From Hospital to School

Renovation and Conversion of Gersthof Orthopaedic Hospital

Photos from 1928: “Moderne Bauformen: Monatshefte für Architektur,” Stuttgart: 1928.

Presently, the one-hundred-year-old orthopaedic hospital in Gersthof is still deep aslumber. Resting in the middle of a park in Vienna’s 18th district, it awaits to be kissed awake. Instead of transforming the protected monument into condominiums, we are renovating the complex together with the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft real estate company and will create a school with 23 classrooms and plenty of free spaces for flexible learning.

Photos 2022: Andreas Buchberger
Hardly a thing has changed on the façade: As before, the main entrance radiates the charm of late Viennese Jugendstil.

Turbulent History

In 1926, in late Jugendstil style, the building first opened its doors as “Gersthof Women’s Clinic” for employees of the Viennese Merchants Guild. Just a few years later, the Order of the Brothers of Mercy acquired it and transformed it into a general hospital, St. Augustine Hospital. During World War II, however, there was a forced sale to the municipal administration and an interim use as a military hospital. Not until the last years of the war was the site operational again as a women’s clinic, and it served this purpose until the 1970s. The decline in the birth rate and the resulting lower utilisation forced the operators to convert the women’s clinic into the Orthopaedic Hospital of the City of Vienna. It fulfilled this function until May 2019 – then the ward moved to the newly completed North Hospital.

In the course of time, the building has grown by a floor…
and the seedlings became huge trees that have transformed the area into a park.
Soups pots as big as bathtubs: The hospital kitchen was once situated in the basement…
… today, there is little left of the canteen kitchen.
Here’s how the operating room with bay windows on the top floor of the women’s clinic looked at the end of the 1920s.

Careful Redesign

What to do with a hospital now obsolete as such? For a long time, the intention was to convert the listed building into condominiums. Then, however, the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft took on the project and announced an architectural competition for the conversion into a school. We won first place in 2020 and since then have been working on a careful plan for the building to become a contemporary school with varied open spaces.

Today, little inventory remains to remind us of the orthopaedic surgeries performed here until May 2019.
The patient rooms, which we will soon turn into school classrooms, still appear untouched.
Where beds once lined up will soon be break rooms for the students.

A Peek into the Future

How can this transformation succeed? Instead of imposing a typical modern cluster school structure onto the historical substance, we unlock the unique potential of this charming architecture with a few strategic interventions. We create decentralised recreation zones and open the poorly-lit central corridors with glazed doors and niches in the inner walls. In this way, the monument-listed old building can become a modern school with attractive study and leisure spaces.