In view of the fact that Austria is one of the largest “wasters” of land in the world, the question arises whether a trend reversal is still possible due to years of exploitation. From fake second homes in the Alps to abandoned, unused industrial areas in the eastern part of Austria to various other “ruins”, everything can be found even in a small country like Austria!
As long as a new construction next to the existing building is cheaper, there will never be a subsequent use or conversion of the existing (but there would be many excellent examples worldwide!). As long as political decisions will be driven exclusively by developers and money, there will be no chance for change because the population is not sensitized to how they would like to live in the future (by learning from the past). They just don’t feel responsible for what happens!
It all started with cheap clothing, moved on to “fast-furniture”, and today we have reached an advanced level of waste of space – our living space! Where is this going to lead?
Perhaps the new exhibition at the AzW can help to find some answers:
LAND FOR US ALL @ AzW Vienna
The earth’s surface is a finite resource, and soil is our most precious commodity. Careless or capital-driven treatment of this resource has massively changed the shape and function of our towns and villages in recent decades. In view of the threat of a climate catastrophe and rising housing prices, the question arises as to whether the current path, with maximum compromises and minimum adaptation, is still sustainable. An extensive and couragous land policy is called for, where is it?
The progressive urban sprawl of the countryside has been the subject of discussion for decades. Meanwhile, everybody in Austria could be housed in the single-family homes that already exist°, although yet more land is still being approved for building on, new shopping centres are going up on greenfield sites and whole chalet villages in the Alps. Progressive sealing of the surface is contributing to the climate crisis and endangering food security. Speculation with land is increasing housing prices and leading to a creeping privatisation of public space. Weak or unenforced spatial planning regulations, a partly misguided tax law and subsidy system, and a despondent policy perpetuate the status quo instead of developing a vision for the future.
The exhibition explains the political, legal and economic background clearly and vividly, critically and sometimes inadvertantly absurdly. How does rural land become building land? Why is the price of land rising? What does all this have to do with our lives and dreams? Case studies and explanations of the relevant terminology bring light into the thicket of responsible agents involved. International comparisons illustrate strengths and weaknesses, international examples of best practice show alternative approaches. A collection of existing and feasible new tools points the way to spatial planning that conserves land as a resource, mitigates climate change, helps with housing issues and facilitates good architecture. We are all being called upon to think and act along new lines — and this exhibition is preparing the way.
Architekturzentrum Wien 9/12/2020 – 3/5/2021 daily 10:00 – 19:00, Museumsplatz 1 – 1070 Vienna
Images: ÖHV, AzW, Johann Jaritz, Philipp Steurer, Nicole Rodlsberger and Johannes Sebastian Vilanek
° With an average of 4.16 people per house (8,837,707 inhabitants in 2,123,597 detached and semi-detached houses). Source: Statistik Austria, status 2018