A new landmark for Vienna
The Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU - Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien) opened its new campus last autumn. Rector Christoph Badelt speaks about the philosophy behind Europe’s largest business university’s new home. It is not just the 24 000 students who benefit.
“This campus certainly gives WU a new identity. It has no fence around it. The university is open to society and open to the city, and should not hide behind huge walls. It should be integrated,” says Christoph Badelt (pictured). The EUR 492m campus was supported with an EIB loan of EUR 250m.
The buildings may not all be to everyone’s taste, but to judge it thus is to miss the point. Badelt believes that “a business university must be an international place. There has to be a diversity of thought, ideas and methods. The diverse architecture goes with that.”
Two architects from Spain, and one each from the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan joined an Austrian studio to bring the six-building vision to reality, and at the heart is the Learning Centre (main picture), something Badelt is proud of: “the building is spectacular, it’s a monument and a vital feature, and it is at the centre. The administration building is on the west side of the campus, deliberately not in the centre, unlike some universities.”
Cast against type
The ethos behind WU is one of integration, but its physical dissonance with the standard images and rhythms of Vienna renders it all the more notable. “Vienna is famous for old things, the Habsburgs, the Schönbrunn Palace. It is also good to have a modern spot, a contrast to show that Vienna is also a modern city, and this way it is further enriched,” adds Badelt.
It works as urban feature as well as academic institution. “People from the local area come here on weekends. They go for walks, bring their kids, and go to the restaurants we have on campus. I think eventually we will become fully part of the neighbourhood, and this is something we always planned.”
Backed up by technology
As a new educational facility planned from the foundations up, the WU campus is at the cutting edge when it comes to what it offers to support the students, lecturers and researchers. “You find the very latest in teaching technology, and you find it in every classroom,” explains Badelt. “It is technology to support the people who are physically present, as well as excellent classes available through the internet. The combination is what is important.”
Furthermore, he adds “70% of our heating and cooling comes from geothermal energy. We were also afforded the opportunity minimise lifecycle costs. The campus is constructed from long lasting materials and all buildings are equipped with heat recovery systems with an efficiency rate of 75%”
Call of duty
What does the future hold for WU? “We have always strived to be a university with international recognition. We have a special responsibility to find answers to the big economic challenges and educate a new generation of leaders in society who will be able and willing to help solve the world’s economic and social problems,” Badelt reflects.
The open campus means that local people are discovering “a nice place to spend their leisure time, where each building has different characteristics, where you can enjoy fine dining, or just come for a beer.” You can just sit and take in the atmosphere. On many levels, WU’s new home makes it a good place to be, where anyone can ponder solutions to any given challenges. As it was meant to be.