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Central European University Selects KPF as Architects for its New Campus

Central European University (CEU) has announced the selection of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) as architects for the transformation of the Otto Wagner Hospital into its new permanent home.

With the university already established at its interim Vienna campus in the 10th district, the university has set 2025 as the date for the opening of its permanent home in the new Steinhof campus.

CEU will work with the City of Vienna, Vienna Monument Protection and the adjacent community to protect the landmark virtues of the site and enhance the Otto Wagner legacy, while at the same time promoting the expanded use of the broader campus as a place where local residents and visitors can gather to appreciate the beauties of the place throughout construction and after completion in 2025.

Leon Botstein, Chair of CEU’s Board of Trustees said: “James von Klemperer and his team at KPF demonstrated mastery of the brief to create a campus, consistent with the spirit of Otto Wagner and Vienna, that embodies the mission of CEU as a protagonist of a global ‘open society’. We are deeply grateful to Mayor Michael Ludwig and the City of Vienna, Michaela Schüchner, Mayor of District 14, Heinz Faßmann, Minister for Science, and so many others who have been pivotal to this important next chapter in our history.”

Michael Ignatieff, CEU’s Rector and President said the university had looked for an innovative practice that both understood the nature of CEU’s unique mission and the need to remain true to Otto Wagner's unique architectural vision. "This new campus must be flexible enough to adapt to the emerging disciplines and collaborations that will define the future of learning and research in the post-pandemic world. We look forward to working with KPF and partners to develop their concept, in consultation with our own internal community and our new neighbours.”

KPF is a leader in the planning and crafting of academic buildings worldwide, having completed innovative University facilities in Europe, the United States, and Asia. In these buildings, advanced communication technologies and open spatial designs are used to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. The design team will be led by KPF President James von Klemperer, an Austrian citizen whose forebears, the Kuffner family, contributed extensively to the commerce and culture of this part of Vienna.

James von Klemperer, KPF’s President and Design Principal, said the great importance of this project is, through architecture, to support the mission of an open society. “For me, connecting these goals to the history of the site, and to my own family background, has great significance. The challenge of working within the context of buildings designed by Otto Wagner and his contemporaries will require great sensitivity; it’s also an opportunity to ask how today’s forward looking design can complement the work of the proto-modern master”

The design, submitted as part of an international competitive selection process, makes minimal changes to the exterior aspect of the 1910 buildings and the immediate landscape context. The major changes envisioned involve the configuration of the interior, where intercommunicating spaces open up study areas to natural light. Drawing on their experience of preserving heritage buildings in London and in New York, KPF is intent on respecting the historical value of the campus. Also, the design of these buildings will follow the strong sustainability agenda that is fundamental to today’s practice.

KPF will team with Austrian multidisciplinary engineering firm iC Group, and with Atelier Architekt Palme, whose work in restoring the Postsparkasse has demonstrated great expertise in the preservation of Wagner’s architecture.