Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ten Cities 2) Vienna

Becket, December 18, 2012

By the mid 1800s the map of Vienna was in a state of expectancy.  Something was going to happen.  Look at it: the historic core of the city appears as if in an urban aspic, separated from its overgrown suburbs by a now useless moat, the Glacis, at points half a kilometer wide.  The elaborate fortifications of the city had protected Vienna from the Ottoman armies in 1529 and again in 1683.  After that second siege, the city grew enormously outside of its old walls, and a new defensive system, the Linienwall, was built (you can see it at the lower corners of the map as an angular thin line,) although mostly for tax purposes.  But when the Austrian forces surrendered at Ulm in 1805, Napoleon entered Vienna without firing a shot.  The extraordinary defensive system had lost its usefulness in the new century.  Still, the city clang to its walls until the revolutionary movements of 1848 sealed their fate.  As the city began to incorporate some of its outer suburbs, the walls became little more than traffic nuisances.  In his famous "Es ist Mein Wille" decree of 1857 Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the abandonment and demolition of all the fortifications.  With this enormous tract of urban land newly available, one of the most celebrated urban projects of all times--the Ringstra├če--was under construction in only a few years.

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