The year 1908 was an important turning point for Vienna's medical architecture. Built in Viennese Art Nouveau style, the new clinics of the General Hospital at Spitalgasse 23 and the Hygiene Institute in the Kinderspitalgasse 15 opened in 1908.
About the history of hygiene in Austria
At the beginning of the 1870s, the time was ripe for the creation of a chair of Hygiene at an Austrian university, because the neighboring Kingdom of Bavaria had established a chair of Hygiene at its universities of Munich, Würzburg and Erlangen in 1865.
On December 19, 1874, the Assembly of Professors of the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna agreed on the establishment of a chair of Hygiene and its occupation by the “lecturer for forensic and hygienic chemistry at the University of Vienna”, K. k. (imperial-royal) regimental physician Dr. Josef Nowak. With the creation of an extraordinary chair of Hygiene at the Medical Faculty, the age of the paralyzed “medical police” was over also in the Austrian part of the monarchy, and the hopeful beginning of scientifically-based preventive medicine dawned. However, only small laboratory and office space was allocated to the Institute at Schwarzspanier Straße 17. Due to the large number of tasks, working conditions became more and more oppressive. Therefore, Nowak's successor Max Gruber tried to get a more suitable place of work.
The new institute building
For the new location, the construction of a four-story new building with a built-up area of 3,000 m2 was planned in Kinderspitalgasse 15. It was intended to accommodate four institutions: the K. k. (imperial-royal) University Institute for Hygiene and the connected K. k. General Research Institute for Food, as well as the K. k. University Institute for General and Experimental Pathology and the K. k. Serotherapeutic Institute. The functional concept as a whole and for the first two Institutes in particular was started by Max Gruber, and after Gruber's departure to Munich in October 1902, it was brought to an end by Arthur Schattenfroh, supported by his colleagues Roland Graßberger, Heinrich Reichel, Ernst von Krombholz and Max Eugling. The other two independent but connected Institutes, directed by Richard Paltauf, were planned according to his specifications, in the way that they could also work independently at any time. The architectural design was assigned to the famous Viennese architect Ludwig Tremmel (1875 – 1946), the construction management to “Oberbaurat” Sylvester Tomssa and “Statthaltereiingenieur” Arthur Falkenau.
The excavation work started on August 16, 1905 and was followed by the construction of the monumental four-story, block-like building, detached on three sides. One in Vienna to this size “for the first time seen specialty” were “Stumpf's Reform-Schiebefenster” sliding windows on the street fronts, which had two panes of glass at the distance of 5 cm in a frame. The artificial lighting was the gas light “Leuchtgas-Auerbrenner” and electric light bulbs, usually carbon filament lamps. The heating and ventilation system led filtered air, and in summer cooled air, cleaned by water sprays via a complex system of air ducts in almost any room. There were separate exhaust ducts for the removal of the used air from the rooms. The heat supply to the rooms was performed by low-pressure steam, fed through the heating and ventilation system. Two amphitheater-shaped lecture halls were available for both groups of institutes. The building was officially opened on October 23, 1908.
From the end of the monarchy to the present day
The fate of the building and of those working in it should become very changeable over the next 100 years. In the 1930s, the Food Research Institute was separated from the Hygiene Institute by Roland Graßberger, but remained in the building. In 1942, an Institute for racial biology was created. After air pressure damage by aviation bombs in the surrounding area in January 1945, the middle part of the building was nearly completely destroyed. After the arrival of Russian troops around April 9, 1945, the building served as troops quarter. The first post-war Professor of Hygiene, Marius Kaiser, began the reconstruction and further development of the Institute, which his successors Richard Bieling (1952 – 1959), Hans Moritsch (1959 – 1965), Heinz Flamm (1965 – 1991) and Manfred Rotter (1991 – 2008) continued.
On Heinz Flamm's request, the Institutes for Environmental Hygiene (Manfred Haider), Virology (Christian Kunz), Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine (Gerhard Wiedermann) and of Social Medicine (Michael Kunze) were founded and located in the building during the years 1970 to 1983.
In February 1991, a fire caused large damages in several laboratories at two floors and in the lecture hall. Subsequently, not only the damages were repaired, but the institutes were also expanded.
Today the building harbors the Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology and the Institute for Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine, both organized in the Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology and the Center for Public Health, all institutions of the Medical University of Vienna.
Literature: Flamm, H. ● 1908 – 2008 ● Hundert Jahre neues Hygiene-Institut der Universität Wien. Wiener Klin. Wochenschr., 120 (2008), 571–580.
Picture: The Hygiene Institute 2014. © Michael Reiter