Between Tradition and Modernism. The Architecture of Red Vienna
Vienna was a centre of attraction for hundred thousands of immigrants from all parts of the Habsburg monarchy, who hoped to find better living conditions in the capital. The provision of living space, however, was left entirely to the private market. Disastrous housing conditions were the result of building speculation and profit maximisation.
The ambitious housing programme of the Social Democratic municipal government did not only aim at an improvement of living conditions in "Red Vienna"; it also formed the background for socio-political and educational measures. Community facilities, sports grounds and baths were to promote social networking. The gigantic housing project was financed by a special housing tax and a tax on luxury goods.
During the period of the First Republic of Austria, the city government commissioned about 380 communal housing projects, contractors being not only the municipal planning and building office but also some 200 freelance architects from different regions. Many of these came from the Brno arts and crafts school which at that time was appreciated as an élite training centre.
Multi-storey apartment blocks were preferred to settlements at the periphery, but health and hygiene were always accorded focal attention. Courtyards within the blocks provided space for light, air and movement. A characteristic feature is the expressive architectural design epitomising the newly won self-assurance of the Social Democrats. The communal housing architecture has often been criticised as stylistically incoherent and remaining within the bounds of tradition, but it was more finely tuned to the needs of the people than the avant-garde buildings of the "New Objectivity" movement.

The photographs of Walter Zednicek presented in this exhibition evoke a striking vision of the richness in spatial diversity and building typology realised within the scope of communal housing in Vienna, offering once more an invitation to re-visit this type of architecture that has found wide international acclaim. 

A review of the historic "Red Vienna" illustrates the socio-political dimensions of the housing project.

Opening: FZHM | 8 September 2009 | 18.00 hrs

Exhibition curator: Regina Wonisch
Exhibition designer: Peter Karlhuber


Walter Zednicek: Architektur des Roten Wien, Wien 2009

German, English, Italian, French
224 pages, 377 illustrations, 30x23cm,
Paperback: 35 EUR,
ISBN 978-3-9502544-2-6
Hardcover: 48 EUR,
ISBN 978-3-9502544-3-3


"First and foremost, housing shortage is mainly a consequence of migration. This problem hits Vienna more forcibly than other provinces and cities of the Austrian monarchy. Immigration was heavy, before as well as after the War. At the beginning and in the course of the War, the catastrophes in the border countries of the old monarchy led to an influx of war fugitives. After the War the disintegration of the monarchy into seven successor states, which formed part of our economic system, caused the uprooting of thousands of people who were forced to emigrate. The exodus from Vienna took place and is taking place today in a different way. Whereas the migration from the national states to Vienna was forced by the pressure of circumstances and has always called for the provision of living quarters, migration away from Vienna so far has not made available any housing space.“

From an overview on municipal housing policy at Vienna: Die Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien. Ein Überblick über die Tätigkeit der Stadt Wien seit dem Kriegsende zur Bekämpfung der Wohnungsnot und zur Hebung der Wohnkultur, Wien 1926