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.
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.
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.
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 tile mosaic of the walled city of Vienna in 1699, with Stephansdom rising prominently.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes, the most artistic reminder of what was is often the mosaic that adorns the what is.
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.