Whether you approach through the urban greenspace tranquillity of the Donaupark, or trickle down from the platform at Kaisermühlen in the turbulent river of geoscientists that flows through the covered walkway, you arrive at the plaza in front of the triangular ziggurat of the Austria Center. The concrete meadow throngs with all sorts of geoscientists, from all over the world, all gathering under the cresting wave of the atrium. Out of the bright natural light, the river flows into the conference centre.
If you resist the sugary delights of the café off left, you step into a cavernous space, a ceiling high above, flying mezzanines linked by the infinite, lineated steel loop of escalators, each step occupied by an ascensionist or descensionist. The place is vast, exhibitions like medieval marketplace, heckling and haranguing passers-by with scientific tidbits, divide the central hallway. Take the escalator up or down to one of the many long-corridored loops, the convivial atmosphere of the small groups chatting in the coffee areas, bump into an old friend along the way, stop for a chat.
If you get the timing right, and the conference centre turns into a ghost town. A few quiet geoscientists hide behind laptop screens, perched beside power points, amending their PowerPoints, preening papers to size, or emailing home. Everyone else has disappeared; you can hear your footsteps echo around the silent internal streets. But beware, suddenly, like a herd of buffalo migrating to grasslands, hordes of geoscientists emerge from doors flung open and descend swarming on to the catering stands, bringing the place to life with chattering, discussing, reanimating what they just heard, buzzing with ideas, the conference centre filled to the brim with the future of geosciences.
After a whole day of being fascinated, the river of geoscientists reverses flow, like Himalayan uplift within the conference centre, and it flows back towards Kaisermühlen. River piracy is observed to occur at the biergarten set up outside the centre, as some of the flow is diverted to quench their thirst, network and natter. After a while, the slowest, lost in deep thought or excitedly discussing new theories with colleagues, leave the conference centre, and it goes quiet, silent, dormant for the night until the next day of geoscientific discovery.