What can we learn from the embedded knowledge of the Gründerzeit city to derive comprehensible architectural settings and designs for current challenges? The Gründerzeit building stock (1840-1910) is of enormous importance for Vienna. Until today it is highly valued for qualities like density, adaptability or visual coherence. However, the architecture of the Gründerzeit is a spatial embodiment of its time. Thus, it should be examined not as a mere collection of individual structures, but as an interconnected urban system, forming a specific Gründerzeit “code”.
Interventions in the Gründerzeit code:
Despite undeniable qualities, it is now time to “update” this code as changes in the world of work and the recognition of care work demand new spatial and functional solutions. To achieve this, several small, but replicable interventions were designed to house new uses. With this set of interventions, spaces for things such as new work, production, childcare or community gatherings could be implemented.
Lessons for today’s housing development:
Vienna’s population continues to grow. To create lively, resilient, and affordable new urban neighbourhoods, lessons can be drawn from the Gründerzeit city. To do so, a contemporary set of form-giving rules was developed to design new housing blocks that translate Gründerzeit qualities to meet modern demands. Its core elements are coherent housing typologies, simple, yet adaptable floor plans, robust constructions, shared infrastructures, and a lively ground floor zone with accessible courtyards. In this way, private living spaces are complemented with shared facilities like guest apartments, barrier-free flats for the elderly, rentable workspaces, digital production labs, green houses, or common childcare infrastructures. This creates a porous building block where public and private uses are mixed in all levels and scales – continuing Gründerzeit qualities and fostering a sense of community, shared responsibility and resource-saving lifestyles.