In June of this year, I was in Vienna for a conference. One afternoon when I had some free time, I took the underground to Spittelau, a suburb on the banks of the Donaukanal.
My destination was the Spittelau waste incineration plant, the exterior of which was designed by Hundertwasser in the late 1980s.
The facility, owned and operated by Wien Energie, turns municipal waste into heat and electricity for the city.
This was the building that inspired the mayor of Osaka to invite Hundertwasser to design the new waste incineration and sewage treatment plants in Maishima.
The building in Vienna has many motifs in common with its younger sibling in Osaka. For example, the chimney disguised in the style of a minaret, the irregularly-placed windows, the use of child-like blobs of primary colour and the trees and plants on the roof.
However, I felt somewhat disappointed. Unlike the Japanese building, designed from scratch by Hundertwasser, in this case the whimsical design features had seemingly been added on to the façade of an existing industrial structure. The result is surprisingly drab by comparison.
The setting is also quite different: while the Japanese building stands proudly on a brand-new artificial island in a bay spanned by modern bridges, its elder sister in Vienna is hemmed in by urban clutter and traffic.
It didn’t help that renovation works are currently underway, attended by Portakabins and construction materials and machinery.
Maybe next time I have some free time in Vienna, I’ll visit the Schönbrunn Palace instead!