Municipal incinerator plants rarely enter lists of top architectural highlights. Ah, but this is Vienna and they do things differently here. One of the city’s landmarks is the Spittelau incinerator with its remarkable design by none other than Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
- Originally built in the 1960s, but redesigned in the late 1980s
- Top features include the huge golden chimney ball, giant rooftop cap, and classic Hundertwasser façade
- Super photo opportunity and easily reached by public transport
- See also: Hundertwasser guide
If you saw the photo above, you’d probably assume some kind of contemporary art museum. But this is one of Vienna’s municipal waste incinerators, producing energy for around 50,000 Viennese households (and heating and warm water for 60,000).
The facility itself first went up in the late 1960s, but needed extensive repairs after a fire broke out in 1987. This seemed an opportune moment to make something more of the incinerator, and the authorities eventually persuaded artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser to redesign the chimney and façade. All work was completed by the early 1990s.
Although Hundertwasser might best be described as a painter, his architectural and design work has, perhaps, left the biggest impression on the public consciousness.
The Spittelau incinerator now ranks as one of Vienna’s most striking landmarks, with the huge golden ball on its chimney an integral part of the cityscape. But it’s when you get up close that Hundertwasser’s architecture reveals its true majesty.
- The black and while variable tiling effect interspersed with coloured shapes
- The strong use of curves
- Live plants integrated into the design
- The multicoloured columns and other familiar Hundertwasser motifs
Pedestrian flyovers and access roads allow you to get excellent views of the façade. (Though not as good as the views the waste disposal truck drivers get – they have their own Hundertwasser toilet facility, apparently.)
Another curiosity is the large cap perched on the roof. The story goes that Hundertwasser left one construction meeting with the words “Ich hau den Hut drauf.” The phrase means “I give up” but the literal translation is something like, “I throw a hat on top of it.”
The construction folk decided to take the idea and run with it.
How to find the Spittelau incinerator
Many Viennese sights possess the happy knack of being located next to a subway station. And so it is with the incinerator.
Subway: The Spittelau station sits on the U6 and U4 lines.
Tram/bus: If you prefer to travel above ground, then catch the D tram to Spittelau from various tram stops on the central Ringstrassen (e.g. Schottentor or Karlsplatz/Oper).
Incidentally, the incinerator lies very close to the Donaukanal arm of the Danube. Walk down to the riverside and south toward the city centre to almost immediately reach another remarkable piece of contemporary architecture: the housing block designed by Zaha Hadid.
Address: Spittelauer Lände 45, 1090 Vienna