Wednesday, June 21, 2017


One of the highlights of my stay in Vienna was a visit to the Hundertwasser House and Museum. My first exposure to Friedensreich Hundertwasser was in a gallery on the south shore of False Creek development.
I again saw his work in 2014 in les Carrieres de Lumiers in Baux-de-Province (a sound and light show within the limestone caves) along with the work of Klimt. Their works were projected on the walls, floor and ceiling of these limestone caves and it was spectacular.
     Hundertwasser really was a renaissance man who was ahead of his time. He was an architect, artist, ecologist, and much more. His life story is quite incredible. and so is his work.
     In Vienna we visited a museum of his work, where an exhibition by Byrtynsky also happened to be on display and an apartment complex which he designed, in a neighbourhood which is slowly transforming into Hundertwasser Village. Take some time to read about him, and enjoy his work.
     As I was leaving the store I came across these socks which seemed to be very much in his spirit!

A model of an imaginary village incorporating his ideas about integrating buildings with the environment.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Danube and its Canals

Yes, that's a swimming pool in the bottom left hand corner of the photo.
One of Vancouver's greatest assets is its extensive waterfront walkways and bike way system. While some of Vienna's waterfront has been developed for public enjoyment, including large inner-city beach areas, and there are walkways along portions of the river and canals, I was surprised by how much waterfront has not been developed. Many areas are covered in graffiti, or developed as very casual, informal space.
One prominent sight in Vienna are the river cruise boats along the Danube, the second largest river in Europe which flows through ten countries before reaching the Black Sea. While we didn't do a river cruise, we did take a short 2 hour cruise. (Well it was really a one hour cruise with one hour spent going through a lock.) 
As we floated down the river I was surprised to see some little cabins, which I subsequently learned are occupied by people who catch fish with large nets that are lowered into the river. Perhaps I should seek approvals to install something similar in my Deering Island backyard.

Housing related art installations in Vienna

By chance, I came across two fascinating art installations by Erwin Wurm.
I was particularly intrigued by his Narrow House. Here's the explanation and a few pictures: (I liked the work much more than the narrative!)

Erwin Wurm "shrank" his parents' house to reflect the mentality of Austria during the postwar period; the design of the house is typical of the 1950s, but a fraction as wide. The house is furnished with shrunken furniture. This piece was inspired by Wurm's childhood, since he grew up during the 1950s through 1970s in postwar Austria. Growing up, he lived with his parents; his mother stayed at home and his father was a policeman.[8] Therefore, it was difficult to express himself both at school and at home. This limited view has affected Wurm's philosophy of art strongly, and Narrow House is a physical manifestation of it. When the viewers walk through, they feel the tension and claustrophobia that Wurm experienced on a daily basis as a child.


The Fat House can be found on the grounds of the Belevedere Museum. It contains a video projection in which the very same swollen building argues with himself and poses existential questions to the incoming visitor, such as: ‘When does a house become art and who determines that?’
The obese house contains a video projection in which the very same swollen building argues with himself and poses existential questions to the incoming visitor, such as: ‘When does a house become art and who determines that?’


Housing in Vienna

Currently at the Vancouver Museum there is a display on social housing in Vienna. Titled 'Red Vienna', since the 1920s the city has been building social housing for a very substantial percentage of the population. To learn more, you can go here:
As I traveled around the city, I noticed many of these buildings. They are distinguished by their modest design and naming, along with the architect and date. There are lessons here for Vancouver.
I was also intrigued by some of the new expensive single family and multi-family housing I came across during my travels. Here are a few photos of earlier projects, some of which are not being renovated and 'greened':
I was intrigued by these glass walls that had been installed between a number of older social housing projects. They seemed to be too elaborate to be simply sound screens and that's because they are much more. According to Andreas Lindinger, "I just researched the glass noise barriers at Theodor-Koerner-Hof municipal apartment complex near Margaretenguertel and indeed those are noise barriers with integrated photovoltaic modules! See and (in German). It was built in 2007 and is the highest noise barrier with integrated PV in Vienna with 18m height and 150m length. It has a maximum capacity of 13.4 kWp and 190 m2 of PV panels which produces 9,380 kWh electricity per year and it cost EUR 3.5m."
Some of the more modern housing is not dissimilar to what one finds in many other European cities, or North American cities for that matter. 
I'm sure there was a bit of a battle before this was approved. Must have been a friend of the mayor or president!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Vibrant Vienna

A view of the city from the Belvedere Museum, one of our first stops so Sally could see Kimt's Kiss.
I last came to Vienna in 1977, and was looking forward to a return visit, particularly given Vancouver's recent interest in Vienna and its social housing policies. Prior to leaving Vancouver, I attended a lecture organized by Andreas Lindinger, who seems to be a bridge between the two cities. His Twitter account Vienncouver explores and , two of the world's most livable and sustainable cities .
     We arrived by train Saturday morning and were immediately struck by how clean and organized the station seemed, compared to the Italian train stations. We found the Tourist Information Office but were a bit overwhelmed by all the tourism packages offered by the various companies. I recommend the Vienna Pass which offer admission to 60 attractions, along with unlimited access to the hop-on-hop-off bus and a boat trip. (99 euros for 3 days compared to 36 euros for the bus only).
    It was difficult trying to decide where to stay. We picked The Grand which offers old world grandeur in a very good location, close to the Opera and shopping streets. It's a good choice.
     Vienna is spectacular. The city is beautifully planned, and most of the buildings appear to have been renovated and well maintained. While there is graffiti to be found, especially along the riverfront on some older housing projects, I was impressed with the efforts to keep the streets and extensive gardens clean.
     It's not just a city of old buildings. There are a number of large new development areas, with some very creative and impressive buildings. Here are just a few of my many hundreds of photos!
A view of the Ringstrasse, the main street that rings the heart of the city, taken from the Japanese restaurant on the roof of The Grand Hotel. Why a Japanese restaurant? Perhaps because it was once an Ana Hotel.
This is a city of museums and galleries.
The history of Austria is closely tied to the Habsburg Family, who of course were distinguished by their large lower lip. This one of their former palaces. There are others around the city including one which is described as one of the largest building complexes in the world.
The military museum. The history of Austria can be found inside.
Vienna is a green city with extensive parks and street landscaping throughout the downtown, I hope some of Vancouver's engineers and Park Board officials will visit to see how small amounts of well placed landscaping can enhance a city.
Many of the older buildings have been creatively renovated with rooftop additions such as this. I need to learn more whether additional density is granted in return for such renovations, or whether it is done simply out of civic pride.
Throughout the city you find ornate and impressive buildings. Somewhat surprisingly many of them were destroyed during WW2 and subsequently rebuilt.
I have never seen anyone washing the street outside of a Vancouver hotdog stand.
The Museum Quartier includes a number of fabulous galleries as well as an architecture museum. More about this later
This streetscape includes examples of old and new buildings, some infilled after WW2, others more recent.
One thing that did surprise me is the fact that the river and related canals are not as well developed as public amenities as expected.
Vienna is not just old buildings. Therer are a number of redevelopment areas with some impressive new buildings.