Brennpunkt° – Vienna, Austria - Atlas Obscura
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Vienna, Austria

Brennpunkt°

A history of heat is on display at this unique Austrian museum. 

Since Austria sits at a high elevation and spends a quarter of the year under snow, it should come as no surprise that heating is a matter of considerable importance in the country. What may be surprising, however, is that Vienna—a grand imperial city of music, art, and history—actually boasts a museum dedicated specifically to heating systems.

Called Brennpunkt° (a German compound word literally meaning “burning point” and properly translated as “focus”), the museum was founded in 1985 and was originally called the Heating Museum of Vienna. Initially, it displayed various pieces of (primarily Viennese) heating equipment, but over time, the museum expanded to cover the creation (or extraction) and utilization of heat in other activities like cooking, bathing, and laundry, as well as the social and cultural impacts of the development of these technologies. It now describes itself as a museum of “Heizkultur,” or heating customs.

The Brennpunkt° collection includes ornately designed and dazzlingly enameled 19th-century household stoves, early 20th-century stove-heated school rooms, steam heating systems employed in hospitals and nurseries, catering kitchen facilities, bathroom and laundry displays, refrigerators, chillers, condensers, and more. One section of the museum focuses on different methods of making fire from around the world and the variety of fuels employed in said methods, while another considers the future of heating given resource and climate change constraints. Previous special exhibitions include a look at improvisational heating methods used in energy-starved post-WWII Vienna.

Brennpunkt° also features interactive digital stations where visitors can design an energy-efficient house, crank away at some hand levers to see how much energy is needed to boil water, and delicately adjust fuel and oxygen inputs to create the perfect flame. On your way out, be sure to stop by the gift shop and grab a blindingly orange shirt featuring a selection of surprisingly racy, heat-related German puns.

Know Before You Go

It's closed Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The telephone number for the museum is +43 1 400034100.

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