Tails From the Vienna Woods



Gemeindebau in Meidling

Meidling is Vienna’s 12th district. Nothing in particular stands out about the district, but the district, like all others, has Kunst am Bau.  My only other visit to Meidling was on a snowy day, to tour the more-interesting-than-you-might-think, Museum of Heating Culture.

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Gemeindebau in Hernals

With an agenda-free day on the calendar I thought to revisit my version of treasure hunting, seeking out the Kunst am Bau that decorates some of the city’s public housing construction. Until I actually tallied the blog posts I thought I was nearly finished with this little project, but, no, there are two districts still in draft and a half dozen or so waiting to be explored. Well, then.

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Gemeindebau in Währing

This post is really more like the second half of my walk through Währing, Vienna’s 18th district. In the spring of 2015 I paid a visit to Kutschkermarkt, Währing’s farmer’s market, with a little wandering about for good measure. Little did I know at the time that Währing would become our new home!

A couple of weeks ago, inspired by an article I had read about Vienna’s “Best Knacker” at Fleischerei Bauer near our house, Anna Grace and I decided to combine a Gemeindebau walk with a “Best Knacker” lunch.

“Good Boy!”


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Gemeindebau in Brigittenau

Brigittenau, Vienna’s 20th district, lies to the northeast of the Inner Stadt, on the old island between the Danube Canal and River.  As city districts go, I found my walkabout here to contain a higher concrete-green space ratio than other districts (rebuilds following WWII destruction); that, combined with the overcast skies, made the district seem a bit forlorn. I should perhaps return on a cheerier weather day.

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Leopoldstadt, the Replay

Through conversations with friends who were intrigued with my Gemeindebau roaming, I was asked if I would lead a walk through one of Vienna’s districts for one of the local women’s groups, and on Tuesday our group of 10 wandered about Leopoldstadt, the city’s second district (Bezirk).
Though I have explored Leopoldstadt previously, in my preparation I discovered a few art pieces that I had missed–a bonus for me!  Our walk began with a peek at St. Francis of Assisi Church (or, the Kaiser Jubilee Church, as it was constructed on the 50th anniversary of the Emperor’s reign.)
Then, onto the art. “Children Playing,” in case that was not obvious.  Pretty glass tiles.

Wauchauer Hof.

At Tempelgasse, a mosaic depicting Vienna’s largest synagogue, Leopoldstadter Tempel, destroyed on Kristallnacht 1938.

On this site in Vienna a very famous German circus took place for over 100 years. The mosaic was restored in 2002 and sparkled even on our gray day.

A scene from one of several Prater mosaics in the city.

A tile mosaic of the walled city of Vienna in 1699, with Stephansdom rising prominently.

In addition to the nearby 8 kilometers of walking and talking, the donations collected will be directed to a local charity. A superb way to spend a day!

Gemeindebau in Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus

What a fun change compared to my tour of Favoriten last week, Vienna’s 10th district of artistically dull offerings!  If there is a “Melting Pot” in Vienna, it is the city’s 15th district, Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, so named in part for Crown Prince Rudolf, Archduke of Austria and heir apparent, until the suicide-pact with his mistress out in the Vienna Woods in 1889, that is.
The 15th district is home to the largest percentage of non-Viennese, around 35%, with many having origins in the Balkans and points further east. Thus, it stands to reason that one could order a Polish beer at “Cafe Barcelona;” pick up South Tirolean meats at a Turkish grocer; grab lunch at the new Romanian restaurant; or simply walk into a storefront that is “Open.”

And for the youngest newcomers there is Kindergarten “Al Moustafa,” with language instruction in German, English, Arabic, and Islam. Take it from me: learning the Arabic language is hard as a 40-something. I am certain even the preschoolers speak more fluently than I!
But onto the Kunst am Bau, my primary reason for the outing.  With a willing teenage partner along (mostly because of the promise of lunch), off we set.

A reference to one of the Turkish sieges.
Two 1970’s constructions had era-specific art. Groovy!

 We walked down “Braunhirshengasse,” the Brown Deer Passage. Makes perfect sense.

