Stuwerviertel: Creating Campus Life
It’s a tricky business to reinvent a city district.
The resurrection of the Gasometer – with a shopping mall and apartment buildings – more than a decade ago aimed to revitalise the 11th District.
But somehow, the project never quite took off, leaving a mediocre shopping mall and plenty of empty apartments.
The prospects for the Stuwerviertel are more promising:
With the new "WU", short for Wirtschaftsuniversität (Vienna University of Economics and Business), 25,000 students and employees have moved here, bringing new life to an area that was once Vienna’s biggest red light district.
It’s hard to imagine now, on the shiny new campus designed by internationally renowned architects like Zara Hadid.
Nearby, new apartment buildings have popped up, like milestone, right outside of the Messe/Prater subway stop, offering fully furnished, stylish apartments – with a lot of glass, and plenty of opportunities for passers-by to peek in.
At €550 a month it’s not really a bargain for the average student.
But you can’t beat the location, and after passing the Messe Wien, we found ourselves right on the new WU campus.
Lost in transition
"Is this… a Ferris wheel?" my Australian companion exclaimed in disbelief, seeing the Prater’s famed Riesenrad and the neighbouring carousel filling the campus skyline.
The proximity to the Prater of course also means that the park’s meadows and recreational areas are just around the corner.
Entertainment, nature and academia have never been closer.
While the campus would of course be hopping on weekdays, we were surprised to find how busy it was on a late Saturday afternoon.
There were the usual clichéd WU types – preppy business and economics students taking advantage of the long hours at the library.
But there were also some, like us, who had just come to see what this "talk of the town" was all about.
One of the first stops was the Departments and Administration building, designed by the London-based CRABstudio.
Was it still under construction? The wooden lamella suggested that the orange and red buildings looked that way, but we were told construction was over.
For a group of elderly people nearby, the unfinished look was a hot topic – with one woman complaining that this "modern architecture" was clearly nothing compared to the Colosseum.
Feeding tomorrow’s elite
The good thing about weekends on campus is that the eateries are less busy.
It was starting to rain on this grey Saturday, so we stopped by comida y luz, a restaurant and cocktail bar in the upper level of the EA building – not a location you just stumble across.
Their prices seemed high for students – at least for students of the Humanities. Are business students so different?
We kept going. At nykke, a Scandinavian restaurant, we finally found shelter. The interior is very young, very IKEA, very per Du. "Not all of the furniture is from IKEA," the waitress explained smiling – but it sure looked like it.
The Scandinavia-inspired menu (with charming Swedish names for their meals) is more than affordable. During the week, they have dags bowls for €6.80, offering a sup, wøk, påstå or cörry of the day.
The waffles with different toppings are to die for – leaning back in the rocking chair, enjoying the colourful wall art, the bright wooden floors and the white wooden furniture, my companion and I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic for our not-so-long-gone student days.
Back outside, we headed for the learning center, a trademark building of dramatic angles and mystifying suspension – the students call it "the UFO" – which is open until midnight every night, unusually late for Vienna’s universities.
After passing the mensa – even the students’ main eatery is stylish here, with the motto "picnic in nature" expressed by life-sized photos of trees on the walls – the rain started getting heavier.
Fortunately, das campus was near.
Just looking in the windows, we knew that we would like it: Instead of the usual flowers, herbs serve as decoration on the wooden tables, and the comfortable pillows and booths right by the windows made it irresistible for us not to step in.
The menu consists of salads, steaks and "the best burgers in town" – which is debatable, but the crowd was a fun mix of students, young families and older couples.
Still, the area is a work in progress: Besides one supermarket, there are no shops around, and venturing out of the campus bubble, we realised the ghost town neighbourhood left a lot of room for improvement.
There is the trabrennverein krieau, where trotters race every two weeks, and in front of it, an enormous circus tent: gourmet chef Toni Mörwald’s palazzo – "Europe’s most successful gourmet theatre."
But the show hadn’t started, so there wasn’t a soul on this side of campus.
On Ausstellungsstraße, we found a few older, less stylish eateries, like the wasabi asia grill haus, giuseppe ristorante-pizzeria and the excellent Lebanese bistro le cédre, that are busier during the week.
The whole area is, in fact, still a construction site, with more than just one building hidden behind scaffolding.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years, as real life catches up with city planning.
Still, both students and visitors seemed to like the new location – and so did my Australian companion:
"If I were a student here, I’d brag about it."
Welthandelsplatz 1 D4 Top 1
Das Campus,Welthandelsplatz 1 (entrance
Trabrennverein Krieau, Nordportalstraße 247,
Le Cèdre, Ausstellungsstraße 51
Toni Mörwald's Palazzo
Comida y Luz
Welthandelsplatz 1, Building EA / Level 6