On the initiative of the district administration Mariahilf, a plaque is being erected as part of the redesign of the Esterhazy Park, which contextualizes the flak tower in the Esterhazy Park. Between 1942 and 1944 six flak towers were built in Vienna after plans by Friedrich Tamms, using a considerable number of forced laborers, especially prisoners of war, who suffered under inhumane working and living conditions. The completely preserved ensemble of Vienna’s six flak towers is one of the most significant relics of National Socialist architecture in Austria. There were never any serious plans to use the towers as memorials, nor were the towers distinctly marked as documents of the Nazi system. Numerous conversion measures were discussed and rejected throughout the decades.
The flak tower in Esterházy Park, which has been home to the Haus des Meeres (House of the Sea), a public aquarium, since 1958, is an exception. For a long time, the outer appearance of the tower was hardly changed by its use. However, as the space required increased, conversions interfered more strongly with the architectural design. In accordance with the City of Vienna, an extension realized from 2017 to 2019 almost doubled the volume of the historical structure, making the original flak tower largely invisible.
In the course of this conversion, Lawrence Weiner’s conceptual artwork, the monumental inscription at the top of the flak tower “Zerschmettert in Stücke (im Frieden der Nacht) / Smashed to pieces (in the peace of the night),” was painted over in agreement with the artist. When the curators of Wiener Festwochen acquired the work as a temporary installation in 1991 and decided for the flak tower as its location, they deliberately placed the sentence in the context of Nazi history. The inscription became one of the most internationally renowned works of art in Vienna’s public space and existed much longer than planned.
A museum inside the “Haus des Meeres” documents the history of the flak tower since 2009. With the erection of the plaque, a commemorative political measure is now also being taken in the forecourt of the flak tower, contextualizing the history of this building.
Author: Dr. Georg Traska
Esterházypark, 1060 Wien, Österreich