Part 11: Economic miracle Vienna (1955 till the present)
In Vienna itself a new economic upturn set in thanks in part to the effects of the aid under the Marshall Plan but also due to the cessation of requisitioning of industrial plants by the Soviet occupying power. Ever since 1945 the SPÖ has held an absolute majority in Vienna (with the exception of a relative majority between 1996 and 2001). Reconstruction was completed under Bürgermeister Franz Jonas. In the 1950s city expansion took pride of place with the construction of new housing projects. Since the mid-1960s increasing attention has been devoted to urban renewal.
Vienna as a bridgehead to the east
Shortly after 1955 Vienna began to attract attention as a legendary meeting-place for international conferences and high-level discussions, such as the meeting between US president John F. Kennedy and First Secretary of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev. Vienna was adopted as the seat of international organisations. The city's international standing was highly upgraded in 1979 when the Vienna International Centre, the campus and building complex hosting the United Nations Office in Vienna, was opened. Vienna has come to see itself as bridgehead to the east.
Erection of the Vienna International Centre
As far as urban planning is concerned the activities since about 1960 have concentrated largely on extension of the public transport network, especially the underground railway or “U-Bahn”, and on medical support for the population in the newly-built General Hospital. Vienna’s international stature was given a great boost through the opening in 1979 of the Vienna International Centre which houses several United Nations bodies.
The overall situation at present for city development has been considerably affected by the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the accession of Austria to the European Union in 1955. This continuous development has been reflected in the political stability of the municipal government of Vienna: as of yet, the SPÖ has held the majority of seats with a top score of 66 seats in 1973.
Vienna as a socially oriented model city
The continual increase in the number of private cars and the resulting “municipal desolation” led to the coining in the early 1970s of a highly disputed term among urban planners throughout Europe: “pedestrian zone”. The Kärntnerstrasse was the first such model to be tried out in Vienna. Critics feared that the shopping street would wither away in the “concrete pedestrian paradise”. This was soon proved to be wrong since the area adjacent to the Kärntnerstrasse pedestrian zone – Graben, Kohlmarkt and Tuchlauben – has become full of colour and is more popular than ever before. Vienna has long since established itself as an exemplary mega-city, especially as regards the environment and culture.
Heading towards the 21st century
Vienna's role as a bridge between the democracies of the west and the communist countries in the east during the times of the "Iron Curtain" has changed since 1989. Vienna now sees itself as a hub in the central European region, competing with other major cities such as Prague or Budapest. Having said that, the accession to the European Union in 1994/95 has opened a new window of opportunity. Due to the growing internationalisation, Vienna is faced with new challenges.
wieninternational.at covers the new developments in Vienna in the 21st century in its Facts and Figures category as well as in the weekly Thursday edition.