Vienna International Center:
UNO City, Home to the United Nations in Austria
The Vienna International Center is not only one of Vienna′s biggest, but also one of the city′s ugliest buildings. Nevertheless, it is home to a whole bunch of genuinely significant and useful departments of the United Nations. The "VIC" - the official acronym of the Vienna International Center - is colloquially referred to as "UNO City" and was built between 1973 and 1979.
It is situated in the 22nd district of Donaustadt and one of very few attractions in this rather suburban district. Over the decades, the "Donau City" grew around the Vienna International Center and became one of Vienna′s most important commercial and office areas. To me, it is cold, uninviting, unpleasant and generally bleak.
This is underlined by the sheer size of the Donau City: A mix of office towers and rather shabby apartment blocks, dominated by the VIC at its core. The Vienna International Centre is home to 230,000 square metres of office space and has its own postal zip code - 1400. This is partly because the UNO City has the status of an extraterritorial entity - like as embassy. Therefore, the facility is secured by its own security staff and not by Austrian police forces. Members of the UN staff drive cars with diplomat plates (starting with WD for "Wien Diplomat").
UNO City as a separate city within Vienna
The outline of the building forms the shape of the letter "Y" with one tower at each branch - aligned in a way that no tower will put shade on another. Due to the excessive use of asbestos at the construction of the "UNO City", the building is currently being renovated and extended until later in 2008.
The new "C2" conference centre will be a state-of-the-art facility for meetings of the UN and other organisations. It will supplement the Austria Center Vienna, a convention centre that seats approximately 9,500 people. It was built between 1983 and 1987 - the Austria Center Vienna is a private entity and not associated with the Vienna International Center; however, since it is the biggest venue of its kind in the nearby surroundings, it is often used by the UN and therefore, commonly seen as part of the "UNO City".
The story of the Vienna International Center goes back to the early 1970ies, when the social democrat maniac chancellor Bruno Kreisky felt an urge to make Austria a global player on the stage of international politics. He did so no only by pissing off Israel through supporting the Palestinian cause (Kreisky himself was of Jewish descent), but also by acting important in all sorts of meetings - defining Austria as the uniting force between East and West.
Interesting Facts about the UNO City Vienna
It was in this context that he worked towards the UN opening a facility in Vienna. The facilities of the UN were rented to the organisation for one Austrian Schilling a year (approximately 72 cents in the current currency) for 99 years. The maintenance is paid by the UNO.
This might sound like a pretty good deal, but in fact, the presence of the UN is great for Austria, too. Not only does it accumulate approximately 5,000 members of relatively well-paid staff - the UNO organises some 1,000 meetings and conferences every year in Vienna. This makes it to an important feature for both Vienna′s considerable ex-pat community and the high-end tourism industry. The United Nations Office at Vienna is, by the way, one of four. The one in New York City (the headquarter) and the one in Geneva are probably more famous, the fourth one in Nairobi even less known than the Viennese office.
Attractions nearby are very limited - the Donauturm Tower and the Donaupark are within walking distance. The Donauinsel, a long-stretched island on the Danube, is good for walks or jogging. Otherwise, the surroundings are either commercial shopping centres or boring residential areas. That being said, the UNO city is very well connected to the city centre via subway, tram and highways - so continuing your sightseeing tour in a more central area shouldn′t be a problem at all.
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