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Hintergrund 49

18. Wiener Architekturkongress. Platz da! European Urban Public Space

The 18th Vienna Architecture Congress (19.11.-21.11.2010), which took place in the context of the exhibition `Platz da! European Urban Public Space´ (14.10.2010- 31.01.2011), was consequently once again dedicated to the topic of public space in a multi-layered manner. The result was two and a half days of dense information, but above all a wealth of controversial viewpoints.


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As the exhibition has already shown, the concept of “public space” has extremely blurred contours in terms of content, which lead to these different approaches – and such contours can certainly be found within one and the same discipline. However, a narrow, albeit strong basis of a certain common sense could be found among the invited international and domestic architects, urbanists, landscape planners, sociologists, architectural theorists, and cultural scientists: public space is repeatedly appropriated as a strategic instrument, whether by urban planners, politicians, or business leaders. Even if the definitions differ, it is a hotly contested commodity that is always up for negotiation. It was exciting to follow the range of changing positions, which on the one hand – and this was also discussed – spoke of non-existent public space, whether because of administrative modalities or because of its physical dissolution through the new means of communication such as the Internet. On the other hand, participatory initiatives and artificially initiated appropriation processes were used to demonstrate new potential for transformation processes in public space.

The journal takes up the theme of the Az W Studio Visits, which, in cooperation with the Vienna Art Week and as a supporting program to the exhibition “Platz da! European Urban Public Space,” visited three Viennese architectural offices. Two further contributions provide news from the extensive fields of activity of the Az W: The article on Eilfried Huth refers to the a_schaufenster 14, which was dedicated to the topic of user-determined living and discussed pilot projects of the 1960s as well as current examples. In her “Remarks on a Spalt House from a Photographic Perspective,” architect and photographer Verena von Gagern recounts her impressive “encounters” with Johannes Spalt’s (1920-2010) Schubert House in Altmünster, Upper Austria. With this concluding essay, Background pays tribute to one of the most influential representatives of the Austrian architectural scene after 1945.