The orangery was originally a heatable winter garden for orange trees. Since the south façade and the ceiling could be removed during the beautiful seasons, the plants did not need to be brought out arduously but could rather remain at their place. Heatable constructions for hibernation of sensitive plants in winter were known since the 16th century in Italy as well as in Germany but their mantling and dismantling was very complex.
Through the construction of the Eugenian orangery – a masterwork of craftsmanship –, the setup and dismantling with sliding constructions and similar could be eased to a great extent. After the death of Prince Eugen and the relocation of the orangery to Schönbrunn, the plant house was renovated and used as stall. In 1805, a suspended ceiling was drawn in; besides this, the sliding roof was replaced.
After 1918, a part of the Modern Gallery and from 1953 till 2007, the museum of middle age art were both housed in this building. In 2007, the architect Susanne Zottl designed a modern exhibition hall as a white cube in the orangery.