The city in the city
They can be seen from afar: four huge gas containers, each 70 metres high, each with a capacity of 90,000 cubic metres; surrounded by crenelated brick walls and punctuated on all floors by a variety of windows, imposing industrial architecture built to serve only one purpose: to supply Vienna with energy for nighttime street-lighting. These were the gas containers “Wiener Gasometer” – the largest of their kind in Europe – at the end of the 19th century.
“Gasometer City’ probably arrived 20 years too late. In the yuppie decade of the ‘eighties it would surely have been a dream.” Peter Eickhoff in “111 Places in Vienna You Must See”
The gasometers were in operation up until the 1970s – after that, the City of Vienna didn’t know quite what to do with the commanding towers. In 1995 it was decided to convert the heritage-protected gasometers into a small city within a city: the Gasometer City was born. It was realised by four star-architects: Jean Nouvel, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Manfred Wehdorn and Wilhelm Holzbauer gave each of the four towers its own character. Steel meets glass, red bricks meet Jugendstil, a sign functions as an extra landmark, and gardens overlook the city.
A total of 174.4 million Euros was invested
A housing complex with over 600 apartments, offices and a student residence grew up, completed by a large shopping centre with a variety of entertainment, and an event hall for 4,000 people.
Despite the outlays, however, the concept of the Gasometer City is controversial, and many of the shop premises are empty. Nevertheless the futuristic architectural backdrop of the colossal gas containers make a side-trip to Simmering worthwhile. After all, what the old and new architects created here is truly gigantic and deserves your attention!
Text: Manuela Graf-Staudinger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig