The City’s Storefront

The Vienna tourist information office by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects

Elke Delugan-Meissl and Norbert Kettner Photo: Marlene Rahmann

Spacious, curved and all in gold: opened in 2014, the tourist information center on Albertinaplatz is Vienna’s storefront for tourists. Norbert Kettner, Director of the Vienna Tourist Board, and architect Elke Delugan-Meissl of Delugan Meissl Associated Architects explain the ideas behind it.

The tourist information center deliberately avoids Vienna clichés. What image of Vienna does the space try to project?
Elke Delugan-Meissl: It’s meant to give visitors a first, lasting impression of Vienna. The centerpiece of the concept is the faceted, space-creating brass wall, which interprets Vienna’s diversity in a spatial way.
Norbert Kettner: We don’t use Vienna clichés, but we do consciously incorporate the gold that you see in many imperial buildings in Vienna. Vienna has a rich abundance of historical buildings, but it is also a modern metropolis that has a lot to offer in the way of contemporary art and culture. Vienna carries this duality in its DNA, and it should also be understood as a promise of quality to our guests.

What core message does the Vienna Tourist Board want to convey here?
Norbert Kettner: We managed to transform the tourist information office into a highly functional Gesamtkunstwerk with an impressive contemporary design, the latest technology, and an intelligent spatial concept. It not only draws attention to Vienna as a top destination, but also serves as a calling card for “Smart City” Vienna.

Does the architecture promote Vienna as a design hub as well?
Elke Delugan-Meissl: Vienna is a city with a rich architectural, art and design heritage and a lively array of contemporary cultural activities. It was important to us that our design reflect this richness.Norbert Kettner: Contemporary design is not a question of advertising, but one of rationality and fulfilling high, self-imposed standards. The architecture of the tourist information center points to the contemporary aspects of Vienna, while the Vienna State Opera next door shows the city’s historic side. Modern architecture and design are closely intertwined, so a visit to the tourist information center should also make visitors curious about Vienna’s emerging design scene.

What were the criteria for functionality and use of space?
Norbert Kettner: It was important to provide an optimal combination of functional and aesthetic qualities. We paid particular attention to the intelligent management of visitor flow, finding ways to reduce waiting times and creating smoother workflows for staff. According to a survey, tourists are very happy with the new information office.
Elke Delugan-Meissl: The spatial configuration divides the interior into two clearly-identifiable areas. The brass wall enhances this as a central design element: in the ticket area, it works as a kind of display; in the information area, it serves as a functional rear wall behind the staff, helping to ensure a smooth workflow.

How does the tourist information center make its purpose visible to the outside?

Norbert Kettner: Vienna has a core competence as a particularly hospitable, cosmopolitan city, and I see that quality realized architecturally in the concept for the new tourist information center: the design is very inviting and very visible from the outside, piquing visitors’ curiosity about what there is to discover inside.
Elke Delugan-Meissl: Most of the structure’s impact from the outside comes from its largely unobstructed view of the interior. At night, the clearly visible, illuminated presentation wall shows the tourist information office’s rich trove of information in the public space.

Text by Maik Novotny:

Maik Novotny was born in Stuttgart in 1972. He studied architecture in Stuttgart and Delft, moved to Vienna in 2000, is a co-founder of the online archive “Eastmodern” for late modernism in Eastern Europe, and writes regular articles on design and architecture in “Der Standard,” “Falter” and other media.

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