Highly inclined: the Learning and Library Center

The new University of Economics and Business in Vienna was previously located in a building in need of renovation from the 1970s, which gave those in charge of the university the opportunity to build a new campus. The new Library and Learning Center is the heart of this facility. It was designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid and presented those involved in its realisation with some construction challenges. One of these was fire prevention.

FeuerTRUTZ International 1.2018: Highly inclined the Learning and Library Center
Fig. 1: The Library and Learning Center is the heart of the campus at the new University of Economics and Business in Vienna. (Source: HOBA)

By Claudia El Ahwany. A university campus was developed in Vienna on an area covering 90,000 m². The Library and Learning Center (LLC) was designed by the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Zaha Hadid and combines the functions of a traditional library with a learning facility and the very latest technology.

The building is also the heart of the campus. Its main entrance is clearly aligned towards the central square of the campus. And a glance at its exterior reveals a polygonal structure that is characterised by straight lines, rounded edges and slanted walls. The façades incline in some cases by up to 35°. It is immediately noticeable that the building consists of two structures interwoven into each other, one of which is dark and the other light. The dark section is open to the public, while the light section is only accessible to administrative staff. Both sections are separated by a glass joint that stretches across the entire building. In accordance with the vision of the designer, the forum and the public entrance area form part of the exterior space. When entering the building, visitors can barely ignore the dynamic impression radiated by the interior space. From the entrance level, guests move upwards through the OMC Library Center via spiral-shaped ramps and stairs. The funnel-shaped library extends over six stories and ultimately takes over the whole of the top two floors.

The article was published in FeuerTRUTZ International, issue 1.2018 (January 2018).
More information about eMagazine FeuerTRUTZ International

FeuerTRUTZ International 1.2018: Highly inclined the Learning and Library Center
Fig. 2: The individual panes of glass here were only connected together vertically with silicone. (Source: HOBA)

Project realisation

The LLC reflects the tastes of the architect: lots of rounded edges and few right angles. A fact that does not exactly make the realisation of such a project easy. The facility can house 25,000 students and 1,500 employees, which placed additional demands on those tasked with guaranteeing the safety of the building and the fire protection measures. The main challenge related to fire protection was the overhead glazing in the atrium. This was because the glass elements were not only curved but also had different angles of inclination. Furthermore, the joints between the individual panes were only to be filled with silicone – a design featuring bars was not desired for aesthetic reasons. These difficulties where the reason, why the planer contacted Hoba. In order to verify that the glazing was indeed possible, HOBA built a 1:1 model of the overhead glazing with a 45° inclination that passed over into a horizontal position. The employees at the company then commissioned the Civil Engineering Materials Testing Institute (MPA) in Braunschweig to assess the model in a fire safety test. The model was able to withstand a test period of much longer than 90 minutes. This meant that the design could be classified in resistance class F 90. Those involved in the project then started work on the details, whereby they also took into account the cost of such a construction.

FeuerTRUTZ International 1.2018: Highly inclined the Learning and Library Center
Fig. 3: Alongside the overhead glazing, numerous Hoba fire protection doors in various different designs were installed. (Source: HOBA)

Verification of the special design

FeuerTRUTZ International 1.2018: Highly inclined the Learning and Library Center
Fig. 4: A pointed glass-glass corner made out of fire-resistant glazing with edge protection profiles in the new Library and Learning Center. (Source: HOBA)

Between the first discussions and the tests based upon it and the actual realisation of the project, the relevant standards were revised so that only those tests and certificates based on the European standards could be used as the basis for the work. However, the entire planning and pricing had been based on the corresponding German DIN standards. But also for this problem the employees of Hoba found a solution. They completed the fire safety tests once again based on the latest standards. The design passed the test once more and there was thus nothing left standing in the way of it receiving the required verifications and ultimately being installed. Alongside the overhead glazing, Hoba also supplied numerous fire protection doors in various different designs. Their installation was also planned in close cooperation with the architects. All internal doors with fire protection requirements were designed to be fire resistant for 30 minutes. There were also special requirements when ensuring unrestricted access and implementing the access control systems. The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Library and Learning Center took place in October 2009. Around 700 people then worked daily on the construction site. After only four years, the building was opened on time for the 2013/2014 winter semester. The library in Vienna is one of the last projects that the celebrated architect Zaha Hadid designed.


Dipl.-Ing. Claudia El Ahwany: Architect with additional editorial training (Henri Nannen Journalist School). She has run a public relations agency for around ten years, where she looks after companies in the construction sector.

Key data

  • Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects, Hamburg
  • Project participants:
    - Arge Campus WU, BUS Architektur, Vienna (General planning)
    - Arge PS WU Neubau Drees & Sommer/Delta (Project control);
    - Vasko und Partner, Vienna (Structural engineering/Building technology);
    - Arup, Berlin (Planning of the façades and lighting);
    - Hübl Haustechnik, Graz (Design of the heating/ventilation/air conditioning);
    - Holzbau Schmid GmbH & Co. KG (Supplier of the fire protection elements)
  • Building owner: Projektgesellschaft Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien NEU GmbH and Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft m.b.H., Vienna
  • Date of completion: 2013
  • Location: Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna

The article was published in FeuerTRUTZ International, issue 1.2018 (January 2018).
More information about eMagazine FeuerTRUTZ International

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