Viertel Zwei: In the Zone
A city within the city, a microcosm or just Viertel Zwei? It is not easy for me to come up with the perfect name for this neighborhood in the second district, given the myriad impressions it leaves on me. A group of schoolchildren being treated to a guided tour of the site just before the start of the summer holidays know exactly what I mean. As I walk by, their teacher explains “People can spend their entire lives in Viertel Zwei: they go to kindergarten here, to school, go on to work in one of the offices and live right here in the residential buildings." Fascinating and inviting in equal measure. The journey of discovery begins.
Quirky, Feel-Good Architecture
Things take an unexpectedly idyllic turn at Krieau, a station on the U2 subway line. It is a place where architectural aesthetics, nature and innovation come together: Viertel Zwei is an ideal location for businesses, and also provides a unique living and working environment for thousands of people.
Getting an urban oasis like this just right takes a lengthy planning process. Value One – a company specializing in real estate and site development – acquired the land back in the early 2000s and got to work creating a new living space immediately. Completely car-free, in 2018 Viertel Zwei became the first recipient of a platinum development certificate from the Austrian Society for Sustainable Real Estate Management (ÖGNI) confirming its status as a sustainable urban quarter.
One of the reasons for this was the underlying concept, which was carefully thought through right down to the smallest detail: occupying 160,000 square meters, the site includes 13,000 square meters of green spaces, a lake, a fountain, three kindergartens a school, in future two new hotels and a student dorm as well as numerous bars and restaurants for the all-important feel-good factor. An attractive prospect for businesses, as well as residents and outsiders who visit and end up wanting to come back time and again. Construction will continue until 2026, with a residential building, an office property and an elementary school still to come. Once finished, 15,000 people will live and work here – in a slice of urban planning heaven.
Well-thought-out details jump out at me everywhere I turn: the green areas are laid out around the 5,000 square meter lake, with year-round seating positioned under trees and on the grass. Overlooking the water, naturally. And a dressing table, which stands in the middle of the lake. This is part of the sculpture park. A larger-than-life sign saying Total Living is another of the art installations found in the area.
The overall setup is not only the work of numerous national and international architects, but also of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office. Not everything that glitters here is in fact new. Many of the existing buildings on this historic site have been preserved. These include the listed stables and grandstands of the Krieau harness racing track. Among the first reinforced concrete buildings to be built in the Art Nouveau style, they were completed between 1912 and 1914 by Otto Wagner's students Marcel Kammerer, Otto Schönthal and Emil Hoppe. And in 2021 they were given a new lease on life. Today, they are used as state-of-the-art offices. Races still take place here to this day.
But there’s more to Viertel Zwei than just an innovative urban quarter, it’s also a showcase project for intelligent energy use and distribution. This is because it optimally combines various renewable sources such as geothermal energy, groundwater, wastewater, waste heat and photovoltaics – in what is known in the trade as an anergy network. As a result, 85 percent of Viertel Zwei’s heating and cooling needs can be covered with zero CO2 emissions, thanks to what’s available on site. In fact, this green energy network is the second-largest anergy grid in Europe.
World Fair to World Leader
Even 20 years ago, no one would have thought that this inaccessible plot of fallow land between the Ernst Happel Stadium and the Prater amusement park would one day become a prime example of Viennese urban development. But today, Viertel Zwei, the Vienna University of Economics and Business campus, Messe Wien and the Prater form a new urban habitat that unites past, present and future.
Extending over six million square meters, the wider Prater area has plenty of space for humans and animals to coexist. There’s the leafy Prater park and the Prater amusement park, the perfect leisure spot for people of all ages. And then there’s new, modern neighboring quarters that sprung up in the 2000s including Messe Wien, which is an important location for international congresses. And all the more impressive given that the Vienna World's Fair – the granddaddy of all expos – was held at this very location in 1873.
A short walk away is the Sigmund Freud Private University and the campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), a leading academic institution and one of the most attractive business universities in Europe. And Viertel Zwei, innovative neighborhood and living space.
The area surrounding Viertel Zwei is set for further development: spring 2023 will see a new exhibition venue open to commemorate the iconic Rotunda building, which was the landmark of the World's Fair 150 years ago. Called Panorama Vienna, its modern-day counterpart will stand ten stories high. The outsize images on display inside are designed to convey a unique impression of the past and present.
Time for a Treat
Anyone who explores this huge area on foot will, like me, probably need to stop off for refreshments along the way. The cafés, bars and restaurants at Viertel Zwei and the WU campus largely cater to students and people working in nearby offices. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else who would like to have breakfast with friends, business brunch, lunch, after-work drinks or a student party for that matter aren’t equally welcome. There really is something for everyone. On the WU campus, the Welthandelsplatz square is at the heart of the foodie action: Baschly serves up a Near East breakfast featuring falafel and hummus, while Finn and Campus are popular spots for a few tipples once work’s over or a laid-back dinner with friends.
At Viertel Zwei the lunchtime rush hour peaks at noon when employees from the surrounding offices all nip out for something to eat. Lyo and Citylake are popular bars – and outdoor seats on the waterfront are always in demand (if possible, it’s best to make a reservation!). Summer menus featuring scallops au gratin, crisp calamari fritti at Lyo, or Hong Kong-style squid with black pepper at Citylake are both modern and visually appealing – just like the neighborhood they serve.
Things start to quieten down at about 2pm, only to pick up again when the offices close for the day. There’s generally less going on at Viertel Zwei on the weekends, making it perfect for a leisurely stroll or the odd Insta walk. After all, this city within a city has more than enough photo ops up its sleeve.
Viertel Zwei restaurant tips:
WU campus restaurant tips:
The harness racing track has been around since 1878. Check online for the latest race schedules.
Text: Karoline Knezevic