Extraordinary Vienna: Identity and the Metropolitan Project

Robert Rotenberg

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Rotenberg, R. (1). Extraordinary Vienna: Identity and the Metropolitan Project. City & Society, 8(1), 82–100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ciso.1996.8.1.82

Gardens , Heterotopic Spaces , Identity , Ideology , Metropolitan project , Social Order , Vienna

The Knowledge Viennese have of their public parks and private gardens re-enforces their sense of belonging to the city. While place attachment may account for identification with a neighborhood or district, the sense of connection to the larger metropolis is another matter. Identification becomes possible through a "metropolitan project"— a mission or goal set by city leaders. The project's emphasis changes over time, yet commitment to it often transcends class, gender and ethnicity. Parks and gardens are shaped by the same forces that shape the metropolitan project in any given era. Green spaces become a medium through which their designers or gardeners express identification with the project, and through it, with the metropolis as a whole.

Main finding
The author argues that the Viennese understanding of the urban landscapes is drawn from their spatial practices and systems of shared meaning in what are considered highly political landscapes which are the product of an overarching Metropolitan Project specific to an ideological moment in history. The author applied Foucault's six characteristics of heterotopic space (universality, identifiable functionality, symbolically multivocal, heterochronic, identifiable opening and closings, and linked to other places in society) to identify nine heterotopic tropes that have emerged in the Viennese landscape over time. One example of a heterotopic space is ‘Gardens of Order’ which are characteristically linear and symbolic of the absolutist state. In general, public gardens were seen as places of power while private gardens were seen as places of control.

Description of method used in the article
Historical analysis drew on Ulf Hannerz's 'Cultural Complexity' as a means to analyze the classed experience of the metropolitan landscape as a producer of meaning for urban dwellers. Foucault's concept of heterotopias is invoked which was defined as, "real places-places that do exist and are formed at the very founding of society - which are something like counter sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within cultures, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted" (p. 84). Heterotopias must be different from the sites they reference thus producing a tension between being different, but linked. The author suggests that this is what gives heterotopias their power to produce meaning and in this case suggest an underlying social order.

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