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Vienna Six: A Breakdown of the Starchitect Campus

A closer look at the Vienna University of Economics and Business’ star-studded new campus, featuring projects from Zaha Hadid Architects and CRAB Studio


1. Student Centre by Atelier Hitoshi Abe


Hitoshi Abe, one of a sextet of international architects contributing to the new campus, was commissioned to design the Student Centre and teaching facilities, which occupy the south-east corner of the site. A pair of long, thin buildings are wrapped in a chequerboard facade, their monochrome severity and rigour contrasting with the campusʼs more exuberant formal expressions.

If this is a cocktail party, then Abe is the quiet, watchful guest, exploring the idea of layering by placing elongated zones of cellular accommodation one room wide around a series of irregularly shaped lightwells.

HA Plan Preview

First floor plan - click to expand

2. Library by Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Exterior

At the heart of the campus and (perhaps predictably) emblematic of how the evolving university wishes to be publicly perceived is Zaha Hadidʼs Library and Learning Centre. Dominating the terrain with its all-seeing cantilevered window (shades of MAXXI), this angular block is hollowed out to create a large central gathering space surrounded by auditorium, work and events spaces, bookshop and cafés.

The cantilevered volume contains the main reading room overlooking the neighbouring Prater Park. With its soaring concrete canyons, the interior has a fluidity and drama that has not quite translated to exterior.

Zaha Plan

Ground floor plan - click to expand

Zaha Section

Section AA - click to expand

Zaha Interior

3. Teaching Centre by BUSarchitektur


Clad in rusted Corten-steel, BUSarchitektur’s monolithic Teaching Centre acts as a tough, proto-industrial foil to the glacial slickness of Zaha Hadidʼs library. The second largest building on site, it grounds the east end of the campus like a rusty mountain, its surface perforated to form flush shutters and sunscreens.

Internally it feels like a geological excavation has left behind a series of planes that become circulation, meeting places and study areas.

4. Executive Academy by NO.MAD Arquitectos


Designed by the Spanish firm NO.MAD, the youngest member of the sextet, the Executive Academy is the campusʼs principal public interface. Set at the north-west corner of the site, an irregularly stacked seven-storey tower is wrapped in an algorithmically generated facade of glass and aluminium.

Its multiple functions range from sports, administration and event spaces to more intimate teaching rooms and a kindergarten.

5. Law Faculty by CRAB Studio


Given the task of accommodating the law faculty, law library and university administration, CRAB studio has created a pair of spatially and materially playful buildings that belie and subvert the sobriety of the programme. Fluidly amorphous blockwork volumes are rendered and painted in bands of brilliant colour from deep orange to acid yellow.

A final layer of roughly sawn Austrian larch planks is fixed to the surface, abstracting the woodland of the Prater Park beyond. A cheerful, messy chaos prevails, both inside and out, but this quirkiness is calculated to engender a sense of attachment and ownership among occupants.

Crab Plan Preview

Ground floor plan - click to expand

Section Preview

Section AA - Click to expand

6. Economics Faculty by Estudio Carme Pinos


Animated by a bold geometric facade of black and white parallelograms, Carme Pinósʼs Economics Faculty reinforces the sense of the siteʼs diagonal symmetry, playing off the monochrome chequerboard of Hitoshi Abeʼs scheme in the opposite south-east corner.

Separating out and then creating spatial relationships between different programmatic elements, Pinós builds up a miniature cityscape or skyline. A teased-out cluster of volumes containing classroms, lecture halls and study spaces overlaps and intersects at a well-defined central point, the ‘knot’ that ties together the three main zones.

Pinos Plan

Ground floor plan - click to expand

Pinos Section Preview

Section - click to expand


Click here to read Charlotte Skene Catling’s criticism


Vienna University of Economics and Business

Architects: Atelier Hitoshi Abe, Zaha Hadid Architects, BUSarchitektur, NO.MAD Arquitectos, CRAB Studio, Estudio Carme Pinos

Photographs: Iwan Baan, Gisela Erlacher/Arcaid, Roland Halbe, Ronald Kreimel, Duccio Malagamba


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