Wandering through Vienna’s streets it’s always worth keeping eye open for courtyards and passageways in which nestle shops, restaurants and galleries. Be warned they are not always obvious to the uninitiated despite the efforts of entrepreneurs to attract your attention with strategically placed signs. Part of the problem can be that despite the signs it’s not always obvious whether a doorway is a private or public entrance. Moreover, Vienna streets have so many signs directing you to shops or indicating offices and alike that after a while you tend to filter them out, the way we manage to not quite watch the TV commercials.
Many a Vienna passageway or courtyard provides a wonderful setting for restaurant, bar, or heurigen, a peaceful oasis in which to drink, eat and chat. Others are often home to interesting independent shops. If you do discover or regularly frequent such a location it’s always worth asking yourself about the history of the build(s) which surround you.
A favourite location of mine forms a useful short cut from the Vienna English Theatre and Veganista (the Vegan ice cream shop). It also has a surprising history.
Despite housing galleries, shops, restaurants, offices, apartments and flats (with assorted business signs on the main streets) the passageway linking Lerchenfelderstraße with Neustiftgasse is one of those locations that people seem to often miss. More than once lifelong residents of Vienna have been surprised when I’ve suggested we take this particular short cut. It was a the result of such surprise – and over a rather delicious vegan ice cream standing across the road looking at the buildings Neustiftgasse entrance – that we began to wonder about the buildings history. The name chosen for one of the restaurants, Monastiri, stimulated the debate and after a quick search on the internet we were deep in conversation about the former monastery built in 1847.
So next time you find yourself walking down a Vienna street watch out for one of those oasis with a history.
Gem of a building – lesser known Vienna
I’ve driven passed Nußwaldgasse, a quiet side road in Döbling (Vienna’s 19th District), so many times without realising that only a few 100 metres away stands a gem of a building. When I first saw Nußwaldgasse 14 I immediately wonder about its original purpose. Even in my wildest imagination I would never have guess that someone would employ such a beautiful and interesting design to house a factory making insecticide.
Die Zacherlfabrik (Zacherl factory) produced insect powder from pyrethrum imported from Tbilisi in Georgia. The original factory was established in 1873 and the building was re-built between 1882 and 1892. This Wikipedia entry describes the building as a rare example of ‘commercially motivated oriental historicism in European architecture’.
Today the building use includes providing a venue for concerts and art exhibitions.
Interesting piece here in the ‘Austrian Times’ about Austrian know-how helping the UK to adopt Passive House technology, as the country seeks to reduce its CO2 emissions by making new building energy efficient and sustainable.
Austria is said to be one of the leaders when it comes to sustainable building. As the ‘Austrian Times’ highlights, ‘….at Ecobuild in London, the leading trade fair for sustainable building, Austria had the biggest presence with 500 square metres of exhibition space and 28 exhibiting companies on one group stand. A further six Austrian companies took part independently. From solar energy solutions, bio-mass heating, heating pumps, windows, the Tirol wood companies and pre-fabricated houses, the “Made in Austria” brand dominated with a strong presence.’
Thus while there is continuing concern in the country about the impact of climate change on key sectors such as Tourism (with its high value winter sports threatened by the loss of glaciers and reduced snowfall in the Alps), other important areas of the economy look to benefit from the export of Austria know-how.
For those in the UK who want to tap into more home-grown expertise and creativity then they merely need to take a trip to the wilds of South Holland, in Lincolnshire, and the eco-dynamism of Jeremy Harrall and SEArch Architects
Out walking yesterday and thought Vienna’s Islamic Centre looked rather impressive set in the winter snow.
About 5% of Austria’s population are Muslim.
Those who follow this blog and/or my tweeting will be well aware of my passion for good coffee in general and Meinl coffee in particular. Another of my interests is the Vienna Secession movement which was a group formed in 1897 by Austrian artists and whose influence can still be seem throughout Vienna today.
Oddly the starting point for my daily train journey to work, on the S-bahn, brings together these two themes. The Hernals station is one of the buildings that formed the Wiener Stadtbahn which operated from 1898 and was designed by the leading Secession movement architect and urban planner Otto Wagner.
Hernals in within a short walk of the Meinl coffee factory and this is (I assume) why the station is the location for these classic coffee posters:
The Hernals staion:
Returning to the subject of coffee, over on the Meinl website (amongst other coffee info) is this delicious quote from a French diplomat about the beautiful drink:
Coffee ought to be hot as hell,
Black as the devil,
Pure as an angel,
Sweet as love.
Charles Maurice Talleyrand
(1754-1838 – French Diplomat)
Nice video ‘Klimt 2012. A kiss changes the world’ highlighting Klimt and Austrian Modernism:
The architecture and images of Austrian Modernism can be seen by just taking the train (have a look at the S Bahn stations) or walking through many of Vienna’s districts. There are also excellent exhibitions at museums in the city, particularly as it would have been Klimt’s 150 birthday this year. Yet more reasons to spend time in Vienna 🙂
Much to my surprise our Sunday walk over to the Kirche am Steinhof gave us the opportunity to have a look inside this amazing church building and statement of ‘modernism’ architecture designed by Otto_Wagner’s (1841 -1918) – I had expected the building to be closed as usual.
The Kirche am Stienhof is just one of the architectural structures designed by Wagner (including the S-Bahn, with its wonderful stations, which takes me on my morning journey to work) which help shape and dominate various parts of Vienna. Standing inside the church we couldn’t help but discuss how the buildings modernism is so different to the feel of traditional churches and yet creates its own sense of grandeur equal to many of the English cathedral we’ve wandered through: