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The Hundertwasser incinerator in Vienna turns 50

The Hundertwasser incinerator in Vienna turns 50

The unique facility combines some of Vienna’s best features – practicality, sustainability and aesthetics

This year, the Austrian capital’s Hundertwasser power plant, also known as the Spittelau Incinerator, celebrates its 50-year anniversary. The eccentric-looking waste incineration plant is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna, while also being a symbolic representation of some of the best qualities of the city – practicality, sustainability and aesthetic quality.

Practicality and sustainability

An incineration plant is a facility that generates energy, through burning garbage. In the best cases, it solves multiple issues simultaneously. On the one hand, it finds a practical disposal method for a city’s waste and on the other, it supplies households with energy, that is generally considered relatively clean. Although the second half of that equation varies from plant to plant.

A full view of the Spitelau Plant, Source: Wien Energie

Vienna currently has four waste incineration plants and the most famous one – the Hundertwasser plant turns fifty this year. The facility is located near the Danube Canal in Spitelau, a mere 10-minute drive from the centre of the city. Its unique façade has made it one of Vienna’s most beloved tourist attractions.

The Incinerator began working in 1971, however, much of the facility was destroyed in 1987 due to a fire. The damages accounted for roughly 74 million euros in today’s money. However, instead of levelling the whole installation, local authorities decided to reconstruct it since all the residual infrastructure for running a waste incineration plant was already there.

Furthermore, in 1988, the city offered the Austrian-born architect, painter and eco-activist Friedensreich Hundertwasser a chance to turn the plant into a work of art. At that time, the artist was a member of the Green Party and his condition for taking the job was that the new facility would be the best use of the city’s waste after it has already been produced. After consolations with experts, he agreed to take the job.


The Spitelau plant has an abundance of details one would rarely see on a building,
Source: Wien Energie

Sustainability and aesthetics

The new façade of the incinerator was completed in 1992. Every year, the Spitelau Incinerator burns 250,000 tonnes of waste. It produces electricity for 50,000 households and heat for over 60,000. To ensure that the fumes from the plant are as sparing as can be for the environment, the facility is equipped with a complex filtration system. Consequently, the plant meets the highest ecological standards.


Hundertwasser's additions to the functional structure of the plant offer a unique take
on what functional buildings could look like,
Source: 
EurocommPR

Meanwhile, the Hundertwasser multi-coloured façade, golden globe on the chimney and green roof with trees have turned the Spitelau plant into a unique example of late 20th-century architecture. The artist himself called it a monument to a better future - quite a contemporary sentiment considering the climate crisis.

Vienna is a city famous for its unique imperial architecture, traditionally covered in ornate decorations. The Hundertwasser is not a prime example of what people have come to expect from the Austrian capital. However, its unique combination of practicality and style make it stand out as a great example of what the city is all about. 

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