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Cladding Breaks Off New Hadid Design

Thursday, January 8, 2015

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An investigation is underway after a nearly 200-pound chunk of concrete cladding fell off the facade of a recently constructed Zaha Hadid-designed building in Vienna, Austria, according to reports.

The incident Friday evening (Jan. 2) marked the second time in six months that concrete had broken loose from the Library and Learning Center at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

No injuries were reported in either case. The facility opened in October 2013.

Zaha Hadid
© / Courtesy of the Vienna University of Economics and Business

Reports say a chunk of concrete weighing almost 200 pounds fell from the Library and Learning Center at Vienna University of Economics and Business.

Zaha Hadid Architects did not respond Wednesday (Jan. 7) to a request for comment on the incident.

Campus 'Icon’

The rectangular slab, weighing approximately 176 pounds, fell off the facility’s right side, according to the Austrian newspaper DiePresse and DeZeen.

The building remains open. However, the main entrance and parts of the surrounding pedestrian walkway have been cordoned off until further notice, the university noted on its website.

Described as the central “icon” for the university’s new six-building campus, the library cost €87.8 million (about $104 million USD) to construct.

Built by Vasko and Partner Ingenieure, it features a striking, inclined facade with alternating horizontal bands of concrete and glass.

The Vienna-based builder did not respond to a request for comment.

Investigation Initiated

The cause of the cladding failure is under investigation.

According to the university, an independent expert will examine the damage and issue an opinion, DiePresse reports.

Panorama of campus
© Johannes Zinner / Courtesy of the Vienna University of Economics and Business

The new campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business features six structures designed by internationally recognized architecture firms. Zaha Hadid’s Library and Learning Center is the centerpoint.

A few media outlets indicated that the report could be issued today (Thursday). Others gave no timeline.

Meanwhile, all areas under the cantilever are being monitored closely, the university said.

Previous Incident

The facade failure was the second in less than a year, reports say.

In July, a 4-by-8-foot piece of fiberglass-reinforced concrete crashed to the ground at the building’s front entrance.

That incident was blamed on an “assembly error” by the contractor, according to an English translation of the Austrian paper Kurier, reports say.

The piazza in front of the building was sealed off while the panel was replaced.

A 31-year-old student described the situation this way, according to Gizmodo's translation of the Kurier report: "After I saw the plate lying on the ground, I have shaken another. The [plate] came loose before me. In the future I will refrain from the facade and be vigilant when I go to the entrance."

'Not Surprising'

The incidents are not surprising, given the modern tendency to push the architectural envelope on high-profile projects, reports Gizmodo.

"The irony of high-price, avant-garde architecture is that to actually build these unusual buildings, contractors often resort to unprecedented construction techniques," the report noted.

Library and Learning Center
© / Courtesy of the Vienna University of Economics and Business

The Library and Learning Center cost 87.8 million (about $104 million USD) to construct. It features a library, cafe and classrooms.

"There's been a rash of major problems—and lawsuits—stemming from poor or fault detailing on well-known projects over the past few years."

Buildings designed by fellow "starchitects" Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry have been the subject of a number of lawsuits alleging design flaws, the media outlet said.

"It's pretty unsurprising, given the physics at play in some of these structures, but that doesn't make it defensible."

About Hadid

Hadid is considered one of the world’s foremost architectural designers. She has designed many signature structures, including the Aquatic Center for the 2012 London Olympics and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

The Baghdad-born, London-based architect was also the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Aesthetics; Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Design; Durability; Europe; Zaha Hadid

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