How does a draft for a war work?

Cold war and architecture

During the ten years of occupation in Austria, the transition from an authoritarian system of rule to a democratic consumer society took place. For the first time, it will show "how significantly the cultural work of the Allies influenced Austrian post-war architecture", says Monika Platzer, curator of the exhibition. Each of the four victorious powers established an extensive cultural program. Architectural exhibitions and trade fair presentations played an important role and brought ideologically charged role models to Vienna, from spatial planning concepts to kitchen models, from high-rise buildings to garden cities, from the latest industrial production techniques to living and lifestyles.

In the exhibition “Cold War and Architecture” it becomes clear: In the years after the Second World War, Vienna was not a gray city cut off from international life. On the contrary: Le Corbusier was able to experience the local architecture scene live, follow the plans for London's city expansion and visit the “Room for Stalin”. The Cold War helped Austria to internationalize its social and cultural policy, always under the premise that the cultural policy of the British, Americans, French and Soviets served as a catalyst for their respective ideological attitudes. Their cultural “educational measures” were aimed at different target groups, from the specialist public to the general public. In doing so, they encountered local traditions, interests and networks that used the conflicts of the Cold War for their own professional advancement. "The exhibition changes the view of Austrian and global architectural history", summarizes the director of the Architekturzentrum Wien, Angelika Fitz.

Divided into four zones, the exhibition “Cold War and Architecture” examines the cultural self-portrayal of the Allies and their influences on Austrian architecture. The struggle of the systems after the Second World War was all-encompassing and continued in the cultural arms race of two transnational networks of modernity, CIAM-Austria and the International University Weeks (today European Forum Alpbach). Many photographs, plans, films and original drawings are shown for the first time in the exhibition, including numerous materials from the collection of the Architekturzentrum Wien. In the transnational synopsis, they result in a moral picture of post-war modernism. The comprehensive show is supplemented by a timeline with the global events of the Cold War.

The Cold War did not end with the withdrawal of the Allies in 1955. Neutral Austria continued to be the scene of the political dialogue between East and West. The accompanying effects of an increasingly active Austrian foreign policy under Bruno Kreisky (Foreign Minister 1959–1966) include architecture exports to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. They are illuminated in the exhibition in a view.

The four zones of the exhibition

Britain's contribution to social construction
In view of the economic weakening caused by the war and the competition with the other victorious powers, the British relied on a modern, dynamic image of their country that claims to actively help shape the post-war order. The British path to a democratic welfare state presented itself as an alternative to authoritarian National Socialism, totalitarian communism and laissez-faire capitalism. The adoption of British planning concepts fits in with the integration of Austria into the West as well as the ideological close relationship between the SPÖ and the British Labor Party. The “Greater London Plan” and the “New Towns” served as reference examples for the planning of the new beginning of Vienna as a structured and relaxed city. This enabled many architects to build on their plans from the Nazi era without, however, being associated with the original ideological motivations.

France's contribution to building an elite
In contrast to the other occupying powers, the French cultural offensive was characterized by a highly personalized cultural policy. It was mainly carried by three protagonists, the occupation chief Marie Émile Antoine Béthouart and the heads of the cultural institutes (Institut français) in Vienna and Innsbruck, Eugène Susini and Maurice Besset. The focus was on emphasizing the similarities between the cultural nations France and Austria, along with a demarcation from Germany. But while British planning concepts received a wide presence in the magazine “Der Aufbau” published by the Vienna City Planning Department, there was little coverage of French architecture. Official Vienna was critical of Le Corbusier's planning ideas. This was shown, for example, at his appearance in Vienna in 1948. Even at universities, dealing with his oeuvre was frowned upon, but it was enthusiastically received by young architects.

The US Contribution to a "Better Life"
The declared goal of the Americans was to build an anti-communist democratic Europe. The living and consumer culture played a major role in establishing the “American way of life”. At the same time, the USA was preceded by the reputation of "a cultural desert". This revealed a widespread skepticism in Europe about the “young” nation, which lacks a high culture. The American government countered this with an extensive organization for public relations work, the Information Services Branch (ISB). American modernism made its major appearances in Vienna with the exhibition “Architecture of the USA since 1947” in 1952 and the show “Modern Art from the USA” from the MoMA collections in 1956. The model estate Veitingergasse (1952–1954) im 13th Viennese district by Carl Auböck and Roland Rainer was built as a social alternative to the common form of living in the Viennese rental house.

The "friendly" and "peaceful" contribution of the Soviet Union
Vienna was captured by the Red Army in April 1945 and liberated from Nazi rule, but unlike the Americans, the Soviets did not begin to set up information centers until 1950. The dominant themes were the development achievements of the USSR with its technical achievements. From skyscrapers to fast-paced houses, the ideal state of socialism was propagated. The cross-party and cross-class consensus of the anti-communism of the Second Republic made the return of a cosmopolitan, often Jewish and left-wing architects impossible. The few architects who came under the auspices of the KPÖ were kept away from the large building projects of the municipality of Vienna. The monument on Schwarzenbergplatz is the best-known, but not the only structural manifestation of the USSR in Austria. As early as 1957, before the summit meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in 1961, there was a direct confrontation between East and West at the Vienna Autumn Fair. The USA built the American pavilion in the direct vicinity of the "Pavilion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", which was built in 1952.

Cold war and architecture
Contributions to the democratization of Austria after 1945
October 17, 2019 to February 24, 2020

  • 17th October 2019 February 24, 2020 /