We also walked down Grimmgasse, so named for the Brothers Grimm, who never spent any time in Vienna. Makes no sense whatsoever.

We loved our outing to Vienna’s melting pot, though a lunch spot was a little hard to come by. Good newcomers to Vienna’s 15th district, may I humbly suggest opening an Albanian/Polish/Macedonian/Turkish/Georgian/Azerbaijani or similar eatery?  We’ll be sure to return.

Gemeindebau in Favoriten

Beautiful spring day and a willing teenage partner, so off we set for Favoriten, Vienna’s 10th district that lies to the south of the Inner Stadt.  Our travels mainly took us to areas that were culturally diverse but architecturally monotonous, with lots and lots of interwar and post-war block housing. Perhaps there is more to the district, though we did not see it.
Something we have not seen before, a Spinnerin am Kreuz, or piety column (and former execution site, we learned). It seemed out of place against the backdrops of passing traffic and the gigantic George Washington Hof.
During the construction of this public housing unit, numerous skulls of hanged victims from the nearby Spinnerin am Kreuz execution site were discovered. Anyone queueing Poltergeist on Netflix right now?
A shadow of times gone by, when the larger public housing units were like small cities in and of themselves. “Lebensmittel” loosely translates to “Grocer.”
Still today, however, many of Vienna’s larger public housing complexes have Kindergartens. This entrance is particularly charming. 
It’s not a Gemeindebau outing if I don’t spy socialist art. 
The Gemeindebau Mannekin Pis? 
One of the prettiest courtyards we spotted. The keen observer will note that one is not authorized to have any fun at all in the courtyard, a much-too-common sight, we discovered.
As lunchtime was approaching we found the first of several pretty Kunst am Bau. 

Our last point of interest yielded a pensive lady, or perhaps she was sad because no one was permitted to walk on the grass beneath her feet. 
Finding lunch in Favoriten, outside of Austrian or Turkish fare was a little challenging (at least where we were). Thankfully OmNom Burgers was but a few tram stops away (in an adjacent district) to feed our hunger with what we declared were the best “American” patties we’ve found so far here in Wien.  No stale Semmel or dried sesame seed roll; and no weird “American-style” sauce. Just Yum. OmNom.

Gemeindebau in Alsergrund

Alsergrund, Vienna’s 9th district and sandwiched more or less between the InnerStadt and Döbling, is home to many things, the Old General Hospital, Votivkirche, Sigmund Freud’s house, the city’s oldest Jewish cemetery, and a good many departments of the University of Vienna among them. It is also, to my dismay, home to some of the most uninteresting Kunst am Bau I’ve encountered on my Gemeindebau walks. 
The mosaics between window spaces is a recurring theme with the Gemeindebau I have seen across the city.

Near the parish church was this plaque to John Adam, a Prince of Liechtenstein.

The parish church.

A complementary pair of marketgoers.

At Thury-Hof I found pretty arcades and a “conceptualization of National Socialistic Art” that calls one to remember the expelled Jewish persons who resided in this community housing.

The Haus zum Blauen Einhorn indeed had a unicorn, though it was not blue.
Among Alsergrund’s more noteworthy sights is Palais Liechtenstein, the “country residence” of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, who rule the principality of Liechtenstein and maintain residences in Vienna. Every once in a while the garden palace is open for tours of the family’s private art collection, but one can walk the grounds at any time. 

Following WWII, efforts were made to transport approximately 35.000 war-traumatized Austrian children to Switzerland for recreation and relaxation. The Palais Lichetenstein was used as a coordination point for the Swiss Red Cross to prepare children for travel. In 2005 many of the “Swiss Children,” or “Östricherli,” were on hand to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII with the plaque at the entrance to the grounds.

So while the Gemeindebau did not pique my interest, the district still held enough curiosities to make for a worthwhile walkabout. 

Proletarian Vienna. My Tour of Erdberg.

