Altes AKH - Old General Hospital - Part II
Vienna′s only "Campus", a student hang-out

The AKH was opened in 1783 and for the first time in its (even then considerable) history, exclusively devoted to health care. The hospital was associated with the "Narrenturm" or "fool′s tower", a home for mentally ill people (=loonies), a venue for giving birth and an orphanage. The Narrenturm was also called "Guglhupf", because it was shaped like this ultimate Austrian cake.

It was home to 200 to 250 loonies; today, it is home to the pathology and anatomy collections of the medical university and a federal museum (Bundesmuseum). The loonies today roam the streets of Vienna everywhere, hard to miss them. The Narrenturm, however, is used for cultural events and concerts. Equipped with such modern scope through the guidance of Joseph II, the General Hospital leaped into the 19th century as one of the World′s most modern medical institutions.

It remained one throughout the turbulent 100 years that followed and was a key ingredient to the worldwide fame of the school of medicine that Vienna University had well into the 20th century. In 1834, two more courts were added (there are now nine courts altogether). Ignaz Philip Semmelweis discovered the working of infections here, Karl Landsteiner discovered the blood groups and Sigmund Freud studied neurology.

Vienna General Hospital AKH & Modernism

Speaking of Freud: To accommodate the increase in the Jewish population in Vienna during the 19th century, a small synagogue was built in 1903. The architect in charge was Max Fleischer. The AKH synagogue was destroyed in the Reichskristallnacht by the Nazis and used as an electricity equipment room after the war. Only in 2005, the former synagogue was refurbished and now serves as a memorial and cultural venue.

After WWII, the campus of the Old AKH did finally not match the standards of a modern hospital any longer. The people in charge decided to built a completely new building, the Neues AKH - its construction, in walking distance to the old AKH, was started in 1964. The two main towers were started in 1974 and the Altes AKH finally became exclusively a teaching venue. For this purpose - or probably rather because the university wanted to rent out some of the space there - the inner courtyards were refurbished with great care. Shops and bars moved in with much enthusiasm, but in the meantime, it has turned out that students are too "seasonal" to make reliable customers. Several bars have closed and were replaced by offices.

Attractions nearby are often concerned with the Main University, the Medical University or applied medicine: The Freud Museum in Berggasse or the Josephinum, the old school of surgery. The Votivkirche is not too far; the Palais Liechtenstein is a highlight among Vienna′s museums and the Rossauer Kaserne is worth a closer look; the Volksoper is a nearby opera house. The many allies and lanes of the district make Alsergrund one of Vienna′s most attractive areas. It is full with small shops, cafes and restaurants that accommodate the many students who live here.

Return to "Altes AKH - Part I"

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Further Reading

City of Vienna: English article on the Altes AKH Campus

Official Website of the Altes AKH / Uni Campus

Wikimedia Commons has photos from the Altes AHK Vienna