From planning to opening

The 1970s saw an acute shortage of space in TU Wien's library premises of the time. Construction of a new main library had become essential. The preparatory work for this huge project lasted from 1977 to 1981. In 1978, a team of architects - Justus Dahinden, Reinhard Gieselmann, Alexander Marchart and Roland Moebius - presented their initial detailed plans.

The architects had connections with TU Wien: Justus Dahinden (b.1925 in Zurich, d.2020) taught at the Institute of Spatial Design from 1974 to 1995. Reinhard Gieselmann (b.1925 in Münster, d.2013 in Karlsruhe) was a professor at the Institute of Housing and Design at TU Wien from 1969 to 1992. Alexander Marchart (b.1927) and Roland Moebius (b.1929 in Mödling, d. 2020 in Altenberg) had already co-designed TU Wien's "Freihaus", which was completed in 1984.

Marchart assumed authority for the construction of the library, which began in the summer of 1984. Three years later, with effect from autumn 1987, the premises were gradually put into operation and the new building was officially opened with much celebration on 17 December 1987.

The building in figures

On entering the reception area on the library's ground floor, there is no evidence whatsoever of the subway that lies beneath. On an area covering 1640 m², a reinforced concrete skeleton with a support grid of 7.20 x 7.20 m sits on a 1.3 m reinforced concrete slab.

There are three basement levels below the ground floor; these are largely used as stacks for the storage of books and journals. There are five floors above with open access, reading and learning areas and an administration level on the 6th floor. Reinhard Gieselmann designed the interior, with a net usable area of 9506 m².

The façade with the owl

The high podium zone, the prominent perpendicular strip windows in between stone pillars and walls, the solid architraves of the upper story, complete with cornice, and not least, the 18 m-high "owl" are all distinctive features of the new library building.

In terms of its composition and structure, the library façade was constructed in harmony with pre-existing buildings on Karlsplatz - according to the commemorative publication on the building's opening in 1987. The building was inspired by the "colossal orders on floor-to-ceiling plinths, massive upper edges and ledges with recessed copper green metal roofs and glazed oriels" seen on existing important buildings on Karlsplatz.

Justus Dahinden was responsible for the appearance of this striking façade. Even the cladding of the wall surfaces with square stone slabs can also be found in Otto Wagner's most prominent works, namely Vienna's Steinhofkirche [Church of Saint Leopold] and the Postsparkasse [Austrian Postal Savings Bank]. Dahinden thus constructed a nod to Vienna's architectural history with a complex, "typically post-modern" façade of the early 1980s.

At the corner where the Wiedner Hauptstraße gives way to Karlsplatz, the intention was for just a slender, unstructured pillar to accentuate the building, as can still be seen in the ground floor construction. However, one year after construction work had begun, the academic Senate gave its retrospective approval to erect an owl structure at this key site of urban development.

The sculptor, Bruno Weber (b.1931 in Dietikon, d.2011 in Dietikon), developed the figure in Dietikon, initially as a recumbent concrete structure, and used it to produce forms made from laminated polyester. Using these forms, the pillar was cast in situ in spring 1986 from concrete, layer by layer, and coated in a uniform layer of tinted clay.