Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Otto Wagner and Vienna Transport - 1

A colleague from San Francisco was in town last week and, as usual, visitors call attention to the things you don't always notice as you go about your everyday business. I have been following his blog (Jarrett Walker, and added a couple comments and then thought, well one of these comments is something I've wanted to write about myself for a while, so here's a first installment on Otto Wagner and his influence on Vienna transportation planning.

Otto Wagner is a fascinating example of an architect who also did some great urban civil engineering. There is a nice exhibition of his work at the Wien Museum's Otto Wagner Pavilion located in the Karlsplatz U-Bahn entrance (designed by Wagner). The museum is very small but manages to present a good summary of Wagner's work.

Also don't miss his Hof Pavilion
(German website, nice photos) a private station designed for the Kaiser at Schönbrunn (the Kaiser's summer palace). The Hof Pavilion is adjacent to the Hietzing U-4 station (one station beyond the Schönbrunn station). Right now it's only open on Sunday mornings (see German website for times) but well worth the visit for fans.

Of course you can still see Wagner's influence in the design of many stations on the U-4 and U-6 lines. Both these lines were operated with steam engines in Wagner's day (he developed the conceptual plan for these lines as well as designing many of the stations and infrastructure). The photo on the right is of his famous bridge on the U-6 line over the Vienna River at the Gürtel. The photo is taken from the U-4/U-6 Längenfeldgasse Station.

Wagner's lines were later converted to electric trains then into Vienna's U-Bahn network, but many stations were maintained and have been renovated. The photo on the right is a detail of Wagner's bridge on the U-6 line. All photos are on my flickr photos of Vienna public transport, where there are many more photos of Otto Wagner stations and bridges.

Vienna has done a wonderful job restoring many stations designed by Wagner. A couple years ago they rehabilitated the Gumpendorferstrasse Station (U-6) - shown at the top of this post. They did a great job integrating new features (e.g. elevator) and new floor tiling (rubber non slip) that matched the old style. It is great that Vienna does not eliminate history from their transportation infrastructure in the name of efficiency or current fashion. As places like NY Grand Central Terminal show, old pedestrian flow designs often work much better and the buildings are much more gratifying as many modern designs.

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