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The OMV head office: A glance behind the 20,780 m² glass facade

As part of OPEN HOUSE VIENNA 2015, the OMV head office opened its (revolving) doors to architecture fans. The interview with architect Dieter Henke and Gregor Moltinger from OMV Facility Management provides fascinating details on the glass tower which sits on the edge of Vienna’s Prater Park.

A gray Saturday morning in September. The cool wind, which normally blows from the Prater park in the direction of the Danube, has not set in today and yet coming from the Krieau metro station and looking towards the greenery of the Prater, one might think of sailing. Why? Because the OMV head office stands proudly next to the station, with its modern architecture evoking an oversized sail. Or, as Dieter Henke, one of the responsible architects here today from Henke Schreieck, says in his Tyrolean dialect: “A Kipferl.” (Kipferl = crescent-shaped pastry similar to a croissant).

With this building we wanted to create an urban space, rather than occupying it. The concave, crescent-shaped floor plan was a key feature here. From the outside it aims to have a welcoming effect and create a small forecourt.

Lots of visitors are already milling about in the lobby of the OMV head office, a good half-an-hour before the first OPEN HOUSE VIENNA tour, with more than 150 guests destined to arrive throughout the course of the day. They are all eager to discover what’s hiding behind the façade of the huge glass tower, which provides an appealing gateway to “Viertel Zwei”, next to the heritage-protected Trabrennbahn racetrack and stables.

There’s something one has to admit about the “Hoch Zwei” office tower: the 80-meter-high building with its 23 floors and expansive glass and steel doesn’t seem cold and unfriendly – instead it seems to welcome you in. That was one of the goals of the architects Henke Schreieck – Dieter Henke and Marta Schreieck as well as their partner Gavin Rae – which they managed to fulfill (to find out exactly how, take a look at the interview below).
 


466 steps later, or just a few seconds in the lift, marks the arrival in the top floor, the so-called Skylounge. The sun has now come out, lighting up Vienna and its surrounding area. The unique feature of the Skylounge is its 360-degree views and you can even see the OMV Schwechat Refinery from here. Why did OMV choose this location? And why does the head office look the way it does? The best people to ask are architect Dieter Henke and our colleague Gregor Moltinger from OMV Facility Management. After all, the Skylounge is always a popular place for interviews, as numerous journalists know from various OMV press conferences.

In 2006 we were searching for a central headquarters in Vienna, where we could bring together all five of the offices we had at the time. The day came in 2009 and we moved to the new OMV head office in 'Viertel Zwei.

 

The OMV head office consists of two wings, designed by two different architects. What’s the reason for this?

Dieter Henke: We won an invitation-only, urban project development contest in 2004. The task was to design the so-called “Viertel Zwei”, an office area with a hotel and apartments, at the U2 station Krieau. We were then among those awarded the tender for “Hoch Zwei”.
Gregor Moltinger: And architect Martin Kohlbauer was charged with the cuboid “Plus Zwei”. Both buildings together make up the OMV head office. They are linked by a glass bridge.

That means that the OMV head office wasn’t commissioned by OMV?

Dieter Henke: No, when we were designing it we didn’t know that OMV would one day be the tenant. In fact, today’s lobby in “Hoch Zwei” was originally planned as a small shopping mall and there were plans to let the office space on a floor-by-floor basis. It’s really great for us to see how well the “repurposing” into the OMV head office has worked.

How was the move organized? After all, there were multiple OMV offices throughout Vienna before 2009.

Gregor Moltinger: In 2006 we were searching for a central headquarters in Vienna, where we could bring together all five of the offices we had at the time. The day came in 2009. Bringing the buildings together and the move itself to Krieau were a huge challenge – and then on top of that was the Open Space, working in a big room with just a few individual offices! Even though it felt unusual at first, I think lots of colleagues have come to appreciate the advantages of modern Open Space offices. And we don’t have to travel between five sites any more, which has made it easier to communicate and has had a positive impact on the corporate culture.

What exactly does the Open Space concept involve?

Gregor Moltinger: There are always around 12 people sitting together, with about 70 on each floor. The curve of the building means that you don’t feel like you’re in a hall; the zones have different proportions and the work areas are highly flexible. The important thing is to use the available chill-out zones such as the kitchens or the “Confidential Box”. They allow you to close a door behind you when need be.

