The photo series "Little Austria" is a project about the urban phenomenon, “Auf der Schmelz” in Vienna, showing the intimate relation between people and their living spaces. The Schmelz goes along with the Swiss, German and Austrian tradition of the so-called Schrebergärten, initiatives which were coming up especially in the age of industrialisation, when areas at the outskirts of the towns were cultivated in order to give factory workers families the possibility of spending their free time in nature, escaping the city and managing their own little gardens.
Built in 1847 as a base of the Austro-Hungarian army, closed down in the 1920s and split up into little plots, was then taken over by the hungry urban population that organised themselves and planted potatoes there without permission, but with only little pursuit of the authorities. After the bombings in World War II, the Schmelz was rebuilt and its development continued quietly for the last fifty years. Even during the rapid urbanisation of the sixties the city did not assimilate this area and was forced to grow around it. The potato fields were slowly transformed into flourishing private gardens, the storehouses for the farmer’s tools into weekend cottages.
The history of the Schmelz areal, reflects the development of our society over the last century: from the necessity of self-organisation during war and economical crisis, through the explosion of the metropolis and the urbanisation process, to today’s central role of leisure time in modern life-style. It became a rural hideout in the centre of the city, as a result of continued transformation around changing necessities and taste.
This microcosm of one-storeyed houses – directly surrounded by the tall, multi-level buildings of the city – displays the whole range of architecture found in Austria, as a catalogue or small-scale model of the country.
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