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Frauen-Werk-Stadt - A Housing Project by and for Women in Vienna
Austria

Keywords: Women & Gender equality
Homelessness & Housing

Background

The housing project "Frauen-Werk-Stadt" is a first step to implement the everyday experience and requirements of women on a larger scale. A piece of the city will be designed exclusively by women architects and planners as part of the urban expansion programm in Vienna.

Special attention was given to the flat layouts and space allocation for the individual rooms. The intention is to have a number of even sized rooms which do not force tenants to adopt prederteminated utilisation.

Another key objective of the model project is to stimulate the public interest in and visibilty of women planners and architects.


Narrative

Experience has shown that in general there are two different appraoches to evaluating urban environments: The first is the perspective of employed persons who inhabit the environment as consumers with a "carefree" everyday life. This concerns the majority of men of working age. As a rule, this group is highly mobile, expecting residential areas to fulfil only one function and judging them by their recreational and leisure value. The second perspective is that of persons who perform unpaid housework and family work and are care-givers to persons who still have to be taken care of or again require care. This refers to housewives, children, adolescents and the elderly. This group is usually not very mobile and expect its residential environment to fulfil numerous funtions. All requirements of everyday life should be met in the immediate vicinity of the flat. A special position is held by working women who also have a family, whose everyday life pattern usually is highly complex as a result of the combination of employment and family care, often forcing them to execute an elaborate relay race from destination to destination.

In the tradition of European urbanism it was almost exlusively men who created and constructed cities as panners, architects, building owners and contractors. In this way, the everyday experience of working men was the only one to find expression in the struture of cities. For it is one's own experoence of everyday life that shapes one's awareness and guides one's actions.

Women make up 52% of the Viennese population. Yet up to now their everyday life was largely ignored.

The theoretical discussion of, as well as the criticism levelled at, traditional policies of housing and urban development constitued important steps towards formulating feminist demands. However, the actual driving force of social change lies in practical accomplishments. The implementation of model projects offers a good approach towards attaining this goal. Attention is drawn to existing shortcomings, short-term solutions are developed, and long term change is initiated.

Within the context of urban expansion, it is intended to have a piece of Vienna s suburbs exclusively planned and designed by women experts. It is the objective of this model project to make the manifold facets of women s everyday life an essential criterion of design. While innovation is not primarily related to gender but to the attitudes and positions taken by the person in question, his or her everyday experience will of course have a bearing on it as well. Moreover commissioning only women architects for this project was also motivated by the expectation that their highly complex everyday life - which is totally different from a man's - will be positively reflected in their designs.

The first concept was developed in the spring of 1993. After preliminary talks with politicians, the approval of the Vice-Mayer of Vienna and the Exectutive City Councillor for Housing and Urban Renewal, the search for a suitable lot was initiated in April. The City of Vienna and the building cooperative of the Trade Union of Employees - the only nonprofit housing cooperative of Austria managed by a women - were selected as builders. The competition papers were drawn up in the summer of 1993. A study was commissioned to evaluate 14 selected domestic and foreign model projects of innovative housing construction. A group of young feminist women architects was entrusted with the task of formulating the requirements of a women-friendly public housing project based on the guidelines of the Viennese Housing Promotion Act and the Building Code. Both studies were included in the competition papers. These papers also included a descirption of the current outlook of the area as well as a sketch of the everyday housing situation to be expected for 2005 in order to give a clearer overview of the desired qualities of social space. In addition it was recommended that the architects cooperate with landscape planners to ensure high quality for open spaces.

On October 1993 the competition papers were handed over to the architects. Designs for the buildings - an urbanistic master plan as well as layout suggestions on a scale of 1:100 - and open spaces were developed over the next 12 weeks. On February 2nd a clear decision was taken in favour of the master project submitted by Franziska Ullmann. Her design convinced the jury by the variety of units proposed and by the sensitive solutions for open spaces design (courtyards, central square, "village common", residential and play streer, play meadow). The winning entry was implemented in the land zoning and development plan. Three other architects were recommended to the builders for individual subprojects.
 