Vienna’s Gemeindebau (community housing) fascinates me. More than 60% of Viennese residents live in municipally-supported housing,  and my structured wandering through the city’s districts in search of colorful mosaics or housing named for interesting people has so far been an enjoyable endeavor, but lacking the historical context and social nuances that a longtime resident could offer.  A commenter on my blog offered to tour his favorite district with me, and recently I took him up on the offer. This may not have been a good idea, for I was spoiled by his hospitality and well-informed narrative as he navigated me through the district.

Erdberg is one of Vienna’s oldest settlements, and where Richard the Lionheart was captured after the unsuccessful Third Crusade. It was a sawmill village and important supplier to Vienna, and together with the former meat-packing warehouses in the surrounds formed a working-class core still in evidence today.  My personal tour began at Hanusch Hof, one of the oldest Gemeindebau in Landstraße, Vienna’s third district that incorporates Erdberg and other villages. To be more accurate, my tour really began with coffee at the cafe in the building, a more proper Viennese start to the day, and a CliffNotes history of the city from the early 19th century on to put it all into perspective.

 Hanusch Hof is named for a politician and founder of modern Austrian labor law. In the courtyard resides a bronze statute of an athlete placed in honor of Ferdinand Hanusch. According to my guide, the sculpture was removed in 1941, not because it did not fit the Nazi ideal of the “perfect male,” but rather, the metal was needed for the war effort. After the war the sculpture was recreated.

Austria’s oldest political party, the Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs maintains offices in the larger housing structures to keep residents current on relevant events.

In its time Hanusch Hof was considered modern with its shared indoor plumbing. Just our good fortune that a door to one of the buildings was open…


The shared bathrooms are no longer in use; and this section of the building appeared to be undergoing further modernization, as well.

As politicos are wont to do, the social democratic ruling class derived a bit of pleasure from constructing housing (the structures adjacent to the brownstone on both sides) amidst what they considered the petit bourgeoisie. “Your champagne tax is money better spent on others,” or something like that.

Of the Gemeindebau visited, Rabenhof was my favorite. A poetic name (Raven’s Court) that perfectly described this potpourri of building styles containing 1.000 flats; the community is practically a small city in and of itself. There are hidden gardens and shaded arcades, and romantic design elements among the green setting. A library, cafes, and other village-like amenities completed the lovely frame.

At the time of the construction (mid 1920’s) the elegant balconies were considered a bit petit bourgeoisie by the ruling social democrats. I think the curves compliment the neighborhood nicely.



Within the community is the Theater Rabenhof, originally a dance hall for the workers, and now open to everyone with its theater, cabaret, and concert performances.

Any guesses as to what this may be? It is not an exercise device, as I guessed, but a bar upon which to hang a carpet for brushing, and there is one is almost every Gemeindebau courtyard. My guide reported these are not much in use anymore, alas.

Later in the tour I was introduced to the next iteration of social housing in Vienna, GEWOG, Gemeinnützige Wohnbaugesellschaften. The closest contemporary in the U.S. would be a co-operative, with intercultural housing with shared responsibilities. More modern and ecologically friendly in design than traditional Gemeindebau, and now another research project for me during my tenure here, as these buildings too have Kunst am Bau.

Because much of the social housing in Erdberg was constructed post-WWI, the Kunst am Bau was fewer though not any less delightful to discover. This mosaic is of the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Franz Nagl, and a counselor to the Emperor.

Erdberg was also home to the city’s fiaker stables, once upon a time. All that remains is the mosaic reminder on Fiakerplatz. The fiakers now reside at the Prater, I believe.
As for the village of Erdberg, my guide shared a photo of its last remnants from the city’s electronic archives with me.
Along our path we came across a water color rendering of part of the village.

Sometimes, the most artistic reminder of what was is often the mosaic that adorns the what is.

And somehow in the process of “Sanierung” (in the U.S. we usually whisper, “Gentrification,”) that little part of the village held its ground for all to see.

There were many other fascinating moments and memorable snaps and enjoyable conversation that I will treasure, along with my gift of a historical pictorial guide of Landstraße; and, indeed, as my guide suggested, lunch at one of the best British pubs in the area. Altogether, a tour of a part of this beautiful city was like none I shall likely have again.  Mit meinen aufrichtigen Dank, reo.




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