As I’ve made it back home without having a chance to finish up posts about our last few days, I’m just going to group them together here.
We started off our Wednesday at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien, where we learned about their Master’s program in Integrative Urban Development-Smart City (a two year, part-time, blended learning program) and met a few of the students in the program.
The first student presenter is developing a relatively small, cheap environmental monitoring system. The system could one day supplement air quality data from 18 professional grade stations in Vienna, and provide similar data in other cities. The prototype, a black case about the size of a shoebox, contains 6 sensors measuring a series of air quality indicators with results generally comparable to the large, expensive professional systems in preliminary tests. Live results are constantly sent to a server where they can be read in detail.
Next up was Smart Charging, a group designing a user end device to shift power consumption to low usage hours. The device, essentially a smart plug, draws on data from aWATTar, a group using hourly electricity tariffs to encourage people to shift consumption to low usage hours when renewable energy can best be produced. Using this data, Smart Charging devices chooses times to charge devices, including laptops and phones, that will save the most money and put consumption at the most environmentally friendly times. It even has a smart speaker skill to let you know when your devices will be charged.
Finally, a group is working on Multimodal Information Screens, which draw on data from a series of sources of public transit to display combined data for transportation in public places. The goal of this system is to raise awareness of these systems and to nudge people toward them. Currently, two prototypes are in action at buildings in the University of Applied Sciences, and requests have been made by hotels and museums.
Finally, we participated in an open data workshop, exploring some of the data that Vienna makes available to everybody. You can check it out yourself here (as long as it stays up, I’m not sure how permanent it is), I recommend using Google Chrome’s translate function or Google Translate on the data page if you can’t read German.
After leaving the University, we wandered the city a little, making a stop at Hundertwasserhaus, an apartment building built on the ideas of architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who opposed straight lines and grids while promoting a return to nature. It’s not exactly my style, too say the least. I certainly wouldn’t want to live there, if for no other reason than that it has become a massive tourist attraction.
We also stopped in Stadtpark, a park near the city center. It features both a monument to Johann Strauss and the beautiful Kursalon music hall.
Most of our Thursday was spent working with a group of international Masters students in cartography at TU Wien. Together with them, we gathered data for an experiment designed by Professor Alenka Poplin, asking a number of other students about evocative places–places that evoke certain memories or feelings. We asked participants to map a few positive evocative locations for them and identify the characteristics and emotions they associate with these locations.
We also interviewed some students on video for one of my fellow travelers, Akuto Konou, whose project InnovInspire is very cool, and worth checking out.
After completing the interviews and experiments, we met up to discuss the experiment. People noted that while it was a great experience, we struggled to attract busy student’s interest, much less get them to sit down for a survey. None of my group spoke much German, if any, and while most students at TU Wien did speak English, they didn’t seem interested in engaging with a bunch of Americans. Ironically, when offered the chance to speak or write in German, few took it. Overall, it was good experience for me in planning and mapping research, even if it wasn’t very enjoyable in the moment.
During our time off from the experiment, we were free to explore the city, and I made a few stops of interest, including Karl-Marx-hof. Built in 1930, the social housing complex is the longest building in the world at 1.1 km, and includes nearly 1,400 apartments, as well as many amenities including a library, laundromats, and kindergartens. The whole building, despite its length, maintains a comfortable sense of openness (at least from the exterior) thanks to regular archways and courtyards.
My other stop that day was St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Central Vienna, the suitably awe-inspiring seat of the Vienna Archdiocese. The roof of the church has a beautiful, almost modern-seeming, pattern of tiling that stands out among historic churches, which I apparently completely failed to capture a picture of. Also notable is that the interior featured a large art installation, Sky of Stones by Peter Baldinger. I personally think it’s wonderful to continue to incorporate new art into our historic spaces, especially public and functional spaces such as churches.
Our last day in Vienna started with a visit to TU Wien’s simlab, a group working on functional simulations of space, such as modeling power usage at different scales, making it possible to view entire districts usage and zoom into individual buildings, as well as a focused projected using the same design to get down to floor level at the Vienna Airport. That project also has a VR component, allowing users to visualize power use in person. Other VR projects include visualizations of planning projects, which allow a more immersive experience than traditional masterplan models.
Near this part of the TU Wien campus was another Hundertwasser designed building, a district heating plant that is genuinely stunning in its whimsicality.
Me and a small group spent the afternoon Friday atop the Kahlenberg, a hill from which we could see the entirety of Vienna. The view was genuinely breathtaking, and my pictures don’t do it nearly enough credit.
I hope to do one last post about the trip, including my overall thoughts about Vienna, Aspern, and how this all fits into the ideas of Urban Utopias, but I think I’m going to hold off on that until my group has all presented our final projects for the trip so I can get a feel for everyone else perceptions and thoughts. The one thing I can definitely say, though, is that I would very much like to go back.
Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible, especially Professor Alenka Poplin and all of our various tour guides and presenters.