Some monuments of today were created by accident, objects and structures that had a practical
function or were created unintentionally, which years later would hold a completely different meaning. Many of
these monuments formed and shaped during times of conflict, when the rate of both creation and destruction are on
a ‘monumental’ level. Due to this rate we have been left with scars in our environment, some visible, and some
There are many examples of this across the world, most prevalent in major cities where bombing
raids occurred during times of war. These marks of history however are often ignored as monunents, and this is
something that I would like to approach as a issue.
Scars of Conflict
Some monuments of today were created by accident, objects and structures that had a practical
function or were created unintentionally, which years later would hold a completely different meaning. Many
of these monuments formed and shaped during times of conflict, when the rate of both creation and destruction
are on a ‘monumental’ level.
Due to this rate we have been left with scars in our environment, some visible,
and some just memories. There are many examples of this across the world, most prevalent in major cities where
bombing raids occurred during times of war. These marks of history however are often ignored as monunents, and
this is something that I would like to approach as a issue.
The monument(s) I will focus on are the
structures known as the Flak Tower created during the Second World War to protect Axis cities from the allied
bombing. Many have been destroyed apart from Vienna, were all structures still remian. These Huge monolithic
structures dominate the Vienna skyline, and until very recently have been ignored and forgotten.
There are few visible remains of the SecondWorld War in Vienna today. With generous funding
from the Marshall Plan, the badly damaged city was quickly re-built, virtually brick-by-brick. In many cases, the
city’s wrecked theatres, churches and grand palaces were so well restored that not even close scrutiny by
today’s visitor can distinguish between what is original and what has been recreated.
Also, there are few
official war memorials. Indeed, only within the last twenty years have monuments been commissioned in the city
to remind people directly of the terrible cost of Vienna’s wilful and inexorable slide into Fascism sixty years
ago; these include the “Holocaust Memorial” (Holocaust Mahnmal) by British artist Rachel Whiteread, in
Judenplatz; and the “Monument against War and Fascism” (Mahnmal gegen Krieg und Faschismus) by Austrian sculptor
Alfred Hrdlickla, in Albertinaplatz. Yet there stands in Vienna a stark, immutable reminder of the years of the
Third Reich: six huge reinforced concrete anti-aircraft towers whose blank facades and imposing mass contrast
sharply with the city’s finely-restored historical architecture. --- Duncan J. D. Smith
Castles of death
In 1942 Hitler had decreed that Vienna, like the capital Berlin and the busy port of Hamburg,
should be protected by a series of anti-aircraft towers known as Flaktürme. (The word Flak is an acronym for
Fliegerabwehrkanone, meaning anti-aircraft gun.) In Vienna three pairs of towers were constructed by German
troops during 1943 and 2 in 1944 forming a defensive triangle centred on the city’s great cathedral, the
Stephansdom (note 2). Each pair consisted of a large, heavily gunned attack tower (Gefechtsturm) and a smaller
communications tower (Leitturm).
These monumental concrete fortresses were meant to serve as platforms for
batteries of anti-aircraft guns. In order to boost the air defense of German cities, Hitler ordered the building
of a series of immense towers throughout the country. Three of these towers were built in Berlin, additional two
in Hamburg and, six more in Vienna.
Vienna City Center
The towers were not to be taken lightly, and were able to fire 8,000 rounds per minute
range of up to 14 km in a full 360-degree field of fire. Each tower complex consisted of two separate towers,
one of these 8,000 a minute G or gun towers and an L-tower (or command tower) which served as command center. In
addition, the towers served as air raid shelters for up to 10, 000 people.
The tower walls were 3.5m of
reinforced concrete, enough to survive an attack by conventional bombs carried by allied bombers of the age, but
unlikely to survive the attack by so-called Grand Slam bombs especially designed for busting enemy bunkers.
