2017 / A NEW PARK AT WIEN WESTBAHNHOF. Development of part of the railway into a urban connector / A – Ideas

​The recent history of Vienna is made of great projects and rapid transformations. Many current development initiatives are based on the edges reuse and the renewal of urban void, resulting from the transport infrastructures reconversion. This is the context in which the story of the Westbahnhof railway network enters. It represents a very marked break between the two parts of the XV° district (Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus), located behind the Gürtel (second wall of the city). In 2015, following the development of the South Station project, the Westbahnhof route network is weakened and currently it mainly provides commuting services. Since the decentralization of railway operations has changed the activity and the role of the ÖBB buildings and a part of the tracks, the municipality called for bids to transform the area.

The project develops along those areas that, having lost their function, play an important role in Vienna’s growth process, focusing on the quality of the public spaces in a city characterized by a recent and continuous demographic increase.

Exceeding the difference in height, recreating and claiming the identity of the place, are the design actions contributing the achievement of the urban restitch goal and the improvement of life quality.

The resolution of the slope - up to 10 meters - is the main project challenge. In this sense, the design of a new urban topography makes a strong permeability of margins possible, defining a hybrid space - with strong synergies between built and nature- and accessible.

Great attention has been paid to the open spaces, conceived as part of a single green system whose carrier element is the Shared space, a shared circulation that evolves longitudinally along the area.

The fulcrum of this green system is the new urban park, the Freie Mitte, whose strip structure is made up terraces at the road level and inclined surfaces that go down to the tracks level, allowing the connection of the different realities of the district - the existing and the new definition ones - in a continuity solution. The complexity of the structure is due to the will to make all the levels usable, particularly the sloping surfaces. The functional role of overcoming the height difference becomes an opportunity to create multiple meeting situations, designed to reach a wide and varied users group.

The edges are reshaped, resulting an alternating of situations that allow a different fruition based on the relationship you want to establish with the railway, the park and the city. The edges towards the railroad becomes extremely connected both longitudinally and transversely, open to the view but blocked to the tracks access.

Regarding the edge towards the city, it is strongly permeable thanks to the numerous accesses (staircases, ramps, terraces, walkways, buildings, etc.) that allow the maximum area usability and the presence of activities distributed along the route.

The new urban connector role has a Westbahnhof opposite meaning, which has always been a limit and barrier between the two parts of the district. This type of planning should be the virtuous way, where to start integrating and developing the real actions that Vienna municipality has started over the past few decades, in the management of abandoned infrastructure and green spaces. In the current and continuous changing cycle, the quality of public areas can not and should not be an obstacle but an impetus and a truly integral part of the contemporary cities transforming process.

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VESTRE Hunter Industries

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