This, the first European Echo Podcast, covers Red Vienna. Red Vienna spans the period from 1918-1933/4, when the first democratically-elected socialist government rose to power in the city. It is perhaps best remembered for the massive social house-building programme initiated by the municipal government. For the discussion, European Echo editor, Charlie Clemoes, is joined by Georgie Sinclair, founder and editor of ISO magazine, a blog covering architecture and design. Together they will be covering a range of architecture- and urbanism-related subjects.
Red Vienna in Context
Red Vienna is highly relevant to the present historical juncture in which we find ourselves. Its scale and ambition, in such a brief period of time, makes it a useful counter-argument to any claims that governments cannot afford to provide social housing. On top of this, it came right after the First World War. Vienna was especially affected by the war, due to a massive influx of migrants from the Eastern Front.
It also demonstrates an important example of the limitations of even the most ambitious and far-reaching socialist project. Municipal socialism will always ultimately fail unless it looks to a more global transformation. In the case of Vienna, the city was a haven. In this position, it was easily overwhelmed by the forces of conservatism, only a decade after the socialists came to power.
And yet, as the discussion relates we shouldn’t be too emphatic in our criticism, the amazing beauty of the buildings stands as a testament to what is possible. They also give a tantalising glimpse at what a society without private property might look like.
The podcast also touches upon the precursors in the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau and the Wiener Werkstätte. It specifically addresses how these precursors fed into the Red Vienna architects’ approach to building but also how the Red Vienna architects sought to address the shortcomings of these earlier movements.