Vienna's City Hall is the most important neo-Gothic building in the Austrian capital



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City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa |


City Mayors ranks the world’s largest, best as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More


City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world. More


City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More


Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa compete for the World Mayor Award. More


Use
Mayor Monitor to rate the performance of mayors from across the world More


In your opinion: Praise Criticise. Write


City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More


City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More


City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More


City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More


City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More


City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More


City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More


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City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More


City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More


City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More


City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More


City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More


City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More

Vienna City Hall
By James Monaghan

13 April 2005: The present Vienna City Hall (Rathaus) was part of the ambitious programme of architectural improvements to Vienna introduced by Emperor Franz Joseph I, including the Ringstraße, the Rathauspark (City Hall Park), and the Opera.  Friedrich von Schmidt, who had been one of the architects working on Cologne Cathedral, designed and built it between 1872 and 1883.  It is the most important secular building in the neo-Gothic style in the city.

Since Vienna is not only Austria's federal capital but also a federal province in its own right, it is the seat of the mayor and governor of Vienna - two posts held by the same person. The Provincial Assembly is composed of 100 members and elected for a term of five years.

The most striking feature of the 14-metre-high Council Chamber where the members of the Assembly convene is a huge chandelier in the historicist style, with a diameter of five metres and 213 lights. It was cast in one piece, weighs 3,200 kg and can be entered by maintenance personnel to change the lamps. The coffered ceiling of high-grade larch and spruce wood is decorated with 22-carat gold-leaf rosettes. Directly below the ceiling, a series of frescoes depicts events from the history of Austria and Vienna. The section situated on the right hand of the central visitors' gallery shows scenes from the 13th to 16th centuries; we see Duke Rudolf IV laying the foundation-stone for the southern spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the establishment of Vienna University, the world's oldest university where students are taught in the German language. The left-hand side takes us into the 17th to 19th centuries. Empress Maria Theresa is surrounded by famous exponents of the politics, arts and sciences of her era (including Emperor Joseph II, Mozart, van Swieten and Haydn). Most of the pointed-arch windows with stained lead glazing facing the gallery were reconstructed after the Second World War on the basis of the original plans. The back wall of the central visitors' gallery depicts the tasks of Vienna's municipal administration in allegorical form

In line with Friedrich Schmidt's original design, the Senate Chamber serves as the meeting-room of the City Senate. This is one of the most impressive rooms of the City Hall. A special attraction is the beautiful majolica fireplace - a present by the Guild of Stove and Fireplace Makers dating from 1885 - on the wall facing the entrance to the hall. The walls are covered with green silk damask. The ceiling - which features inlay work and gilt elements - is intricately and richly adorned. Another remarkable characteristic is the gallery of Mayors' portraits, which after the First World War replaced likenesses of the Austrian Emperors. The collection of Mayors' portraits begins in 1853 with Johann Kasper von Seiller. The likeness of the last Mayor to die is given a place of honour on the front wall of the hall. In the course of time, the portraits are thus transferred, one by one and in the clockwise direction, to the Red Salon, from where the oldest are relocated to the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna.

With a surface of 2,804 square metres, the Arkadenhof is one of the biggest inner courtyards in Europe and comparable to the courtyard of the Doge's Palace in Venice. A choir-type oriel along its western wall is a reminder of the original project to build a chapel in the City Hall. Below this oriel, Friedrich Schmidt's craftsman's emblem is a memento to the architect of the building. Lined by five-metre-wide, pointed-arch arcades, the courtyard offers a fascinating setting for a wide variety of events. A folding roof designed by the architect Silja Tillner is a new addition to protect visitors against wind and rain. It also houses the Municipal and State Libraries and Archives which hold many key documents of Vienna's history and a large collection of local memorabilia.

Rathauspark was intended as a city park for Viennese residents. In 1863 Emperor Franz Joseph I did away with the parade ground that existed at the site and commissioned city gardener Dr Rudolf Siebeck to design the park. The park Siebeck designed had few formal features to create an intentional contrast with the austere, monumental buildings in the vicinity (National Theatre, University, Parliament, City Hall).

