Reconnecting City & River: Vienna, Austria & the Danube

One imagines the City of Vienna along its Danube as readily as London along its Thames or Paris along its Seine. But while the Thames and the Seine wind through the center of their respective capital cities, indeed centering city life around them, the great Danube rushes past Vienna – realigned, re-engineered, and remote from the city center. Having been radically manipulated for well over a century, to subdue its propensity for seasonal flooding, and to enable it to become a more efficient transport channel, the Danube River today (apart from its romantic status in book and song) is a broad canal accompanied by an equally broad, parallel flood relieving channel both separated from the old city, and separating it from the \’new\’ Vienna far off on the opposite banks. Whereas historic cities needed to be near a body of water for transportation, sustenance and trade, they also had to protect their citizens from those same bodies of water from floods and potential enemies. This meant lining banks with industrial and mercantile enterprises, while locating the civic and residential districts at some distance. Today cities worldwide are rediscovering the competitive advantages – and pleasures – of direct adjacency to great bodies of water. Urban waterfronts are unrivaled in their potential for providing for an exceptional or celebratory enterprise. Imagine the Sydney Opera House, or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or even Cleveland\’s Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, not juxtaposed against each city\’s body of water? The London Eye, London\’s majestic Ferris wheel, actually sits in the Thames. Much of contemporary Chicago\’s identity and self-image, not to mention wealth, comes from its spectacular 20-mile long facade stretching along Lake Michigan. Where else but along their portion of the mighty Mississippi would the citizens of St. Louis construct their monumental Gateway-to-the-West? Humanity, it seems, delights in and finds inspiration at waterfront settings, but increasingly asks more of them than mere spectacle. Along an urban waterfront it seems possible to accommodate the changing needs of today\’s urban dweller, as modern societies continue their millennial shift from industrial-based economies (and their spatial demands) to service and lifestyle-based economies and their requirements. The studio will develop design ideas and strategies for how the City of Vienna can reconnect with its great river. The Vienna/Danube River Studio is open to, indeed welcomes, the participation of, students from each of the disciplines at the GSD: architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and planning.