According to intrepid PT correspondent James Bligh, three days in Vienna is not enough time to digest “the complex layers of history that have been developing here since at least as far back as the first century.”

In that time the site was a Roman outpost that connected (what is now) Great Britain to Syria. What follows is an outsider’s reading of the city from only so much exposure…

Within the urban form of Vienna there appears a story of small victories for a working class that lived under a 400 year old monarchist dynasty until 1918 and then the shadow cast in its following absence. Here are a few examples of the city’s built fabric responding in favour of the public good, from the most recent (and Enlightened) 200 years.

Those examples, via James’ photographs and commentary from Vienna, follow below; you can see the full set on the Price Tags Instagram feed.

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Urbanist Abroad @j.bligh’s Backpacking – Vienna: “Vienna's famous ringstrausse, a circular boulevard enclosing the city centre, was previously the site of a border wall meant to protect the inhabitants therein. In 1809, Napoleon took the city (again) and blew up part of said wall. Much to my surprise, our Austrian government-sanctioned tour guide informed us that the citizens were pleased with Napoleon's decision – as it brought much needed light, breeze and open space (like the Hofburg Palace’s Volksgarten pictured here) into an otherwise dank and dismal inner city. As many PT readers may know, the (evidently worthless) ring wall was dismantled shortly thereafter in favour of a ring road (hidden behind the trees), bordered by many beloved public institutions, none perhaps more famous than the opera house frequented by Mozart, Mahler, etcetera.”

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Urbanist Abroad @j.bligh’s Backpacking – Vienna: “Built in the 1970's, Alterlaa is a series of social mega housing blocks that read as what Karl-Marx-Hof likely wanted to be. Notable features include its own metro stop, its own mall (a big one), roof top pools, many three bedroom units, and MASSIVE planters for the lower levels to block out sound and add privacy (not to mention the biophilic benefits). Articles online suggest resident happiness is high, move-outs are low, and crime is mostly limited to teenage graffiti. Once again the first floor of the housing blocks were mostly boring solid walls, but the great location and amenity count seems to have somewhat made up for it. Our B&B host suggested that housing affordability is still an issue in Vienna ‘unless you are lucky enough to get into the social housing program.’ That sounds a lot like False Creek South.”

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  1. The interior detail design of Skyrain’s original Expo Line stations were strongly influenced by Vienna’s. The modular metal panels, painted tubular handrails, and curved ceiling drops that give a sense of enclosure when the train is in the station were all part of the 1970’s Vienna station design handbook.

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