Socialist Communal Buildings of Vienna, Austria
The Theodor-Körner-Hof is a community apartment block (or rather a series of them) in the fifth district of Vienna, Margareten. The Theodor-Körner-Hof dates back to the 1950ies. Communal buildings have a long tradition in Vienna, which reached a climax between the first World War and 1933. These years are known as "Rotes Wien" or "Red Vienna", as the Social Democrats ruled over the city and undertook enormous endeavours to create a labourer-friendly infrastructure.
This included the creation of affordable living space - communal buildings were erected at a rapid pace. For details, read my article on the Rabenhof in the third district of Vienna or the Karl-Marx-Hof in the 19th district. After 1933, the Fascist government of Austria suppressed not only the social democrats, but most of their clientele - rarely any communal buildings were created until after WWII. The damage that the war did to the city created a desperate need for apartments after 1945. The city of Vienna responded to this need with ambitious building activities especially in the early 1950ies, when emergency shelters were replaced by "proper" houses.
Today, the 1950ies buildings are quite a burden to the city: They were built using cheap materials, have bad insulation and noise disturbance is pretty bad. Having lived in one of these buildings myself for half a year, I know well why they often come at really low rates. If these buildings happen to be in unattractive areas, they are at risk to turn into ghettos, as anyone who can afford it moves away these days. The Theodor-Körner-Hof is a bit of an exception to this development: It too was built cheaply, but its sheer size has forced the city of Vienna to do something about the lacking appeal. But let me say a few words about the history of the Theodor-Körner-Hof first.
History of the Theodor-Körner-Hof
The Theodor-Körner-Hof was built between 1951 and 1955, according to plans by the architects Ladislaus Hruska and Kurst Schlauss. The land it was built on was six hectares of more or less open space that had previously been used as a hay and horse market. The communal housing court was named after Theodor Körner, a former mayor of Vienna and president of Austria. No big surprise, Theodor Körner was a social democrat. The court was built just by the Gürtel; all other large communal housing courts of Margareten were built before 1933 and therefore, they are quite different in style and outlay. The Theodor-Körner-Hof houses 1,356 apartments, which makes it one of the bigger communal courts in Vienna - and the biggest in the "labourer district" of Margareten.
At the centre of the Theodor-Körner-Hof, you can find the "Matzleinsdorfer Hochaus", a multi-storey house of 60 metres. Taken together, the Theodor-Körner-Hof and the Matzleinsdorfer Hochhaus are home to a significant amount of people, also known as "potential voters". Therefore, the city of Vienna started to fight the "ghettosation" of the Theodor-Körner-Hof in the past few years. In 2007, the most important steps were taken in this process: A 18 metre high and 150 metre long glass-wall was built to segregate the Theodor-Körner-Hof from the Gürtel, the street with the highest traffic in all of Austria - which runs right next to the building. A line of photovoltaic cells was installed along the edge of the glass-wall, lifts were built and facades renewed.
Over-all, the Theodor-Körner-Hof is now cleaner, more quiet and more comfortable to live in. As a tourist attraction, it is only worth seeing if you have a specialist interest in Viennese communal buildings and if you don′t want to focus exclusively on the 1920ies and 1930ies. If this is the case, note also my articles on the Karl-Marx-Hof, the Rabenhof, and the Werkbundsiedlung.
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