At the invitation of the Government of Austria, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) established their headquarters in Vienna in 1957 and 1967, respectively. In the 1970s, the Government provided a permanent residence for those two organizations: the Vienna International Centre (VIC). To make full use of the new facility, other United Nations units were transferred to Vienna from New York and Geneva. Many of them were consolidated in the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV). Transferred from Beirut in 1978, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in West Asia (UNRWA) was provisionally headquartered at the VIC before it was relocated to Gaza City in 1997. In March 1997, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was established at the VIC.
In 1966, the Government of Austria made an offer to the United Nations to construct in Vienna an international centre to be used by organizations of the United Nations system. In 1967, the Government of Austria and the city of Vienna, in a joint decision, designated an area on the left bank of the Danube as the site of the centre. An international competition for the design of the buildings was organized in 1968. It attracted the interest of architects worldwide and resulted in 288 designs being submitted. The Austrian architect Johann Staber was eventually designated the winner of the competition. His design was announced on 18 December 1970 by the Chancellor of Austria. Construction began in 1972 under the general direction of the Internationaler Amtssitz und Konferenzzentrum Wien. The costs of constructing the VIC (approximately €640 million) were shared by the Government of Austria (65 per cent) and the city of Vienna (35 per cent).
The VIC was inaugurated on 23 August 1979. Separate agreements were signed by IAEA and Austria and between the United Nations and Austria on behalf of UNIDO and the other United Nations entities in Vienna on 28 September 1979. The Government of Austria handed over the VIC complex to the United Nations and IAEA for the symbolic rental sum of one Austrian schilling (equivalent to 0.07 euro today) a year for 99 years.
The VIC complex, which covers an area of 180,000 m², has extraterritorial status. Maintenance and operating costs of the VIC (which in 2003 amounted to about US$ 19.5 million, or €15.5 million) are borne by the VIC-based organizations. The VIC comprises about 4,500 offices and 9 conference rooms and accommodates about 3,600 international civil servants from about 100 countries. The Y-shaped office towers are between 48 meters and 120 meters high.