The Architecture of Red Vienna, 1919-1934
Author: Eve Blau MIT Press, 1999
Sponsors: Getty Grant Program
In 1919 the Social Democratic city council of Vienna initiated a radical program of reforms designed to reshape the city's infrastructure along socialist lines. The centerpiece and most enduring achievement of "Red" Vienna was the construction of the Wiener Gemeindebauten, 400 communal housing blocks, distributed throughout the city, in which workers' dwellings were incorporated with kindergartens, libraries, medical clinics, theaters, cooperative stores, and other public facilities. The 64,000 units housed one tenth of the city's population. Throughout this socialist building campaign, however, Austria was ruled by a conservative, clerical, and antisocialist political majority. Thus the architecture of Red Vienna took shape in the midst of highly charged, and often violent, political conflict between left and right.
In this book, Eve Blau looks at how that ideological conflict shaped the buildings of Red Vienna—in terms of their program, spatial conception, language, and use—as well as how political meaning itself is manifested in architecture. She shows how the architecture of Red Vienna constructed meaning in relation to the ideological conflicts that defined Austrian politics in the interwar period--how it was shaped by the conditions of its making, and how it engaged its own codes, practices, and history to stake out a political position in relation to those conditions. Her investigation sheds light both on the complex relationship among political program, architectural practice, and urban history in interwar Vienna, and on the process by which architecture can generate a collective discourse that includes all members of society.