Flakturm VII in Augarten, Vienna is a Generation 3 flak tower and was dangerous enough to be generally avoided
by allied air-force during the war. Both G and L towers of Flakturm survived the war with little damage.
The locations of the Flak Towers were incredibly important, in order to defend the City Center.
As you can see form the image, all the 6 towers are located in groups of 2, in a triangle formation. This was
done in order to have full coverage of the air above the City, this was effective! Vienna was one of the Axis
Cities to recieve the least amount of Bombing from the allies, the bombers were terrified of the deadly
Towers were built in the spacious Augarten in the 2nd district of Leopoldstadt
(defacing in the
process Austria’s oldest surviving Baroque garden dating to 1712). Another pair were squeezed into Arenbergpark
in the predominantly residential 3rd district of Landstrasse. The third pair, straddling the busy thoroughfare
of Mariahilferstrasse, were laid out in the 6th district of
Mariahilf; one of these was built in the Esterházypark whilst the second was punched into the courtyard of
What about Now?
After more than 70 years, the concrete towers are now an essential and integral part of the city
of Vienna and its inhabitants. Today, the overall appearance of the Augarten park is defined by the tension
between its tranquil idyll and acts of violence and destruction. A huge graffiti in the plinth area with the
words ‘Never Again’ now greets visitors to the park.
Both towers in the Augarten park are owned by the
Republic of Austria and administered by the Burghauptmannschaft. Although they have been leased by a data
company (since 2002), to be renovated and used as huge data centres, they remain empty and closed to this day. A
previous plan proposed the Gefechtsturm to be repurposed as a museum for contemporary history (between 1986 and
The Augarten Gefechtsturm is a hexadecagon 43 meters in diameter. It is 55 meters high, has
a basement and 13 storeys plus an added level for cannons. Most of the outer walls are 2.5 meters thick and the
uppermost ceiling is between 3.5 meters and 4 meters thick. The flak tower consists of more than 45,000 cubic
metres of reinforced concrete. Like every flak tower, this one also has an integrated natural climate system,
which has remained almost intact. The entire technical infrastructure (electricity, water, gas, lift) has either
been demolished or not been preserved. Following a grenade explosion caused by children playing in 1946 the
Gefechtsturm is badly damaged both on the inside and the outside, particularly the upper storeys. As part of
restructuring measures in 2007 two of the platforms known as Schwalbennester (swallow’s nests), which originally
served as gun emplacements, were removed as they were at risk of collapsing.
Vandalism, Decay and Neglect
Despite their longevity, surprisingly little has been done to either adapt Vienna’s huge Flak
towers to new uses or to acknowledge their status as memorials of war. Since 1945 the Austrian government has
considered more than a dozen plans for comprehensive re-use of the towers but none has ever got beyond the
drawing board. This has lead the structures to gradually fall into disrepair, victim to graffiti, vandalism and
placement for satalittes. A structure with such historical relevance, left to decay and be forgotten.
time, as diverse new uses of the structure and surrounding park developed -from a playground and climbing wall,
to an underground torture museum- a certain level of comfort with the tower’s presence is expressed. This also
included proposals to wrap apartments around the outside of the towers, and to use the gloomy interiors as
multi-storey parking lots, cinemas, and leisure centres.
Interview with Vienna local Rudolf H.
‘After the war, I can’t remember exactly what year it was, but they tried to blow up the towers. But that
concrete is so thick it’s impossible. They would have to use so much force that the buildings all around would
That’s why it’s still standing there, like a monument. That was used to protect people, from
the air raids. They had anti-aircraft guns on top, flak towers is what they called them, an air defence system.
And whenever there was a bomb alarm people would run inside, for protection. That’s what it was built for!’
Haus De Meers
Due to their thick walls keep interior temperatures constant and the reinforced floors are able
to support great loads, the towers make the ideal superstructures for zoological collections such as aquariums:
that is, which require environmental controls and huge water tanks. With this in mind, the communication tower
in Alpenverein has been successfully converted into the House of the Sea (Haus des Meeres) and 3 now houses many
species including snakes, piranhas and crocodiles as well as sharks and giant turtles.
