Friday, 8 November 2013

New Housing in Vienna


Believe it or not, but sometimes I do leave the kitchen. And then I come back, I have pictures in my pocket. Today the photos come with words. I would be very pleased find some comments with your opinion on this topic.
 All you need: blue skies, a balcony and the moon. See the moon?

What you can't see: on street level there is hardly any live in the buildings. No shops, no bakeries, cafes, libraries, meeting places or pharmacies, no cultural insitutions, no cinema, no swiming pool.
The new housing trend in Vienna can best described as "for residents only": inside the buildings you find plenty of common rooms, recreation rooms, semi-public kitchens, party rooms - all accessible with key only. You, as a resident, are invited to make use of those common rooms which are either located on the top floor, combined with a roof terrace (very attractive!) or on street level (not as attractive, but very convenient).
 Not too ... uplifting. I mean, it's so ... dense. 

New housing development in Vienna: left: still under construction, right: completed, rear: yet to come
Behind these buildings new buildings are going to be built and behind those buildings even more buildings are yet to come.

Inside the buildings you have a lot of "public-private-space" and you - as a resident - are invited to create a community in your house. Social workers and coaches assist the process from the very beginning. Only: you need more people to start a community. Combine 4 or 5 buildings and chances are that you will find enough people to carry on the community activites. 

A friend of mine recently moved into one of these buildings. I can tell you, she is upset. I met her today and she complained badly, because the community in her building does not exist at all. Her neighbours don't join the meetings, only a handful participates. 5 people joined the kick-off meeting - instead of possible 50 or even more. She was looking forward to experiencing this new housing in Vienna. Now she is disappointed.

Obviously 1 house does not provide enough people to create a critical mass that continues with the social activities after the kick-off, which has been supervised by coacheslong before the new residents had actually moved in. I fear the ambitious architects and developers got this wrong. Terribly wrong? Well, the worst thing that can happen is that the fancy common rooms will be and remain deserted.

I had a déjà-vue: those common rooms are the new saunas of the late 1970's. Back then every building had to have a sauna in the basement. Most of those saunas remained cold for decades.
Could someone please disabuse me in the near future and tell me about those fantastic recreation rooms, the things that are going on there and how those hundreds of expensive square-metres had been best thing that could have happen to any resident. Thank you! 

Why do I care so much about these unused common rooms? This is social housing, it costs an awful lot. Most of the money goes into the housing development, while the public space - besides this great park - is being neglected.
More housing. Makes me think of laying batteries. I know, I know... am a spoiled brat.

One word on the density: The developers say they have to build this dense, otherwise social housing is not affordable. The park is great no doubt. But can it fulfill all needs? I wonder what those tenthousands of people are going to do at home except sleep, eat and shower? A café would be nice. Maybe even a café where lectures are being held?
A Nordic Walking group could be a beginning.

Have a very social weekend! :-)

PS: I have to mention how much I enjoy my SIGMA DP2 Merrill camera. The atmosphere of this late November afternoon, shortly before sunset, the colours, the air .... You probably can't get closer to reality and still this camera "paints" photos. Over all it was a quiet atmosphere.
Btw, these are all photos I have taken. There is no 2nd, 3rd or 4th shot of the same motif. Taking photos with this camera gets really close to the real thing, you remember, film and so.


  1. What an interesting post! I love reading about. My personal experience in co-existing with people has taught me that while the architecture can provide the means for social gatherings but it can never force the people to engage socially. Other than the open spaces designed to bring people together there has to be a critical mass of open-minded and spontaneous people interested in engaging with others.
    Your post reminded me of the brand new Faculty of Law building in Ljubljana that was designed and constructed right around the time I started my first year of college. In my opinion it was one of the most terrible pieces of modern architecture ever. I hated going there! The architects designed a semi closed courtyard for students as well as staff to have semi formal gatherings there. It never really caught on. In my opinion it was because the space was poorly designed: it was designed as a completely open space with no privacy whatsoever, no benches, no trees or any other plants and the fact that it was surrounded by offices and lecture halls made it even more disturbingly open.

    1. "it can never force the people to engage socially. " Exactly! Engaging people has become a new business modell in the city of Vienna. The city contracts NGOs and you can imagine how busy they are. Sustainability is a popular label these days when it comes to architecture. Time will tell how sustainable these investments were.
      Thank you for joining the conversation.

      Isn't there a positive aspect about the bad designed faculty - a place like this, which is not inviting at all, makes you want to leave the faculty as soon as possible and you don't waste time. Are the average alumnaes younger than average? ;-)

    2. Actually no, the average time spent studying law is 7 years (it's a 5 year programme!) but we all remeber the feeling of dread emmanating from the dull grey walls and lack of positive energy :-((