One of the most liveable cities in the world, Vienna is also a charming historic city. Despite its achievements, the city continues to raise the bar of liveability and sustainability, aspiring to become Europe’s Environmental Model City. Here’s a visual walk-through of this millennia old city that balances heritage with innovation.
Between the East and West
Vienna is a historic “Emperor’s city” with over 2 millennia of history, once an important city of the Holy Roman Empire, then the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and now the capital of the Republic of Austria. Following decades of being the eastern “dead end” of Western Europe after the second World War, the city capitalised on the opportunity of the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 90s to reposition itself as the heart of Europe, with connections to its east and west.
Vienna’s historic city centre © Damien Woon
Schönbrunn Palace © Damien Woon
Vienna’s urban development evolved with the Danube, one of the biggest rivers of the European continent that runs through the city and 9 other countries in the region. The development of the New Danube and Danube Island, and safeguarding of more than 50% of land areas as green spaces demonstrate not only Vienna’s resolve to maintain a high quality of life in the city, but also to raise the bar by setting the benchmark as an environmentally responsible city to its Danube-sharing neighbours.
The Danube Island and New Danube (on the extreme right) © Damien Woon
A New Public Space in the City
Today, there are many leisure and sports activities freely available for the people of Vienna on Danube Island, with a host of facilities such as extensive paths, shallow beaches, barbecue spots, sports facilities, restaurants and bars, and a water body suitable for water sports. The Danube Island is also host to the Danube Island Festival – the biggest open-air event in Europe for over 25 years.
Danube Island Festival © Stadt Wien
Beyond the Museum City Archetype
Unlike some other European cities that are similarly steeped in long history, Vienna does not stagnate as a “museum city” but instead continues to innovate itself. Tourism is a significant contributor to Vienna’s economy, and its tourist infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and tourism enterprises are well used by both visitors and locals alike, contributing to its high quality of urban life.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral © Damien Woon
Beyond its UNESCO World Heritage Status
Despite the limited changes that the city can make due to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Vienna is continually innovating and has injected vibrancy through focused developments in 13 key areas that will have impacts across the entire city.
Vienna’s historic centre © Damien Woon
Reconnecting to its Neighbours
The Wien Hauptbahnhof or Vienna Central Railway Station with its stunning diamond-shaped roof and located just outside the UNESCO World Heritage city centre, is a major redevelopment of the former railway station and transformed the former terminus into an interchange between Eastern and Western Europe.
Wien Hauptbahnhof © Damien Woon
The Prater-Messe-Krieau-Stadion area is one of Vienna’s 13 key development areas, where a new WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business) Campus is developed next to the historic Prater entertainment district. The Campus houses cutting-edge buildings designed by world-renowned architectural practices such as Zaha Hadid Architects, CRAB Studio (Peter Cook), and Atelier Hitoshi Abe.
Library & Learning Centre designed by Zaha Hadid Architects © Damien Woon
Departments Building designed by Estudio Carme Pinós S. L. © Damien Woon
Teaching Centre and Departments Building designed by BUSarchitektur © Damien Woon
Departments and Administration Building designed by CRAB Studio © Damien Woon
Ensuring Clean Water to the City
Clean water is a key criterion of the quality of life and citizen satisfaction in Vienna. Natural spring water from the Lower Austrian and Styrian Limestone Alps was first supplied directly to the city in 1873. The city employs various ways to ensure safe storage and supply of clean water to its residents, such as underground reservoirs as pictured above.
Vienna’s water supply © Damien Woon
Housing the People
Vienna’s approach to housing is both unique and progressive: over 50% of housing in the city is comprised of low cost rentals to ensure sufficient housing for people of low income, and prevent the formation of ghettos. The city’s long-term social housing programme began from the 1920s and heavily influenced by the art deco style (such as Karl-Marx-Hof pictured above), and evolved through the years with new experimental housing developments, as well as renewal programmes to continually refurbish the older flats with modern facilities.
Karl Marx-Hof Social Housing © Damien Woon
Modern housing in Vienna © Damien Woon
Vienna believes in environmental education, especially among the youth, to maintain its high quality of life and sustainability. For instance, Ulli Sima, City Councillor for the Environment (pictured above), has been at the forefront in reaching out to schoolchildren to instil good environmental habits from an early age.
City Councillor Ulli Sima with schoolchildren © Stadt Wien