Innovative Housing Areas for People with Migration Background? Look at Vienna!

As I write quite much about urban restructuring projects, such as BahnhofCity Wien West, Aspern+, and more, most of you would know that the city of Vienna since 2009 is honored to be one of the most livable urban spaces according to MERCER Quality of Living City Ranking. The ranking evaluates 39 different factors compared to New York City, with a base score of 100. Sure, not everyone would agree on the consistency of the ranking, but one could easily find plenty of conveniences offered by Vienna. So let’s agree – it’s a nice city…

Vienna, photographed by Peter Ducheck The global village was situated Just next to the high-rising apartment houses of Alt Erlaa.

Vienna, photographed by Peter Ducheck
The global village was situated Just next to the high-rising apartment houses of Alt Erlaa.

14-years ago in Vienna a housing project named “Globaler Hof // global farmyard” was initiated and just a couple of days ago derstandard.at published a rèsumè on the cities showcase project. The article is based on interviews with various stakeholders of the project and shows that the innovative housing project worked out: People from more than 18 countries and manifold backgrounds live together in peace – “Globaler Hof” became a multicultural village with more than 300 inhabitants. When plans were first presented to the nearby populace, people were skeptical about the development proposal and didn’t show much interest in getting new, multicultural neighbors…But people integrated well and promptly formed a new high-quality neighborhood.  Finally all stakeholders agreed on the projects’ success and the district increased attraction.

Another District – Another Case

In Simmering, alongside the Danube River a housing area named “Macondo”, acquired renown. It is a village dominated by supply structures, in-between airport and highways and mainly unknown to most regular citizens.

Gate to Macondo, photograph by Ville HyvönenFor getting to the supermarket people need to pass this eye of a needle - It's what people in Macondo bores.

Gate to Macondo, photograph by Ville HyvönenFor getting to the supermarket people need to pass this eye of a needle – It’s what people in Macondo bores. 

The housing area is home to more than 3000 people, most of them refugees for many years. Those who live longest in Macondo arrived in 1956 when a first flow of refugees from Hungary hit Vienna. Today people come from everywhere. In the 1970’s plenty of Vietnamese Boat People and Chilean citizens arrived to the housing area and children built opposing queues’ in the streets of Macondo; some shouting for Uncle Ho – others for Pinochet. In the 90’s refugees from former Yugoslavia migrated to Austria and new houses were built while the settlements diversity increased with every nearby conflict: Chechnya, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Congo, Bolivia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cameron, etc. Beyond residential construction the Viennese city government opened a new apartment house offering manifold support services focusing on people with migration background and refugee status. Lastly, in 2008 the film company CABULA6 opened a work-space in Macondo according to a new long-term art project. Most initiatives were sponsored by local and national funding’s and Macondo residents were ok with the provided living standards due to good neighborhood experiences in an international setting with people from more than 30 nations.

In the face of all logic in 2009 the ministry for interior decided to convert the “yellow house” in the middle of the complex into a gated community for people in custody prior to deportation (see Video – 3:40). People in Macondo have different backgrounds; most scarred by war, custody and sometimes torture, and signed an agreement with the authorities: police and military, persons in uniform shouldn’t show too much presence. Now a high-security tract dominates the housing area and people suddenly need to pay money for their community garden projects.  The Austrian integration fond already announced to pull back full services and tenancy agreements were announced to be limited – only. Let’s have a look how the housing area develops, Vienna is a growing city…

The picture was shot in autumn, at a soccer tournament. Differences in age were balanced by points system.

FC Macondo City, photographed by Thomas OehlböckThe picture was shot in autumn, at a soccer tournament. Differences in age were balanced by points system. 

Since 1956 Macondo demonstrates that a neighborhood of lived multiculturalism in Vienna is possible. So, dear authorities, why to point your fingers on those who live in Vienna – peacefully in the outskirts after having migrated? How can it be that inhabitants have been asked, but anyone listened? Absurdity peaks at the construction of a super-controlled center for people in custody pending deportation in the middle of a well-established housing area, while people know about minimum TWO showcase projects for successful integration? Macondo wouldn’t have given bad marks to Vienna, but such undertakings mostly have short-dated success, when peace and openmindedness don’t last for survival anymore.

At Berlinale 2014 the coming of age- movie “Macondo” has been first presented to audience (Trailer with english subtitles).

In 2011 Thomas Öhlböck wrote his thesis on “Macondo” (in German)

A community blog is still online (in German)

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