Saturday, March 22, 2008
Wolfsberg, California ... opps Austria
One of the hardest things for an American city planner is seeing other places go down the same road (literally!) that we did. No where is this more obvious to me as in Wolfsberg Austria, where I have been visiting my wife's family for the last ten years.
Wolfsberg is a small city consisting of an historic central city and several small villages that have been incorporated into the city. When I first started visiting there was farmland and open space between the village and center, but on each visit this open space has been filled by single family homes and shopping centers. Sometimes I cannot believe my eyes as drive through McDonalds sprout on the landscape.
While the sprawling development is one thing, the lack of imagination and disregard for history in the city center is shocking. The city still has a core of historic buildings that would make an American city drool, but the main concern seems to be providing access and parking for automobiles.
They also have a castle on the hill overlooking the city (see photo on the right), but rather than linking them with a modern elevator-bridge type structure and using the castle as a cultural center linked directly to restaurants and cafes in the historic center (like Bellinzona Switzerland), Wolfsberg built a new 'cultural center' just off the bypass road too far away from the historic center to generate any business for the cafes.
Wolfsberg has developed a nice walk along the Lavant River which runs through the city and the historic streets are nice to walk through, it's just that they have missed so many opportunities for creating a really nice and sustainable city.
One thing Wolfsberg can still do is buy the last remaining farm between the city center and St Johann. It would make an ideal demonstration farm (for children to visit) and recreation area (hiking and hang glider landing area). I hike through the farm every time I visit and always worry that the next time it, too, will be gone.