With the formation of the Association of Industrialists in 1862, the first national representation of the interests of industry came into being. Thirty years later, a large part of the 600 regional, local and industrial trade organisations formed the Central Association of Austrian Industrialists, an association of associations. This was followed in 1897 by the Union of Austrian Industrialists, an association of individual companies. These forerunner organisations of today’s Federation of Austrian Industries were based on voluntary membership, unlike the mandatory membership of the Chambers of Commerce. On 19 March 1896 the official publication of the central association, “die Industrie”, appeared for the first time.
The House of Industry was built on Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna as the seat of the three central federations between 1906 and 1909. King Franz Josef inaugurated the building on 11 March 1911 to the cheers of 500 guests. With the exception of the first floor (which housed the Association of Industrial Insurers and the Anglo-Elementar Insurance until 1935), the building was used exclusively by the industrial employers’ associations.
The Industrial Club represented the interests of large-scale and heavy industry while the Central Association of Austrian Industrialists represented those of individual professional associations. Small and medium-sized enterprises secured their interests through individual membership in the Federation of Austrian Industrialists.
After the collapse of the Danube monarchy, the three associations banded together to form the Imperial Federation of Austrian Industry from which the Principle Association of Austrian Industry arose a short time later. The political upheavals of the First Austrian Republic also left their mark. With the introduction of the corporative system in 1934, the Federation of Austrian Industry was created, only to be dissolved four years later with Austria’s annexation to the German Reich in 1938. The new powers saw to it that the Federation was dissolved and distributed among individual departments of the Chamber of Commerce. However, the tight concentration of diverse experts and subgroups under one roof enabled the representation of the frequent bilateral interests of ‘Ostmark’ industry vis-à-vis the central offices in Berlin.
The House of Industry was largely spared from war damage. Although the neighbouring building, Heumarkt 10, was bombed during an air raid on the city railway line (today’s U4) in February 1944, only the roof and a few offices of the House of Industry were affected.
The address Schwarzenbergplatz 4 achieved special historical significance at the end of the Second World war when it became the seat of the Allied Control Council. The Federation of Austrian Industrialists, founded on 18 November 1946, received a modest rent from the new tenants, who had little respect for their new home. The Russian occupying forces set fire to a large part of the archive for heating in the winter of 1945/46. The rest of the furnishings did not fare much better. Nonetheless, the finest hour was to come in 1955, when the final and decisive stages of negotiations before the signing of the State Treaty took place here, on what was then temporarily called ‘Stalinplatz’.
In previous years, the Allied Council had always met in the small hall (Kleiner Festsaal). This hall was deemed too small for the Ambassadorial Conference, which is why it was moved to the large hall (Großer Festsaal). It was there, in May 1955, that the final details of the treaty were negotiated. The meeting of the foreign ministers of the four signatory powers also took place there, on 13 and 14 May 1955.
It is in front of the House of Industry that the last Allied military parade was celebrated by the thousands of Austrians who attended the ceremony. On 27 May 1955 the Allied flags on the roof of the building were finally lowered. The Federation of Austrian Industries returned to its original quarters; since then it has been the seat of the representation of industrial interests. Organisations and institutions closely related to the Federation of Austrian industries also found their place on the premises. On 23 May 1996, in light of international activities and the changing industrial landscape, the general assembly decided to change the name of the association to the ‘Federation of Austrian Industries’.
Today, the House perceives its as described by Minister President Richard von Bienert in his speech at the inauguration in 1911:
“Built by its own hand, the new home of Austrian Industry will become the most important site of representation of industrial interests in the future. A natural meeting point for all endeavours that engage in open cooperation for the welfare and prosperity of domestic production, thus fulfilling one of the most important tasks in the area of economic and public life.”
Numerous historical and current photographs can be found in the iv-net picture archive (“Bildarchiv”) using the search term ‘Haus der Industrie’.