In the second Az W SammlungsLab, impressive pieces from the Collection from the Stadt des Kindes are combined with documentary footage capturing memories of criticism of the institution from former residents. Fifty years ago the Stadt des Kindes became a model project for politicians. As a new model for the “shelter” of vulnerable children and youths, the project remained an exception, albeit one which has gone down in international architecture history as an exemplary building.
“Stadt des Kindes: On A Failed Utopia”
April 14, 2017 – May 28, 2018
Museumsplatz 1, Vienna
The Vision: Plans for a Better WorldIn the wake of the 1968 movement there was a shift in Viennese social policy. With the architecture competition for the Stadt des Kindes, the City of Vienna presented itself as a “city with a social conscience” for the 50th jubilee of the Republic of Austria. It was the City’s explicit wish not to build a Children’s Village but to prepare the children and youths for their lives ahead in an urban environment.
On the expansive grounds of the Ledererschlössel a Children’s town for 300 children was built according to plans by Anton Schweighofer that opened in 1974. “The complex is a type of Ideal City and embodies the new guiding concepts of the welfare state: transparency and community. The Stadt des Kindes represents a shift away from the care concept and an attitude of dependency, towards a partnership-based approach”, says Angelika Fitz, director of the Architekturzentrum Wien.
The design was based on the concept of a ‘city in the city’ permeated by all of the functional zones, like housing, leisure, commerce, work and traffic. “The wealth of communal facilities as well as the diversity of spatial experiences are exemplary to this day”, says curator Monika Platzer. Public access to leisure facilities like the indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, theatre and ceramics workshop stands for the occupants’ connection with the neighbourhood. Schweighofer himself speaks of “place of social communication”.
The complex by architect Anton Schweiger embodies the new guiding concepts of the welfare state: transparency and community. The shift away from the care concept towards a partnership-based approach was clearly illustrated in the housing of the children in family-like groups. Public access to the recreational facilities, like indoor swimming pool, gym, theatre and ceramics workshop, was representative of the social integration of the occupants in their local setting.
The Stadt des Kindes became a model project for politicians. As a new model for the accommodation of “vulnerable” children and youths, the project remained an exception and did not realise its own goals. In 2002 it was closed, and largely demolished despite widespread protest. Two family homes, the swimming pool and the gymnasium were conserved and renovated. Over 250 apartments were completed on the grounds with its generous outdoor spaces between 2011 and 2013 (architects: Walter Stelzhammer, Peter Weber). The second Sammlungslab, dedicated to the Stadt des Kindes, brings impressive objects from the Az W Collection together with the memories of institutional critique from former residents, and raises the issue of the ambivalent relationship between architecture and social practice in many ways.