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Wüstenhaus © Tiergarten Schönbrunn Foto: Daniel Zupanc

Desert House, former Sundial House

Emperor Franz Joseph I commissioned a hothouse based on designs by the architect Alfons Custodis for the overwintering of his extensive and extremely valuable ‘New Holland Collection’, mainly containing botanical specimens from Australia and South Africa.

Completed in 1904 in fin-de-siècle style with an ironwork frame that already displays elements of Jugendstil, the building has a masonry wall on its north side and a single-glazed south front and was thus perfectly designed to protect tender plants needing special growing conditions.

Just under a century later thorough renovation of the building became necessary. The Austrian Federal Gardens Authority in cooperation with the Tiergarten Schönbrunn decided that it should be adapted to display the finest and most valuable specimens from the collection of succulents (cactuses and other water-retentive, drought-resistant plants). In order to make the exhibition as interesting as possible, three different arid habitats have been recreated (Madagascar, and deserts of the Old and New Worlds) to present a selection of their native plants and animals. While aimed at giving visitors a sense of these extreme habitats, the exhibition additionally demonstrates the fascinating and multifarious survival strategies of the creatures that populate these harsh habitats, both above and below ground.

You can obtain further information (opening hours, admission charges, etc.) about the Desert House on the Tiergarten Schönbrunn website.

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