Zaha Hadid & Vienna
January 23, 2018
Written by: Laura Jaye
Photographed by: Laura Jaye
The Vienna University of Economics and Business is a living museum of unusual buildings each designed by world-renowned architects. The entire campus sits on a sharply angled masterplan, with clashing facades from neon yellow to metallic silver. To the curious wanderer, it’s a never-ending scavenger hunt of architectural gems.
Walking alongside the University’s students, I exit the subway station on the edge of the University. Initially, I feel the campus is a little hodge-podge, but while I meander along the central pedestrian walkway, I begin to realize this angular pathway is what brings all these unique buildings together in harmony.
Even on a brisk winter day, I can feel the University’s vibrant energy from international students, hurrying along the path to class.
But it’s difficult to admire individual buildings for too long because Zaha Hadid’s Library and Learning Centre stands proudly at the heart of the campus.
Looming over the broad walkway, the black cantilever stands as a landmark at the center of campus. It juts out sharply with one end seemingly sliced off to reveal a dramatic glass opening.
What struck me was the severe angular shape of the building. It’s unconventional considering Zaha Hadid’s more typical undulating forms and lines. Instead, the design incorporates these typical meandering lines into the facade with inset transparent glass. The lines invite me to follow them around the building. Sometimes they follow the shape of the building, while other times they turn suddenly upwards.
Stepping through the low entrance way, the skylit interior transforms into a swelling atrium. The space is altogether a completely different atmosphere than the sharp and angular exterior. Unlike the exterior’s contrasting black and white colors, the interior feels calmer with only subtle white and gray tones accenting the walkways.
The organic lines of the long ramps lead my eye towards the oversized skylight winding its way throughout the entire building. Offset bridges flow into corridors that curve towards the atrium.
Because all lines flow towards the main atrium, it’s easy to see why it acts as the meeting point for students and faculty. I wander back through the entrance and once again find myself facing the mishmash of contrasting designs set throughout the campus.
From the staccato facade of the Department Building, to the orange metal facade of the Teaching Center, I finally understand why this campus continues to captivate architecture fanatics from around the world.