Remodeled Flak tower from World War II
The House of the Sea Vivarium Vienna (Haus des Meeres) is an air-raid tower: 47 metres high, 31 metres long, with 3.5-metre-thick steel-reinforced concrete walls, a memorial and a symbol of change from a terrible time to a better one. The flak tower was built along with five others between 1942 and 1945 as air-raid protection, with anti-aircraft guns and fire-control systems. Even today they are a historically striking feature of Vienna’s cityscape.
“It’s actually hard to believe that this tower could become something so lovely!” The Haus des Meeres brought the colourful underwater world into the World War II air-raid tower. Its terrace offers an impressive panoramic view over Vienna.
More than 10,000 animals live in the house of the sea including not only marine life
After unsuccessful attempts to demolish the towers the city began to consider possible new options for their use. Already in the 1950s the Society for Marine Biology moved into the tower near Mariahilferstrasse and founded The House of the Sea Vivarium Vienna. Since then the aquariums and terrariums have been continually expanded: today it houses more than 10,000 animals, including sharks, piranhas and corals. Small monkeys frolic in a glass annex. And on the outer walls rock-climbers pull themselves up to the lofty heights of the tower. The top floor is dedicated to the remembrance of the tower’s past in the permanent exhibition “Erinnern im Inneren” (“Remembering within”). A distinctive trademark of the tower is the anti-war slogan on the upper part of the facade: “Smashed to pieces (in the still of the night)”.
The tower housing the House of the Seas Vivarium is the only one of the city’s flak towers accessible to the public. Once you’ve seen enough of the colourful underwater world and you feel like some fresh air, you can take the stairs inside the tower to the very top. Built on a hill, the tower’s terrace offers a wonderful panoramic view over the city: from the centre to the Laaer Berg mountain and the Vienna Twin Towers.
Text: Kornelia Kopf, Fotos: Christine Wurnig