Wien und der Anfang einer sozialen Stadtplanung

Hygiene and sanitation improvements played a determinant role in the creation of the "modern city" between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. In the second half of the nineteenth century, international congresses of hygiene and demography were developing and transmitting the necessary new knowledge, and stabilized a new transdisciplinarity between the architectural–technical and medico–scientific fields. Architects and engineers were called upon to design plans for modern European cities, not just in an artistic way but also attentive to new social needs. The transmission of deseases needed to be combatted, hence a series of interventions began from the creation of hydric nets and drains to the construction of efficient hospitals and housing reform.

In 1887, Vienna hosted the 6th International Congress of Hygiene. Until then, professional societies had played a significant role in addressing the sanitation needs of the Habsburg capital, among them the Society of Physicians and the Austrian Society of Engineers and Architects. After the success of the congress, and principally as a consequence of the unification of 1890/1892 that brought the city to the level of a metropolis, a new consciousness was born which resulted in a significant hygienic modernisation of the capital. The strengthening of the already existing services and the creation of social services was fundamental in the vision of the so–called Munizipalsozialismus (municipal socialism) represented by the mayor, Karl Lueger. Hydric nets, public baths, modern hospitals, schools and asylums, as well as the protection of green space for the whole population made Vienna, at the threshold of the First World War, an efficient capital in terms of hygiene and sanitation. Important architects and professionals were involved in the reformation.

The housing conditions of a large part of the Viennese population remained disastrous and almost unchanged until the arrival of the social democratic administration in 1919. Form that moment on, stimulated by less private interests, Red Vienna could concentrate its force on the construction of the legendary Gemeindebauten (municipal buildings), bringing further improvements to general conditions initiated in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In the area of social housing in Central Europe among all the results of the various experiments, research work and innovations the episode of Red Vienna is probably the most important und remarkable. But the roots of this project lie in a varied and still largely unknown combination of philanthropic initiatives, legislative measures and initial steps by the public hand that developed at the beginning of the previous century in a number of cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The courtyard building played a central role as a type that defied political changes and attempts at new kinds of housing.

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