Brunnenviertel around Yppenplatz, 16th district

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type of use
Rudi Kohoutek, Christa Kamleithner and Ina Homeier-Mendes

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submitted by
Ina Homeier-Mendes
submitted on

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web links
Soho in Ottakring
Temporary uses as instrument for city marketing
Service Centre for Business Premises - Soho in Ottakring

Soho in Ottakring

The Profit of Self-Organisation

time frame: since 1999, two weeks per year

initiators: Ula Schneider and ServiceCenter Geschäftslokale (Service Centre for Busines Premises), since 2002 the “association for the arrangement and organisation of the cultural and location project 'Soho in Ottakring'”

users: mostly various artists

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“Soho in Ottakring” is an art festival, lasting for two weeks, which now takes place annually. It is a good example of how an organizational frame for temporary uses can be conditioned. It belongs to the rare cases in Vienna where such activities started on the open market; in the beginning there was a bottom up management, organised by private persons. The local and superior economy (the Vienna Business Agency) has recognised how important temporary uses can be for the development of locations, so now there is also a top-down interest.
The activities take place in empty shops in a typical densely built quarter of the Gründerzeit period. The problem of empty salesrooms, as frequently occurs in these areas, is a topic for the whole of Vienna. The retail trade is endangered, where it is not already replaced by expensive shops and service providers.
In May 1999 “Soho in Ottakring” took place for the first time, initiated by the artist Ula Schneider, who lives and works in the area. She had the idea for a common exhibition of artists living in the area; the empty salesrooms provided the spatial potential. From 1999 to 2002 it expanded gradually and linked itself with other interests. In the meanwhile, the festival understands itself as an urban renewal project; the number of partners, artists and visitors has increased steadily.
In the meanwhile, the structure of the organisation changed; it is now quite professional. There are different partners involved – including the Viennese service centre for retailers and the Area Service Office Ottakring. The current carrier association has existed since December 2002. The purpose aimed at is explained in the statutes: “The purpose of the association is the arrangement and organisation of the cultural and location project 'Soho in Ottakring', which should lead through the positioning of Ottakring as an artist quarter to the appreciation and revitalisation of Ottakring in particular as a business location.”
The procedure: The organizers formulate a topic and a jury makes a selection from the applied art projects. The shops are offered free of charge by the owners. Support is offered for the contact between owner and artist and for the elaboration of the precatory contracts. Generally, the artists themselves have to carry the costs for their projects, as well as for the technical infrastructure; financial support exists only for participative projects.
During the course of time “Soho” has had a direct impact on the quarter: since the beginning 35 shops are in use again, artists moved there and an image as an artist quarter has been created. Actually a main part of the newly used premises did not fill up with shops, but with galleries.
“Soho in Ottakring” seems to confirm the classical economic theory: if everybody pursues its own interest, a positive result develops for all - as if steered by Adam Smith's invisible hand. The interest of the artists is to exhibit, they got a space free of charge. The traders are interested, because potential customers are attracted. Overall the district is livelier, the local economy has been strengthened, and the Viennese cultural scene can be happy about a successful festival. The landowners will most probably profit as well, namely when the land prices rise.
The land prices have still not risen. However, the example Brunnenviertel shows how difficult it is to achieve a balance between a revaluation, from which the population benefits, and a beginning gentrification, where at the end there will be some losers. It shows, as well, that institutions are required which will interfere in and mediate such processes. To enable temporary uses, which are for the profit of everybody balancing public institutions are still needed. The market itself has not managed to regulate itself in this way.

Soho in Ottakring

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