Author’s Note: Between my trip to Vienna and my general school work, I’ve run a bit behind on writing blog posts, so for this month I’ll be putting up a few things I wrote for my Smart Cities class, taught by Professor Alenka Poplin (from my various Vienna posts).
As smart city programs become more and more common, it is becoming necessary to understand them and recognize their successes and, perhaps more importantly, their failures. Studying any individual city can give some information, but real understanding comes from comparing these projects to each other. However, comparisons of such complex entities are not easy, and a lot of work has gone into finding ways to compare cities to various ends.
There are any number of reasons to compare smart cities: choosing the best place to live or build a business, finding ideas for new programs (and steps not to take), marketing success and revealing opportunities for growth, or just as an opportunity to academically study how these cities perform. Different needs and biases have necessitated differing comparison methods and results, from simple if opaque rankings to complex categorical analysis to individualized qualitative descriptions. Comparisons also vary in their scope, from massive worldwide studies to granular examinations of small categories.
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.
Tuesday was another busy day, as we made our way through Seestadt Aspern, as well as a few other relatively new developments in Vienna. Aspern was very interesting, and seeing it in person drastically increased my predictions for its success as a real urban area.
With everyone in the group finally landed, we started the real program off with a busy Monday. After breakfast, we made our way to the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) to meet with Drs. Ioannis Giannopoulos, Gerhard Navratil, and Paolo Fogliaroni at the Spatial HCI (Human Computer Interaction) Lab, where their group studies how humans can interact with spatial data, from large-scale geoinformation to individual building models, using emerging technology. This means using Augmented and Virtual Reality to study how people interact with space, as well as exploring new techniques of data visualization and functional uses for this technology. Of course, we got to try out a few of their systems. Read more
My group spent Sunday mainly wandering around Schönbrunn, the royal family’s summer residence and just one of the dozens of amazing public parks in the city. While beautiful, there’s only so much urban planning or smart city information to glean from a 300+ year old garden. I picked up a few things today though, notably the importance of art in public space. Almost every square in inch of Vienna has some sort of art, from sculptures in plazas to paintings above subway staircases (the subways also feature professional buskers, who audition for the right to play for an hour and a half at a time), and of course, architecture. One very interesting bit of art appeared in a display case attached to the already beautiful entrance to an underground parking garage, a regular site in the city. Many in my group find these to be extremely exciting, since they simultaneously protect historic buildings and landscapes while hiding cars and the ugly parking garages that come with them.
The Gloriette, one of the buildings at Schönbrunn, seen from the base of the hill it rests on.
Part of the Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn. Spoiler alert: they were built in 1778 by the Habsburgs.
The Palmenhause in the Schönbrunn gardens, built 1882.
An egyptian-style obelisk in Schönbrunn. Hieroglyphics are visible along the structure.
The Neptune Fountain at Schönbrunn.
The view of Schönbrunn Palace from the Gloriette.
The view of the Schönbrunn Palace from the inside of the Neptune Fountain.
My favorite of the statues in Schönbrunn, this depicts Minerva (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Athena) stopping Mars (Ares) from drawing his sword.
One of the obelisks at the entrance to Scönbrunn.
Part of the Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn.
The Palace at Schönbrunn.
An old building with a modern fifth floor. According to our guide, the bottom three floors are likely rented on various levels of subsidy, while the top floor is likely owned by its residents. This helps lower costs for everyone involved.
The Obelisk Fountain in Schönbrunn, found underneath the previously pictured obelisk.
It’s hard to see in this picture, but this fountain is entirely indoors, part of an alleyway/shopping area between streets. The windows above are most likely apartments, showing the prevalence of mixed uses.
These art pieces appear on the outer edge of the entrance to an underground parking ramp.
A lonely Bird rental scooter in the middle of sidewalk. Even Vienna isn’t free of the scourge.
Part of the Roman Ruins at Schönbrunn.
A tradition Tirolean building in Schönbrunn.
Some pastries in Cafe Central. I’ll be honest, this picture is to make people jealous.
I arrived in Vienna early Saturday morning after a long, sleepless plane ride. While Saturday wasn’t spent doing much of anything, I’d like to log my first few impressions of the city. Read more
New Songdo City, South Korea has been in planning and construction since 2003. It is and has been many things: a truly global city, an aerotropolis supported by the nearby Incheon International Airport, a green city, a “ubiquitous city” with technology in every aspect of life, and the backdrop to scenes in the video for the hit song “Gangnam Style.” As an early and long-running smart city project, Songdo says a lot about what we want from our cities of the future – and about what we may actually get. Read more
Content Warning: Antisemitism
At the end of World War I, Henry Ford was one of the most famous and powerful men in America. Between his company’s explosive growth, his massive popularity in Michigan and beyond, and his close friendship with President Woodrow Wilson, Ford was on top of the world. At this point, as often happens with men of power, he took an interest in public issues.
At the same time, a massive construction project was grinding to a halt in the Tennessee River Valley. The Wilson Dam had started as a wartime necessity, but the fighting was over. The dam stood half-complete and the river unexploited.
Ford saw this as an opportunity to combine several of his ideals. Here he could push his pacifist tendencies, ideas for new urban design, opposition to the gold standard, and distaste for Wall Street (largely based on his offensive anti-Semitic views). All of these threads came to bear on the as-yet-nonexistent town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Read more
Authors Note: I’m taking a bit of a hiatus for January to get ahead on my researching and writing, as well as my classwork, but I didn’t want to leave nothing for a month. Here’s a little something about a book that I read last semester.
D.J. Waldie’s Holy Land describes a city that may not be of the future, per se, but was certainly a utopia to some. Waldie grew up and still lives in a tract home in Lakewood, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Built in the years after World War II, Lakewood was the second “new” suburb in the United States, following in the footsteps of Levittown, New York. The book itself is a lyrical examination of a life in a place, and a place through the lives in it.
Seestadt Aspern, literally the seaside city at Aspern, is home to Smart City Wien’s large-scale experiments. The planned community of 20,000 people in the northeast corner of Vienna will be completed in 2028. Much like Masdar City, Aspern aims to act as a “living laboratory” to prove various new technologies, from smart electric meters to entire smart energy grids. Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR), the company in charge of research in Aspern, sorts its projects into four “Smart” areas: Building, Grid, User, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).