Around 1,600 people from 46 different countries are currently working in the head office. Is there enough space for all of them in “Hoch Zwei”?

Gregor Moltinger: No. Around 900 colleagues work in “Hoch Zwei” and the other 700 work in “Plus Zwei”, which is also home to the employee restaurant, the occupational health center, the post office and the copy center.
Dieter Henke: You could say that “Hoch Zwei” and “Plus Zwei” complement and complete each other. One building alone wouldn’t work for OMV.

In concrete terms, how did “Hoch Zwei” get its remarkable shape, how did the floor plan come to be a crescent?
 

Dieter Henke: The idea for the sculptural form of the tower arose from an urban development discussion. The concept we designed for the whole “Viertel Zwei” was based on concave-convex buildings, which allowed maximum light to flow through and created varied outdoor areas when placed next to each other. They flowed seamlessly one into the other and blended in with the surrounding greenery. The tower is the focal point of the new development in Krieau and so we looked for a form which creates space rather than occupying it. The crescent-shaped floor plan is a spatial feature at the end of Messeallee at the new U2 station and represents an impressive portal to the new “Viertel Zwei” quarter. This area is also home to the green, free-flowing seating sculptures of Franziska and Lois Weinberger. I really like this “furniture”.

Did everyone approve of the form right from the start?

Dieter Henke: Yes, in terms of the form. But the developer was skeptical about whether the project was feasible within his remit. He advised us to make the form of “Hoch Zwei” a bit simpler, a bit straighter – after all, it would have been somewhat on the plump side. In the end we managed to harmonize the façade elements down to a few special elements in the curved corners, making the project more economical. The above-average profitability of the floor plans was also a factor in how the building came to stand in its current form.

Starting out with the shopping centers during the Art Nouveau period through to Berlin’s AEG turbine factory and famous modernist private villas such as Le Corbusiers Villa Savoye – glass walls seem to have long fascinated architects.

Dieter Henke: A critical factor for us is always linking the interior and the exterior, creating a flowing transition. Naturally, glass is ideally suited to this. Most people continue to spend about eight hours a day in the building, so natural daylight plays an important role in their wellbeing. It doesn’t matter if it’s an apartment block or an office; it has to offer quality of life. That’s what architecture has to provide.

With so many glass walls, how can you find space for art?
 

Dieter Henke: Art in architecture is in general really important to us – and here it was also important to the tenant, OMV. And of course art is not limited to classic oil paintings, but can also come in the form of interior design. We were able to work with lots of artists on this project. I already mentioned Franziska and Lois Weinberger who designed the sculpture on the forecourt; there’s also the craftsman and upholsterer Luisa Wammes who customized a truck tarpaulin for the stand in the lobby. In the large employee restaurant there are two huge pictures by Hubert Scheibl. We developed the subtle color concept for the reception area together with interior designer Ursula Aichwalder. And the back wall in the lobby is very well used: an impressive painting by Herbert Brandl with a height of more than six meters hangs here. It shows a mountain peak. By the way, I would have named “Hoch Zwei” “K2” instead, like the peak in the Himalayas – a place which is on my bucket list.

FACTS AND FIGURES on the OMV HEAD OFFICE

  • Built from the start of 2007 to January 2009.
  • OMV moved in on 31 January 2009.
  • Around 1,600 people from 46 different countries currently work in the OMV head office.
  • “Hoch Zwei” boasts 23 floors, 466 steps and stands at a height of 80 meters. “Plus Zwei” has 8 floors and is 33-meters high.
  • Total construction costs: EUR 160 mn. EUR 90 mn for “Hoch Zwei”; more than EUR 70 mn for “Plus Zwei”. OMV is the sole tenant.
  • 50,000 meters of cable were laid and 19,900 power outlets installed – that’s enough for 496 family homes.
  • There are 22 emergency exits and 17 lifts.
  • 116 confidential boxes, 65 staff kitchens and 98 meeting rooms are available.
  • More than 1,800 plants help to provide a pleasant environment.
  • Around 1,300 meals a day are sold in the employee restaurant – the OMV employees’ favorites are salmon, Cordon Bleu and Kebab.
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