By the time the park was opened in 1873, two park sections had been completed: the north park adjacent to the university and the south park adjacent to the parliament. The two sections are almost symmetrical, divided in the middle by a wide square like an avenue leading to the City Hall. The square is used year round for various events, such as the traditional Christmas market, skating from January and summer cinema. It is also a hub for political demonstrations such as the annual First of May demonstrations;’

The 98-metre-high steeple, and iron standard-bearer - the Rathausmann - guards the City Hall. Cast from melted-down Russian kopeks, he is 5.40 metres tall (3.40 metres without his standard) and weighs 650 kilograms. A sphere weighing approx. 800 kilograms (a kind of giant pendulum acting as a counterweight) helps him to keep his balance and defy even the fiercest storms. An exact-scale replica of the Rathausmann is on display in the Rathauspark.

The Wappensäle (Armouries) were given their modern outlook as late as in the 1960s. Until then, the premises housed the collections of the municipal arsenal, which were later relocated to the new building of the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna in Karlsplatz square. The ‘Little Wappensaal’ features wall-hangings representing the coats-of-arms of all nine federal provinces and the Republic of Austria. Its larger companion offers us a glimpse of the stylised coats-of-arms of the provincial capitals. Moreover, both halls impress with ornate coffered ceilings (inlay work), massive lead-crystal chandeliers and silk damask tapestries under monument protection

When it was built in the late 19th century, the Festival Hall was the biggest hall in the whole country - 71 metres long, 20 metres wide and 18.5 metres high. It is mainly used for large-scale events such as balls, concerts, exhibitions, etc. The ceiling of the hall was designed as a barrel-type vault with web compartments and raised cross ribs as decorative elements. On the Rathauspark side, there is an open loggia with windows; the courtyard side features a projecting corridor spanned by columns. Numerous arcades and the gallery loggia enhance the impression of vast, airy space. Two flights of stairs lead up to the gallery encircling three sides of the hall.

On the front sides of the hall, there are two orchestra niches whose corners are decorated with relief portraits of four great composers: Mozart, Haydn, Gluck and Schubert. Brilliant lighting is provided by 16 magnificent chandeliers. The parquet of the Festival Hall is under monument protection. It maintains its original outlook and was made of special oak preserved for centuries in upland bogs. The wrought-iron grilles inserted into the flooring serve to heat the Festival Hall. Another artistic gem of the Festival Hall are the ten statues representing important historical figures set into the arcade columns. Theoretically, 1,500 couples could waltz simultaneously across its parquet - too bad the Building Inspection Department does not permit it

The Grand Staircases I and II are amongst the architectural highlights of the City Hall. As everywhere in the building, stones from different regions of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy were used. The broad, steep flights of stairs with wrought-iron railings are bathed in brilliant light effects created by the multicoloured tracery windows. From between columns and pointed-arch vaults, visitors may enjoy a variety of aspects of these magnificent stairways. At mezzanine level, we find the longest cloakroom of Austria, designed in the historicist style. The coat-of-arms of Vienna, conferred on the city by Emperor Frederick III, is chiselled above the entrance to the Festival Hall (via Grand Staircase I).



When built in the late 19th century, the Festival Hall was the biggest of its kind in Austria


The Mayor of Vienna says:
‘Wien ist anders’ – Vienna is special. Since this slogan for the Austrian capital was coined many years ago, it has become a popular catchphrase in Vienna – and rightly so. As Mayor and Governor of this city I am in the fortunate position of not having to compromise between quality of life and economic growth. Vienna has produced a perfect combination of a high life style, a thriving economy, and ecological sustainability – as shown year after year in international city rankings.

In a conscious and consistent effort to boost Vienna’s locational attractiveness for businesses from Austria and abroad, we have developed a wide range of targeted measures: different types of business promotion and technology funding, new training and education initiatives, streamlined business licensing procedures, assistance for international companies relocating to Vienna, and many more.

Since ten new Member States joined the EU in May 2004, Vienna’s geographic position at the heart of the “new” Europe has, of course, added further to our competitiveness as a business location. Vienna’s present role as the largest city in a region of four countries, four cultures, and some six million inhabitants within a diameter of just 100 kilometres is unparalleled worldwide. To optimise the economic benefits and infrastructure effects, political representatives from all parts of this region have joined forces to establish the “Vienna Region“, or “Centrope”, as it is referred to at EU level. More