Multimedia project examines city’s public spaces for insights into Viennese culture
VIENNA, Austria – The 20 or so multimedia elements of “The Spaces of Vienna” online magazine, produced by a team of 11 student journalists from Berry College, seek to read the public spaces and places of Vienna as texts in an effort to understand at least part of what makes the Viennese and their beautiful city tick.
The Spaces of Vienna team, seated from left, Lauren Fiorillo, Courtney Fox, Abbie Smith, Sarah Casagrande and Eric Jackson. Standing, from left, Lexie Turner, Lia Batista, Maddie Eiberger, Jackson Mattox, Candler Lowe and Lauren Richardson. “Die Grosse Chance,” or “The Great Chance” is a long-running Austrian talent show aired on TV by Austrian national broadcaster ORF.
How any city’s inhabitants utilize public space can say much about those inhabitants and the society of which they are a part. Berry’s international multimedia journalists discovered how important and vital public spaces are to a municipality voted most livable city in the world for the seventh year in a row.
The city’s impressive abundance, variety and quality of public space is one reason the city’s ethnically diverse population gets along.
“There’s a huge number of people who have really tiny houses and tiny apartments, and of course for those, the public spaces or the green spaces are some kind of extension of their living room,” said Lilli Licka, head of the Institute of Landscape Architecture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna
These living rooms include Vienna’s sparkling city parks, its boutique wineries in the northwest part of the city, the many open air cafes and coffee houses, the river scene along the Danube, and the many diverse “platzs,” or plazas. Of course, for this summer’s Euro Cup, many of these public spaces included big screen TVs and big crowds of “fussball” fans.
Seat of power
Once the seat of a near-global rule, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, Vienna is a city that wears its history on its sleeve. From statues of Mozart and Mahler to Holocaust memorials to a multiplicity of memorials to its many ruling Habsburgs, Vienna spends a great deal of its civic energy commemorating and memorializing. This multimedia project took a hard look at specifically how the city remembers, and what and how it also forgets.
Populating most of these open spaces along with residents are their dogs – lots and lots and lots of four-legged friends. Vienna is as dog-friendly a city as there is in the world, with dogs common in restaurants and cafes, on subways and buses, and of course in the parks and gardens. One of our student journalists talked to dog, boutique and salon owners to learn more about why this city so loves its canines.
Another of our team members looked at Vienna’s vibrant street art scene, knowing that street art and graffiti can offer insights into the politics of a city. In addition, how a city prohibits or allows that street art can say much about the nature of the relationship between the people and their government, as well as the limits of freedom of expression.
From arias to zeitgeist
During our month in Austria, our group witnessed Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in the very city where it premiered in 1786, took a ride on one of the oldest and tallest Ferris wheels in the world (in the Prater), explored Vienna’s vibrant wine-making scene, and frequented its many bookshops and coffeehouses. You will see and hear and read about these great, good places that provide something of the social glue that holds Vienna together.
The project would not have been possible without the invaluable help of several people in Vienna who were very generous with their time and expertise. Berry College, its Department of Communication, and the faculty and students of “The Spaces of Vienna” thank Kaja Ciupinksa, Helmut Summesberger, Meral Kolblinger, Penelope Makeig, Susanna Sernette, Gretl Satorius and Dr. Tibor Frank, all of IES Abroad Vienna. The faculty thank the friendly counter staff at our local Anker coffee shop near Siebenbrunnenplatz (Seven Fountains Plaza).
Finally, our hearts and prayers go out to the family of those killed in the terror attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport, where we passed through on the way home just four days prior to the deadly attack. Vienna’s very existence is a repudiation of the hate and intolerance that seemingly motivated these attacks.