A door cut with much
effort through the eight-foot thick reinforced concrete wall gives access to a conservatory (or biotope) known
as the Tropenhaus, which is bolted on to one side of the tower; this addition contains a miniature rain forest
complete with its own waterfall and fully grown trees. In addition, an elaborate climbing-wall has been
installed on one of the exterior walls of the Alpenverein tower; a highly unusual urban reproduction of an
alpine rock face.
An updated extension to the aquarium has now been confirmed for next year, visible on the
right. A big and expensive upgrade to the building costing millions of euros. A artist historian group from
Vienna made a petition for the upgrade to have some sort of historical reference, due to the fact that to do the
upgrade involved removing a famous pice of Vienna artwork (Image to the right). (This artwork was a refernece to
the war, and was on the face of the Tower for 50 years, to then just be replaced by a glass panel, hiding the
true historical context of the building). The municipality responded by allowing the art group to put up a small
plaque in the nearby park.
On the initiative of the district administration Mariahilf, a plaque is being erected as part of
the redesign of the Esterhazy Park, which contextualizes the flak tower in the Esterhazy Park. Between 1942 and
1944 six flak towers were built in Vienna after plans by Friedrich Tamms, using a considerable number of forced
laborers, especially prisoners of war, who suffered under inhumane working and living conditions. The completely
preserved ensemble of Vienna’s six flak towers is one of the most significant relics of National Socialist
architecture in Austria. There were never any serious plans to use the towers as memorials, nor were the towers
distinctly marked as documents of the Nazi system. Numerous conversion measures were discussed and rejected
throughout the decades.
The flak tower in Esterházy Park, which has been home to the Haus des Meeres (House
of the Sea), a public aquarium, since 1958, is an exception. For a long time, the outer appearance of the tower
was hardly changed by its use. However, as the space required increased, conversions interfered more strongly
with the architectural design. In accordance with the City of Vienna, an extension realized from 2017 to 2019
almost doubled the volume of the historical structure, making the original flak tower largely invisible.
the course of this conversion, Lawrence Weiner’s conceptual artwork, the monumental inscription at the top of
the flak tower “Zerschmettert in Stücke (im Frieden der Nacht) / Smashed to pieces (in the peace of the night),”
was painted over in agreement with the artist. When the curators of Wiener Festwochen acquired the work as a
temporary installation in 1991 and decided for the flak tower as its location, they deliberately placed the
sentence in the context of Nazi history. The inscription became one of the most internationally renowned works
of art in Vienna’s public space and existed much longer than planned. --
However this is only one small plaque at
one Flak tower, you can see from this Vienna local that she feels this way about the Augartenpark Towers
Interview with Vienna local Johann S
I find it irritating that there’s no information here. No information
panel about what it was. But whenever I walk past, it reminds me of a sad chapter. – The first idea that springs
to mind is to landscape it. So at least the bunker disappears behind some greenery, give it an eco-purpose.
‘Erase by Adaptive Reuse’
Reflections on the uses of WW2 flak towers in context - wasteheritageresearch
only one of the many ways by which the significance and material legacy of a specific place can be lost. The
current paradigm of adaptive reuse argues that any use of a building is better than none, and that changes in
use should be seen as positive creative adaptations that prolong the life of a building. This is reinforced by
arguments about the environmental benefits of prolonging embedded material effects, and cultural benefits of
collaged urban forms which like a palimpsest are writing over what was partly erased. In some cases however, the
result of adapting a structure to a new use, even if it still achieves all these things, is either a deliberate
erasure of negative memories or a calculated plan to aid in forgetting them.
