After nearly four years of extensive renovations, the fully transformed Wien Museum on Karlsplatz is preparing to welcome the public once again in December 2023. Not only has the Vienna city museum undergone a significant transformation. It has also experienced a remarkable expansion, featuring exciting additions, such as a captivating “floating” floor, a stunning public terrace, a delightful café, and much more.
Opened in 1959 as the “Historical Museum of the City of Vienna” on Karlsplatz, the Wien Museum – designed by the famous Viennese architect Oswald Haerdtl – was the first and for a long time the only new cultural building to go up in the capital in the post-war period. Over the years, short on space and in dire need of renovation, it gradually started to cause its owners a headache. Rather than tearing it down and starting again, the decision was made in 2013 to renovate and expand the existing premises.
New Complements Old
The renovation project formally got under way in 2019, with the official groundbreaking ceremony for the conversion held in mid-2020. The heritage-listed, Haerdtl-designed building has been extensively renovated by Austrian architectural team Certov, Winkler + Ruck (who secured the commission following a competition involving 273 other studios from 26 countries).
When the historic building reopens, the completely-redesigned permanent exhibition will span all three of its floors, documenting Vienna’s urban history from bottom (Roman times) to top (the present day). And it also comes with a completely new fixture: a new uppermost level which will “float” above the original structure. Made of exposed concrete, this cube will be used to house temporary exhibitions. A special highlight is a connecting element created in the open space to link the old part of the building and the cube: a publicly-accessible terrace level complete with a stunning view of the Karlskirche church and the surrounding area. In addition to the panorama, this additional floor offers space for a café, an event center and mediation studios.
Double the Space for Poldi et al
The goal of the project – besides expanding the building and bringing it up to the state of the art – was to incorporate the surrounding area. A spacious glass pavilion has been added to the entrance area, while the plaza in front of the museum and a restaurant with outdoor seating on the ground floor (operator GMS Gourmet promises modern Viennese cuisine) looking out over Karlsplatz help to anchor the space in the local environment.
To aid orientation, the museum is now laid out in a spiral configuration. The former atrium has been converted into a 25-meter-high central hall, which will be used to showcase various large-format objects in future: including “Poldi” (a massive model of a whale which once adorned legendary former eatery Zum Walfisch in the Prater park), a magnificent 19th century mayoral carriage, a model of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the original sculptures from the Donnerbrunnen fountain.
Energy efficiency at the museum has also been improved significantly. Thanks to the use of geothermal energy for heating and cooling, as well as the installation of solar arrays and high-performance insulation, the building is almost able to cover all of its own energy needs.
First the Permanent Exhibition, Then the Temporary Shows
The countdown to the grand reopening on December 6, 2023 has already started. In the meantime, work will continue deep into the fall on curating the new permanent exhibition, which is set to provide the focus for the reopening. And on February 1, 2024, the first major temporary exhibition will launch. It pays tribute to the legendary Baroque master builder Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who designed, among other things, the neighboring Karlskirche church. Opening on May 22, 2024 the next temporary show will shed light on the secessionist movements in Vienna, Berlin and Munich around 1900.