Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, 24th ISUF 2017 - City and Territory in the Globalization Age

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The loss of semi-public spheres within the Vienna urban parterre system—cause and effect study
Angelika Psenner

Last modified: 11-05-2018


As proven in the preceding pilot study the historical Viennese ground floor originally presented an intruiging and essential semi-public sphere with no clear-cut boundary between inside and out. Rather, doors and windows were left open most of the time so that there were many points that gave access to the ground-floor premises. Original photos from the period attest to this: the ground-floor facades were permeable; semi-public or even private uses of the ground floor extended to the street, and conversely, the premises were easily accessible to the “public flow.”

In addition many of the ground-floor premises in the chosen research area were connected with basement floors or cellars underneath, which meant a further extension of the urban parterre. The (commercial) use of the street-facing premises in most cases also included the interior courtyard. Today, interior courtyards mostly accommodate garbage cans or dumpsters; more intensive, diversified uses of this part of the StadtParterre nowadays are rare.

Thus the historical StadtParterre was a ramified, varied, much-used and hence engaging space. Permeable ground-floor facades provided a flexible interface between public and semi-public spaces; intensely interacting with one another. First and foremost, though, the point here is to acknowledge the significance of the urban parterre for the functoning of a city—a fact that has somewhat fallen into oblivion in the noughties of the 21st century ever since the emergence of 3D city modeling. The reason for this may be that conventional 3D city models canot really represent intricate, small-scale, multilayered, and ramified ground-floor structures und thus prevent us from perceiving them in a broader functional perspective.

The paper discusses reasons and socio-urban effects of a dis-linked, malfunctioning urban parterre.


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