All the flak towers are grouped
in twos, with a Gefechtsturm (combat tower) and a Leitturm (lead tower) forming one pair. These pairs of towers
are arranged in a triangle around the heart of Vienna’s historic centre, the Stephansdom. Originally, the Nazis
planned to convert the flak towers into gigantic victory monuments to fallen German soldiers. After the war, the
towers were to have been clad in white marble. Fortunately, history turned out differently.
The tower’s concrete materiality, and debates around the demolition, preservation or
of such structures both here and elsewhere, benefit from understanding that Weiner’s work is about materials as
much as words. Concrete bunkers, air raid shelters and other massive elements often seem indestructible.
Nevertheless there are examples of some that have been demolished, and certainly less massive concrete
structures are now demolished all the time. Groups like Nonument! are now working to raise awareness and
discussion about such less desirable legacies and the significance of their loss or destruction.
and weaknesses of a society are demonstrated in war, and these qualities are often mirrored in the memorials to
its wars. Attempts to commemorate war unavoidably create a distinct political landscape. Whether a statue, a
place, a building, or a combination of these and other elements, a war memorial is a social and physical
arrangement of space and artifacts to keep alive the memories of persons who participated in a war sponsored by
their country.' A memorial is an artifact that imposes meaning and order beyond the temporal and chaotic
experiences of life.
Incorrect Contexualisation through Video Games
The Towers feature a bizarre amount in video games such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honour. The
combat in the games is gritty and violent, including a paratrooper parachuting onto a Towers and conqueering the
entire building with a small squad. This is odd as action like this never occured during the war, the towers
actually had very little action as the allied troops would go near them.
To top the whole thing of,
ironically the aim of the mission is to get your character to load explosives throughout the whole tower and to
detonate the explosives and blow the whole structure up. This happens in a epic moment at the end (gif below),
its ironic becasue this is what they originally wanted to do with the Towers in Vienna, erase them from history,
and in the game they achieve this. But due to the early game animation the tower doesnt blow up it more just
sets on fire and smokes
Game map/level description
This map is set in the city of Essen, Germany,
several kilometers from the original factory drop zone shown in the previous mission. Der Flakturm is a massive,
concrete structure, with several 128mm FlaK 40 anti-aircraft guns at the very top. It is not particularly large
in terms of width, but is very tall. The tower itself is located within the bombed-out remains of a residential
The Future of the Flak Towers in reference to other war monuments
War memorials acquire their landscape definition from sentiment, utility, social purposes, and historical
interpretations. Social purposes of identity and service can be used to express sacred and nonsacred sentiment
for war memory, but honor and humanitarinism are used only to symbolize the sacred in memorials. When physical
settings, forms of sentiment, and social purpose are combined in memorials, war memory socially becomes either a
part of everyday life or a celebration of the past. Forms of meaning in war memorials are influenced by
reinterpretations of political history that enhance, contradict, or deemphasize the status of past wars.’
There are plenty of war monumnets around the world to take example of, but in my opnion the one which I think
Vienna can take inspiration from is the Atom bomb monument in Hiroshima.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial
(Genbaku Dome) was the only structure left standing in the area where the first atomic bomb exploded on 6 August
1945. Through the efforts of many people, including those of the city of Hiroshima, it has been preserved in the
same state as immediately after the bombing. Not only is it a stark and powerful symbol of the most destructive
force ever created by humankind; it also expresses the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) was the only structure left standing in
the area where the first atomic bomb exploded on 6 August 1945. Through the efforts of many people, including
those of the city of Hiroshima, it has been preserved in the same state as immediately after the bombing. Not
only is it a stark and powerful symbol of the most destructive force ever created by humankind; it also
expresses the hope for world peace and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.
The most important
meaning of the surviving structure of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial is in what it symbolizes, rather than just
its aesthetic and architectural values. This silent structure is the skeletal form of the surviving remains of
the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall (constructed in 1914). It symbolizes the tremendous
destructive power, which humankind can invent on the one hand; on the other hand, it also reminds us of the hope
for world permanent peace.