. It was meant as a defence system but was never used. Yes, I definitely think it should be preserved, as a memorial. – I come from Hamburg and we also have a flak tower – in fact, I think it’s a little larger – at Heiligengeistfeld, and the situation there right now is that the tower is being built over, which means it can no longer serve as a memorial. – And yes, at Heiligengeistfeld, it really wasn’t destroyed, mainly because if they had, they would probably have reduced all the residential areas in the vicinity to rubble, plus it probably would have been too expensive. There’s another one in Wilhelmsburg, in southern Hamburg – I’m not sure if it’s a flak tower, but it’s a high-rise bunker in any case. And it’s been converted into some sort of exhibition space, for an international garden show or something. It’s now being used as an example for regenerative energy, a so-called energy bunker. – So essentially I think that’s quite a positive thing. And I once read an article that talked about perhaps putting a data centre in there. I think it’s difficult to put these bunkers to any use in the first place. So if they manage to use the interior for some purpose at least, and retain the exterior, then that’s a good thing in my opinion.

Interview with Mohammed M.

Employee

Transcription
I don’t know really, but I hear it was built before the Second World War. That’s what I hear. And also to protect Vienna at that time, that time of war. That is the only thing I know. But as for doing something with it: that is historical, I think, something very historical. It says a lot about Austria’s past and Vienna’s in particular, the people who lived there. I think people at that time suffered a lot, from the war and all these things. So that is really a monument for them, I think. – You can do a lot of things with it. But now I see there is a garden there, which is nice. People can see that they are now at peace, and that’s very good. And you have also left the history behind. That is really, really good!

Interview with Rafael T.

College student

Transcription
No idea. I think they used to store weapons and stuff. But I’m not really sure. In my opinion, it’s always been that, like, they ought to turn it into a night club. I know that they’re not functional inside. The statics are not suitable – in other words, it can’t be accessed by the public, and that a lot would have to be re-invested in terms of structural engineering. But in my opinion, you could turn it into a solid night club. Not all of them, that would be too much. But one would be good. As for the others, well, one of them is already the Haus des Meeres, isn’t it? So that’s really good in my opinion. So you would really have to look and see what to do with them. If they’re too dilapidated – I think the one over there is about ready to collapse – you could raze it to the ground, demolish it, and make more space available for the park for example. But if one of them is still in good nick, then I’d certainly think about turning it into a club!