In homage to Tower Cranes and the people who operate them


It’s something you see a lot of around Vienna – Tower Cranes. Thirty, forty, fifty plus metres high temporary metal towers held in place by concrete blokes. Stretching their arms over the roof tops of city centre buildings or somehow holding on to a Vienna’s hillside, for some reason I have yet to discover they are usually yellow. Whatever their colour, they are a regular feature of the Viennese landscape whether the project is a renovation or the construction of a new building.

So why, you may be asking, this sudden interest in Tower Cranes? Is it the effect of the snow on my ageing brain or a return to a childhood romance with toy cranes and trucks? Well the truth is a mix of curiosity, boredom at the school gate and that wandering of the mind we all get when drifting through mundane activities.

The specific stimulus for this turn of thought was the arrival on the street next to Helena’s school of another Tower Crane. Let me back track a little here. Opposite the school they are constructing a new apartment bloke which seems from the billboards to be targeted at the retirement market (I suggested to my Father-in- Law, Max, that he should think about buying one of the apartments and have Helena stay during the week. They could then visit us at weekends and it would save a lot of petrol etc. But alas he did not fully appreciate the strength of this environmentally sensible proposal). Anyway, in order to complete this construction project the team of builders are using two very large Tower Cranes to move materials around the site and up on to the growing structure. Standing by the school gates I have found myself admiring the skill of the crane drivers, being amused by the hand signals and actions of the builders in communicating, as well as having a surprising number of darker thoughts about items being dropped or what happens if the crane were to fall (but let’s stay away from what those of us from the Star Wars era would call the ‘dark side’).

The biggest question to lodge in my mind when considering the many aspects of the modern crane for good or evil has been ‘how did they put it up in the first place?’ Now admittedly this is not the first time I have asked myself this question as I’ve walked around the streets of Vienna – and with this statement comes the evidence that the crane has the power to lodge itself in the unsuspecting brain. It, however, lacks the influence to ever get the rest of this mind enthusiastic enough to actually produce an answer.

However, as I delivered Helena to school this morning another construction project was just getting underway, further up the road. This time the task was a renovation but of course no self-respecting builder can be without their Tower Crane and there it was or to be precise the first instalment of the tower on the back of a lorry. On my return after lunch to collect Helena more of the tower had arrived and there in front of me was the answer to my question – ’how do you put up a crane?’ – the answer of course is with another crane!

Helena and I then had a discussion about the cranes and the crane drivers. My eight year old was only marginally impressed by the contributions these massive yellow towers make to her world and did not seem to have even notice them up until this point. To be fair, at eight there is a lot of social interaction and hierarchy to address around the school gate, as well as snowball fights in the last few days. She informed me that the job of a crane drive is ‘boring’.  I, on the other hand, was left thinking about the drivers having to climb the ladder in freezing and windy weather, as well as the height issues and the concentration needed to avoid all those possible mishaps.

So there you have it. Tower Cranes, an everyday site across Vienna but one we walk past and ignore for most of the time….but the engineering, the skilled used and the results of their contribution are worth the occasional thought.

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Filed under The odd thought or observation, Vienna Life

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