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Land for Us All

Wed 09.12.2020 – Mon 03.05.2021, daily 10:00-19:00
green fields and parking zone from bird's eye view

Sealed soil: parking lots instead of farmland

The earth's surface is a finite resource, and soil is our most precious commodity. Careless or capital-driven treatment of this resource has massively changed the shape and function of our towns and villages in recent decades. In view of the threat of a climate catastrophe and rising housing prices, the question arises as to whether the current path, with maximum compromises and minimum adaptation, is still sustainable. An extensive and couragous land policy is called for, where is it?

many people in and around a lake, behind it a factory
The ENCI quarry supplied the Netherlands for over a century with lime for the production of cement. In 2018 the artificial landscape was transformed into an impressive nature reserve that provides space for local recreation, rare plants and birds.
© Rademacher / de Vries Architects
colourful sketch with houses, streets and people
In Basel the Stiftung Habitat is doing pioneering work in the realm of neighbourhood development. In the east section of the Erlenmatt Quarter they are keeping land out of the grasp of speculators to create affordable living space, bundling homes, workplaces and communal activies in the area while also producing their own energy.
© Lengsfeld, designkonzepte GmbH / Basel
Four nuns with umbrellas
In the capital of South Korea, Seoul, a 10.9 km stretch of city highway was torn down in 2005. The Cheonggyecheon river running underneath was renatured and a park was created.
© Sue@Reisephilie (
landscape with sign "baugrund zu verkaufen"
Building site for sale
© Johann Jaritz, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0; collage: Christina Kirchmair

The progressive urban sprawl of the countryside has been the subject of discussion for decades. Meanwhile, everybody in Austria could be housed in the single-family homes that already exist 1), although yet more land is still being approved for building on, new shopping centres are going up on greenfield sites and whole chalet villages in the Alps. Progressive sealing of the surface is contributing to the climate crisis and endangering food security. Speculation with land is increasing housing prices and leading to a creeping privatisation of public space. Weak or unenforced spatial planning regulations, a partly misguided tax law and subsidy system, and a despondent policy perpetuate the status quo instead of developing a vision for the future.

The exhibition explains the political, legal and economic background clearly and vividly, critically and sometimes inadvertantly absurdly. How does rural land become building land? Why is the price of land rising? What does all this have to do with our lives and dreams? Case studies and explanations of the relevant terminology bring light into the thicket of responsible agents involved. International comparisons illustrate strengths and weaknesses, international examples of best practice show alternative approaches. A collection of existing and feasible new tools points the way to spatial planning that conserves land as a resource, mitigates climate change, helps with housing issues and facilitates good architecture. We are all being called upon to think and act along new lines — and this exhibition is preparing the way.

1) With an average of 4.16 people per house (8,837,707 inhabitants in 2,123,597 detached and semi-detached houses). Source: Statistik Austria, status 2018

The ‘Land for Us All’ exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated catalogue published by Park Books, with essays by: Saskia Sassen, Gerhard Senft, Vandana Shiva, Robert Temel and Gerlind Weber.
Language: German
Editors: Karoline Mayer, Katharina Ritter and Angelika Fitz, Architekturzentrum Wien Book design: Manuel Radde & LWZ; illustrations: LWZ

Curators: Karoline Mayer & Katharina Ritter, Az W
Assistance: Lisa Gallian, Christina Kirchmair

Az W Insta-Photo Award to accompany the exhibition ‘Land for Us All’: #ZukunftReparieren

This year’s Az W Insta-Photo Award also places the focus on land. How can architecture and urban planning help repair the future? What does judicious treatment of land as a resource look like?
Please post examples of NO-GOs and YES-PLEASEs with the hashtag #ZukunftReparieren from 14.12.2020 to 28.02.2021.
A jury will select the best photographs, which will subsequently be on display at the Az W in early 2021.