The Mariahilfer Straße has a total length of 1.6 km
Mariahilfer Strasse, Vienna
For decades the Maria Hilferstrasse was the most well-known shopping street of Vienna. Although over the past few years the dramatic increase in car traffic over the past 40 years has led to a monofunctional, congested and divided street.
Bureau B+B stated that the introduction of spaces to stay, meet and act were essential to transform the monofunctional street into a multifunctional shared space. In order to achieve this, the street is paved from façade to façade on a single level. Subtle lines in the pavement mark the transition between different zones: A shared zone in the middle allows for faster movements with bordering slow zones. As a result, pedestrians rule the fast lane of the street and define the speed of movement for the local and public traffic that have to adapt to the movement and amount of the pedestrian traffic. The essence of the spatial concept is a play between spaces of movement and spaces of rest.
The asymmetrical profile that creates the different zones of movement meanders with the natural curves of the street. It naturally follows the inner bend the fast lane, leaving a quieter space in the outer bend. These spaces become city lounges with a variety of outdoor furniture including benches, water elements and planters with flowering trees. The city lounges along the street are islands of tranquility and social interaction. They complete the transformation of a monofunctional shopping street into a true public space by becoming spaces to stay, meet and act.
An emotional debate
The idea of the transformation of the street into a shared space boulevard stirred the residents and led to a fierce debate. A general disbelief that a car-free shopping boulevard would be good for business, made it into a national political debate. The municipality of Vienna together with the involved partner Stadtland organized an extensive participatory program. Information meetings, discussions and a public exhibition about the vision for the street were organized allowing people to contribute their individual wishes. The street was closed to ongoing traffic over the course of a year. During this testing phase the street was fitted with prototypes of the new street furniture in order to give the residents of the city a feeling of the atmosphere. People immediately took over the street and started using it as the intended boulevard. The street subsequently transformed into a political space that was used to discuss the issue of the referendum alongside many other protests, gatherings and celebrations.
The transformation of the Mariahilfer Strasse has several positive effects on the city. Thanks to the dramatic reduction of traffic, there is less noise and pollution. Now, the street is inviting to walk and bike through, enhancing public health through exercise. Shopkeepers are very positive about the transformation. Business did not slow down: the organic layout invites people to spend more time in the Mariahilfer Strasse, spending more money as a consequence. At the same time, people can relax without consuming. The City Lounges offer attractive and public alternatives to the terraces belonging to cafés and restaurants.
Photo’s: Ricky Rijkenberg en Martin Ecker
- Location: Mariahilfer Straße, Wenen, Oostenrijk
- Completed: 2013- 2015
- Client: City of Vienna, Department of Urban Design (MA19)
- Cost: € 12.000.000,-
- Area: 43.000 m2
- Partners: orso.pitro (architect) and Stadtland (participation process)
1900 - A boulevard
2012 - A street for cars
2017 - Pedestrian Paradise
asymmetrical zoning to create places to stay with the diverse city lounges
Subtle zoning of the street
Visualization of the street on one level
Europe's longest shared space
Modell testing of city lounges as places of stay, meet and act
Modell testing of how to create places of encounter
The public city lounges create moments of tranquility and slowing down moments
Slowing down on one of Vienna's busiest streets
A street for everybody
A place on eye level
People took over the street and it was transformed into a political space.
Test furniture was placed and tested
This transformation took place in dialogue with the future users. Organized by the Viennese office Stadtland who are specialized in participation procedures.
Asking the future users to create a street for everybody
On site planning: To discuss the profile we drew the design in the street in scale 1:1
Local granite for furniture and tiles
The existing trees are integrated into the new design
An all year time street
An all day time street
Light elements blend into the environment
The new design allows an intuitive orientation and movement