- URBION - The Revitalization of the Vienna Gürtel    click here to open paper content1260 kb
by    Tillner, Silja | silja.tillner@tw-arch.at   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
URBION is the successful transformation of an inner-city highway that formed a physical and social barrier into a lively neighborhood, a meeting-point for districts on both sides. T

Project history
In 1995 the Vienna Westgürtel, a 6km long and 70m wide 8-lane highway separating the inner
from the outer city districts, had become a physical and social barrier. As a consequence, the
neighborhoods adjacent to the Gürtel deteriorated, environmental pollution and the red-light
district contributed to the negative image. A train viaduct dominated the median of the highway.
The percentage of public open space per resident was the lowest in Vienna while many buildings
accommodated large immigrant families in overcrowded apartments. The area included ten
different city districts with separate budgets. This situation qualified the area for EU- co-
financing in the URBAN program.
Characteristic of the case, factors that contributed to the success
URBION was an urban revitalization project with phased small-scale interventions that were
responsive to existing conditions. Reprogramming the area with new uses led to an image
transformation and encouraged the allocation of a life-music scene in the vacant arches of the
viaduct, cultural and social institutions, restaurants and shops were to follow. The strategy was
on one hand to build on existing strengths, on the other hand to utilize derelict open space and
vacant arches. The open space was transformed to accommodate newly designed bike paths,
pedestrian areas, squares and parks. The arches were filled with activity and their appearance
changed due to transparent glass-facades. Image transformation was the key to the success of
URBION and was started before the design ideas developed. Renowned music-clubs with their
open-minded clientele contributed highly to the early acceptance of the newly claimed area.
Functional improvements, i.e. well lit friendly bike-paths and pedestrian walkways in front of the
arches, generous landscaping and innovative design of the bars guaranteed a lasting effect. The
frequent visitors soon became interested in the adjacent neighbourhoods, accompanying
projects in these districts succeeded as well. Aged housing stock was renovated without causing
Planning Method
An intense site analysis preceded the actual planning an d urban design. The positive effects of
small-scale interventions responsive to the local context secured public acceptance. The phased
implementation allowed for flexibility. The overall strategic plan was developed but kept in the
background, it is still followed today.
urban revitalization of inner-city highway, historic preservation reuse of vacant historic monument
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