    Key results of the competition:

359 housing units will be constructed in an urban expansion area in the form of a subsidized, multi-storey development. The housing project will also require several infrastructural facilities: a kindergarten and a daycare nursery with four groups, a doctor s surgery, a communication center favouring the exchange of services and solidarity within the neighbourhood, a police station and 600 sq m for shops.

* Links are established between the interior and exterior of the building: between the flat, the stiarcase and garden type courtyards, squares, residential and play streets.
* The often neglected "arrangements" such as rooms to store bicycles and prams are situated on the ground floor and easly accessible, the laundry rooms are to be found on the roof combined with a common roof terrace.
* "Social space" is created: on an average there are only four units per storey. This is to avoid anonymity and to enhance neighbourly relations.Staircases are transparent and well-lighted to avoid danger zones inspiring anxiety and fear to women. Apart from their basic function, the staircases will be usable as pleasant places where tenants can spend time and communicate with each other.
* A high degree of safety is guaranteed by an open-structured underground garage with natural lightening. A design providing a ring-type garage situated below the appartement buildings was favoured. Each staircase has its own access. There is at least the possibilty that unoccupied garage lots can be later used as rooms for leisure activities or tinkering.
* With regard to the flats themselves: special attention was given to the kitchens as central places of housework. They are all large, provided with sufficient daylight and face the courtyards or the play street. In addition, almost all flats are equipped with some individual open space , either in form of a large terrace on the ground-floor or at least a balcony for the other storeys. The flat layouts attempt to create rooms that are basically of the same quality. Moreover it was decided that the future tenants will have some say in determining the final layouts; this goes for both parts of the project, i.e. that of the City of Vienna and the nonprofit housing cooperative.

Expert opinions are frequently used by the Viennese urban planning authorities to reassess the basis of the land zoning and development plan for urban expansion areas. Until mid-1993 there was not a single women amongst the architects invited to develop projects and plans.

Thus another key ojective of the Municipal Department for the Promotion and and Coordination of Women's Affairs is to stimulate the public interst in and the visibility of women planners and architects. At the same time the needs and requirements of women as users of the city should be taken into account more strongly than in the past.


Impact

  • Increased involvement of women architects and planners in the planning and implementation process. Women planners have been included in almost all urbanist expert opinion processes.
  • The experience made as regards women-adapted housing will increasingly be incorporated in other projects and , above all, in the amendment of relevant provisions of the Viennese Building Code.

Sustainability

In the tradition of of European urbanism it was almost exclusively men who created and constructed cities as planners, architects, building owners and contractors. In this way, the everyday experience of working men was the only one to find expression in the structures of cities. The model project "Frauen-Werk-Stadt" is a first step to implement the everyday experience and requirements of urban women on a larger scale of 380 housing units.
Since the interaction of interior and exterior space was given top priority the competition paper required first ideas of layouts on a scale of 1:100. A procedure which was until then unusual at architectural competitions in Vienna.
The Women office elaborated a guide focusing on criterions for housing projects and urban environments adapted to women s needs and everyday life. This guide was added to several competition papers in Vienna but also abroad. Several Women s Offices in Europe are launching similar projects by taking the "Frauen-Werk-Stadt" as an example.
One of the key objectives of the model project was to stimulate the public interest in and visibility of women architects and planners. After preliminary talks about the model project "Frauen-Werk-Stadt" women experts are regularly invited to take part in competitions. It goes almost without saying that they won these competition in a considerable number of cases.


Contact

    Donaufelderstrasse 95 - 97
    Vienna
    Austria
    A - 1210

Sponsor

    City of Vienna
    Austria

Partners

    Building association of the Trade Union of Employees
    Ms. Eva Kail
    Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 3
    Vienna
    Austria
    A - 1082
    0043/1/4000/83515
    bar@m57.magwien.gv.at

    Dir. E. Weihsmann, WBV - BPA
    Werdertorgasse 9
    Vienna
    Austria
    A - 1082
    +43/1/533 34 14

    Dipl. Ing. Franziska Ullmann
    Windm hlgasse 9/26
    Vienna
    Austria
    A - 1060
    +43/1/5868522


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