Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City-Regions

By Willem Salet; Andy Thornley et al. | Go to book overview

14

Metropolitan governance and regional planning in Vienna

Michaela Paal


Introduction: changing planning conditions since the fall of the Iron Curtain

After decades of stagnation in relation to population and economic development, Austria's capital is now on the way to integrating itself into the new system of leading European metropolises. New geopolitical conditions and the internationalisation of economics and migration have brought new prosperity to urban development. At the same time, urban planning partly rejects the traditional paradigm of municipal socialism and seeks to find a new balance between planning prescription and planning strategy.

Compared to other great European urban centres, until 1990 Vienna was a relatively conservative city, largely spared the effects of many short-lived fads in urban development. This oversized capital of a country on the fringe of Europe was characterised by stagnation in an economic and demographic context. Decades of shrinking populations led the Urban Development Plan to project a population of 1.4 million residents for the year 2001 - a remarkable decline considering that in 1900 Vienna had 2 million inhabitants.

At the beginning of the 1990s this prognosis had to be completely revised. Between 1987 and 1994 the number of residents increased by 120,000, and in 1999 reached a stable plateau of 1.61 million. This subsequent growth was one of the results of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and of Austria's accession to the EU in 1995, which changed Vienna's geopolitical situation dramatically. The city was no longer the easternmost European outpost of the Western economic system, but had acquired a new centrality within the European Community.

Within the external pressures of internationalisation, the patterns of urban planning also changed dramatically. Fossilised spatial structures of urban settlement and socio-economic configurations were suddenly influenced by international demands and new liberalism. At the same time the political conditions of urban planning also changed. The Social Democrats lost their majority on the city council,

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