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Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) presents The Vienna Model: Housing for the 21st Century City

Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) presents The Vienna Model: Housing for the 21st Century City an exhibition on view April 17–September 2, 2013.

SARGFABRIK ESTATE (Coffin Factory), 1996. Architects: BKK-2, Johnny Winter. Photo by Stadt Wien – MA 18 / Rupert Christanell.
SARGFABRIK ESTATE (Coffin Factory), 1996. Architects: BKK-2, Johnny Winter. Photo by Stadt Wien – MA 18 / Rupert Christanell.

This new exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York presents THE VIENNA MODEL, a survey of public housing design in the Austrian capital of Vienna curated by Wolfgang Förster and William Menking. The exhibition features 37 case studies in Viennese public housing by dozens of architects, accompanied by a responsive series of artworks curated by the Austrian collaborative duo Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber. The exhibition will highlight these projects for an American audience as it debuts in New York and tours Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., before returning to Vienna from 2013 to 2014.

The City of Vienna has achieved extraordinary milestones with regard to public housing: today, about 60% of the Viennese population lives in municipally built, owned, or managed housing, and the city is clearly in control of the housing market. This stands in stark contrast to the United States, where, in most cases, the private market is the provider of housing and is often even relied upon to rehabilitate existing neighborhoods and create new communities. Vienna’s housing model contributes to a tangible positive impact; for the past four consecutive years, Vienna topped the Mercer “Quality of Living” survey, as the city boasting the world’s highest quality of life in the world, was ranked second in The Economist’s 2012 “World’s Most Livable City,” and number eight in Monocle’s 2012 “World’s Most Livable Cities.”

The successful model dates back to the days of “Red Vienna,” in the early 20th century, when the socialist government took an active interest in designing for the masses. That interest has since evolved into a housing policy that is not only exemplary in its consideration for quality-of-life issues, but has also produced works by a host of prolific architects and studios over the years, such as those of Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Richard Neutra, Coop Himmelb(l)au, or Jean Nouvel. Multiple housing projects spread across the capital show just how unique they are as examples of architecture, urban habitation, neighborhood revitalization, and the creation of new communities.

THE VIENNA MODEL examines aspects such as continuity, innovation, social cohesion, urban development, responses to demographic changes, diversity, integration, civic participation, environmental aspects, and inner city densification. The projects featured in the exhibition are characteristic for contemporary Viennese public housing trends, some little-known outside the city: The Kabelwerk Estate, which involved turning the grounds of an old electrical cable and wiring factory into an entirely new urban area (completed in 2007). Other examples include an inter-ethnic housing complex (completed 2000), Bike City (2008), and Sargfabrik (1996), a former coffin manufacturing plant turned into a housing complex: this project was planned by a residents’ group in Vienna’s densely built-up 14th district, and has since received international acclaim for its outstanding architecture as well as its social concept of introducing a new communal infrastructure into a low-profile urban area.

THE VIENNA MODEL was curated by William Menking, an architectural historian, critic and writer, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, and Wolfgang Förster, the head of the Department for Housing Research of the City of Vienna. Vancouver- and Vienna-based artists and cultural researchers Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber were invited to look at the communal spaces and concepts in this show, and to speculate on how they resonate within artistic and cultural practices—thus expanding the architectural and urban discussion into a cultural discourse. The projects they selected include works by artists Alfredo Jaar, Ulrike Lienbacher, Sofie Thorsen, Bitter & Weber, and Michael Zinganel, as well as urban initiatives and projects such as add-on (2005), and Kunstgastgeber Gemeindebau (2012) which are supported by the Viennese Fund for Public Art, KÖR. Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber also developed the unique design of the exhibition, which features graphics by Thumb, New York.

The exhibition is being mounted as a collaboration between the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Department for Housing Research of the City of Vienna. It aims to open up a space for cross-cultural negotiations between Viennese and American concepts of housing. In each of the cities the exhibition will travel to, the curators and artists will host roundtable discussions with local architects and planning officials to highlight the crosscurrents between the cities and examples highlighted in the exhibit. THE VIENNA MODEL is meant to be a point of departure for a discussion on housing for the 21st century.

The opening reception for THE VIENNA MODEL will take place on Tuesday, April 16, from 6 to 8pm. It will be preceded by a panel discussion featuring the curators, architects, and artists. The talk will take place in the auditorium of the Austrian Cultural Forum from 5 to 6pm. Admission is free. Due to limited seating, rsvp for the artist talk is required. Tickets are available by visiting or calling 212 319 5300 x 46.

Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022
T 212 319 5300
Hours: Daily 10–6pm