Sonnenallee (Sun avenue), Vienna – no there are no trees along this avenue. Not yet. There is only sunshine on this Sunday and the name. And just ahead: a silhouette of high-rise buildings in the middle of the nothingness of north-eastern Vienna.
The north of this city has nothing to do with the world-famous picturesque charm of Vienna, but is rather infamous for its car wrecking yards, desolate social housing sins of the 1960s, and now: Seestadt. An entirely new district built on a former airfield and one of the largest urban development projects in Central Europe.
The plan: housing for 40,000 people. The ambition: a district with an independent social and economic structure, with schools, shops and office spaces. Social housing, higher-class condominiums and shared student flats will make up this patchwork neighborhood. About a quarter of the district is finished – over 8,000 people already live here. Social mixing unis the goal. The Seestadt is an experiment to save Vienna’s legacy as a social democratic utopia. Whether it will succeed is far from certain.
Vienna was long considered a social housing paradise. Take Heiligenstadt in the west for example: vineyards, beautiful 19th-century villas and mansions with views of the Danube – and in the middle of this upper-class suburban idyll, the “Karl Marx Hof
”, a massive social housing complex built in the 1920s. Until today, this practice runs right through the whole city. Where there is a villa district, there is a “Gemeindebau” (municipality building).
The fact that immigrants were not included in social housing for decades has also left its mark in a city where 41 percent of the population has a “migration background”
. The gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods did the rest to displace an affordable housing market. That’s when it happened: the ghettoisation. And one of these ghettos is Transdanubia, the area north of the Danube. In other words, exactly where Seestadt is now being built.