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Vienna and the Danube

posted Sep 23, 2010, 1:30 PM by Patricia Martin
The current master plan for Vienna is focused on developing the city as a regional influence, reclaiming the importance and prestige the city has previously held. It is therefore no surprise that phrases such as “world culture center,” “regional center,” “central business center,” and “regional function” appear frequently in the current master plan. Until the year 2004, Vienna occupied a border point in the European context, straddling the west and the east. However, with the recent incorporation of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania into the European Union, Vienna recovered a more a centralized location when compared to Europe as a whole, thus creating the perfect context for Vienna to cement itself as the capital city of Europe. In addition to this ambitious aim, its strategic location as a geographic center in the Danube basin, its economic power and the remarkable infrastructure provide extremely expansive growth opportunities. The Viennese politicians not only acknowledge this situation, but have developed a plan to take the initiative to raise the city to another level. Among their potential ideas one can find, along with many urban developments, international events as the last European Football Championship – held in 2008 in Switzerland and Austria – and international organizations that base their headquarters in Vienna as the United Nations and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). All of these aspects boost the city towards into a higher gear in exerting a greater influence in the region. In that context, the Danube becomes a structuring spine through which people and goods flow. Moreover, the Danube serves as both a metaphor and an icon for the region. Consequently, the development of the future Vienna will be closely related with the river in order to achieve the best results. 

The master plan of Vienna focuses on thirteen different areas of the city, being the Donau City the most interesting one. The Donau City exists in a new neighborhood located next to the United Nations Headquarters. The development concept behind this city provides a mixture of potential uses: 70 percent is designated for offices and commercial use, 20 percent consists of residential cultural uses while the remaining 10 percent is slated for recreation. Donau City is located on the left bank of the New Danube and very well connected to the city center through a street that runs perpendicular to the river. Bordered by a park in the north, Donau City is situated with the United Nations to the northeast, a residential area to the southeast and the Danube River to the west. The project is composed of twenty buildings of different heights – from a single-story church to the DC Tower 1, which stretches 220 meters into the sky – and uses. Many famous architects have worked on this project, including Elke Delugan-Meissl , Hans Hollein and Dominique Perrault among others. Perrault also developed the master plan for the last buildings located next to the Danube bank. 

View of the Donau City with the new buildings designed by Perrault.

Next to the river runs the Donau-Uffer highway, which serves as one of the main infrastructural arteries of the city. This road broke the connection between the new development and the Danube River, and necessitated the first strategy of the project be to create a platform over the highway to separate the pedestrians from the automobile traffic. All the vehicles are routed under the platform, increasing the effectiveness of the circulation. On the upper level, the surface is entirely devoted to pedestrian ambulation. The entries to the buildings are separated between cars and pedestrians: in the lower level the cars access the parking lot directly located behind the patform, while the main lobbies are located on the platform level and form the main entrance for the pedestrians. With this maneuver, people can move freely over the whole area allowing social life to happen and therefore making city.