Flak-Türme Towers, Vienna:
Nazi concrete heritage at Vienna′s heart

The Flak Tower in the Augarten Park in Vienna - one out of six Nazi concrete towers in Vienna

The Flak Towers are enormous concrete towers that are very visible at several spots all over Vienna. "FLAK" stands for "Flug Abwehr Kanone" and was a program of the Nazis to protect cities and residential areas from air raids with bombs. Their construction was planned in September 1942 and Vienna was the third city after Berlin and Hamburg that got them.

The Flak Towers fulfilled two purposes: They held cannons and spotlights that should fight airplanes from the ground; and they were important bunkers with an autonomous electricity, air and water supply system. They always come in pairs, comprising of one large tower and a slightly smaller one. The three pairs of Vienna can be found in the Augarten in the second district, the Arenberg Park in the third district and one each in the Esterhazypark in the sixth and the Stiftskaserne in the seventh district.

The Flak towers of Vienna are used for different purposes. The one in the Stiftskaserne is used by the military, the one in the Esterhazypark houses the "Haus des Meeres", a private zoo and aquarium. The pair in the Arenberg Park is used by the Museum für Angewandte Kunst as a depot and open to the public for a few hours on Sundays. The pair in the Augarten is used party as storage space, but essentially empty.

Construction of the Flak Towers in 1944

The mastermind behind the construction of the Flak Towers in Vienna, Hamburg and Berlin was the architect Friedrich Tamms. The towers were built between the winter of 1942 and autumn 1944. By the time they were finished, aircraft technology had advanced and so the cannons of the Flak towers did not reach most of the bomber units anymore. However, the Viennese gratefully accepted the Flak towers′ use as bunkers and bomb shelters. They could take up many thousand people during air raids.

The Flak towers of Vienna are the only ones that survived until today. Those in Berlin were destroyed after the war, those of Hamburg strongly altered. Today, they are listed and therefore, protected to a certain extent. Attempts of the Soviet army to destroy those in the Arenberg Park after WWII with explosives resulted in damages in the surrounding buildings only. Later, the destruction by more manual means proved to be too expensive.

Flak Towers, Vienna: What to do with them?

The discussion on how to use them is going on for decades now and it is not certain whether they will remain in their current design. In any case, they are features in the skyline of Vienna that few would like to remove - the city of Vienna′s urban development division and the Architekturzentrum Wien called them the "best and most accessible anti-war memorials" that Vienna could hope for.

Today, the Flak towers are preserved for their historical, but also for their (subtle) aesthetic value. One architect called them "20th century city walls" and thus, recommended to protect them. As of 2008, there are no serious plans to destroy the towers and only few to incorporate them into modern buildings. It seems that at least for the next few decades, the Flak towers will remain mostly as they are.

To enjoy a view over Vienna from one of the towers, go to the Haus des Meeres, where you can access the roof terrace; or to the Contemporary Art Depot in the Arenbergpark. To learn more on the history of Vienna during WWII, I recommend the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum or the Wien Museum.

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Vienna by District

District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten) - 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) -  Ringstraße - Surroundings

Further Reading

Excellent Wikipedia Article on the Flak Towers (English)

Nerdy German website on the Flak Towers of Vienna

Haus des Meeres - Official Website