Das rote Wien

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Karl-Marx-Hof, built 1927-30, designed by Karl Ehn, to house some 5,000 people in tenement blocks.

Council housing on a massive scale: the Karl-Marx-Hof stretches for about a kilometre. There is a tram line on one side (the block stretches for at least 3 stops) and the U-Bahn on the other. Behind the monumental façade are courtyards and play areas overlooked by balconies. It wasn’t a bad way to house a fast-growing population in decent conditions. During the four-day-long civil war in 1934, revolutionaries barricaded themselves inside the Hof and it was shelled by armed forces. (I have a vague – mistaken? – recollection that Patrick Leigh Fermor refers to it in his book of his walk across Europe.)

Vienna is full of such tenement blocks, all with the years of construction and a clear message that these are communal buildings inscribed on the wall. (I’ve seen dates from the 1920s to the 1970s – all in the same style and colour.) Most are quite ordinary, but there are others – like this or the Reumann-Hof – which stand out. (Later I als noticed blocks labelled, less ostentatiously, as Eigentumswohnungen.)

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Reumann-Hof, built 1924-26, 450 apartments, designed by Hubert Gessner.

These architects did think of everything:

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Other incidentals from my travels in the unlovely areas of Vienna (although I thought they were great):

I saw this from the tram at Spittelau, so jumped off and investigated. I think it’s a waste incineration plan with a Hundertwasser makeover.

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I had a coffee in a restaurant-café in the Karl-Marx-Hof. I wondered for a moment what the dimpled glass thing was on the table . . . ah yes, an ashtray. I remember those. Smoking is still permitted in Austria. The non-smoking area was an unattractive little cubicle at the back.

I had lunch in a traditional cafe on the Ringstraße. The waiters were mostly men nearing retirement age. How different from Britain, where I am generally served by 12-year-olds.

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