If you happen to have arrived already on Good Friday, make a trip to Krems (about one hour from Vienna). In the so-called Klangraum (the Minoritenkirche is functionalised for cultural events) you will be able to enjoy contemporary music written by Cage, Pärt, Ustwolskaja and Gubaidulina (they belong to my favourite composers) and performed by the contra-bass ensemble Ludus Gravis. Lux ex tenebris is part of the festival Imago Dei in Krems.
I advise a day trip. There are a lot of exhibitions (the Karikaturmuseum Krems; the Kunsthalle Krems with various exhibitions; and the Ernst Krenek Forum, a museum about the Austrian composer Krenek). Every hour there is a train. See how to get there (in German only, but more detailed and including useful links).
If you like modern music (as I do), there is a special performance of Austria’s most important ensemble Klangforum in the Wiener Konzerthaus, Schubert-Saal, on Friday, 13 April 2012, at 19.30. I guess tickets will be available on site. You will listen to music of Haubenstock-Ramati, Haas, Feldman and Kagel. They celebrate the 85th birthday of Lothar Knessl, the father of the festival “Wien Modern” (every autumn the Wiener Konzerthaus dedicates some weeks to contemporary music).
Art collectors Karlheinz and Agnes Essl show 15 pieces of German artist Anselm Kiefer living in France. Kiefer surprises and touches with his longing for a bigger picture. He takes quotes of Paul Celan or Ingeborg Bachmann as point of departure for the creation of his pieces of art. Karlheinz Essl was Austrian entrepreneur and founded the first Do-it-yourself-Market in Austria (bauMax – now expanding also in Eastern Europe). He established a collection of modern art produced, in particular, by Austrian artists. He built his own museum (where you can visit the Kiefer exhibition) in Klosterneuburg which is in the vicinity of Vienna. The building was architected by Austrian architect Heinz Tesar whom I like for his design philosophy.
Each piece of art is provided with texts in German and English. A bus shuttle is available for free.
Utopia Gesamtkunstwerk. The former “20er Haus”, since 2011 “21er Haus“, is already something worth seeing irrespective of the temporary exhibition. It’s Austria’s Pavillon at the World Exhibition 1958 in Brussels where it was awarded a gold medal (from which Brussels’ Atomium stems). It has been deconstructed and erected in Vienna and should serve as a museum for contemporary art. Very recently there was a complete reconstruction of this heritage-protected building. Parts that did not work any more were replaced and the building was carefully complemented with additional space. The project was lead by a scholar of the original architect. Make up your own opinion!
The current exhibition deals with the social-critical movement for the total work of art which is revisited after years of neoliberal fragmentation.
One of the most convenient bars opened only recently at the top of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. It excels with an almost 360 degrees panorama. It’s called Le Loft Bar. The ceiling is kind of an installation designed by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. When night is falling, you see the ceiling illuminate your way to the hotel from far outside. Take public transport to the stop Schwedenplatz and cross the bridge over Donaukanal. Reservation is recommended.
In the vicinity of the so-called UNO-City (take U1) – the United Nations headquarters was a project of then chancelor Bruno Kreisky – you can see the construction site for the highest skyscraper in Austria and apparently beyond. It shall reach a height of 220 m. The glass facade is finalised in parallel with the concrete kernel of the tower. The architect is Dominique Perrault. According to Perrault’s plans the DC Tower 1 shall be accompanied by a smaller one which shall reflect the structure of the facade of the first tower.
Around there are some pieces of art produced by Bruno Gironcoli (which I don’t like to say the least).
Close to the metro you can find a building which is used as a catholic church (“Christus, Hoffnung der Welt”). This Donaucity church was designed by Heinz Tesar. I like that building; its outside appearance is not presumptious and it provides you with a nice atmosphere when you are inside. In particular, the way the light finds into the inside is outstanding.
Another church that is very different (in a positive sense, as to my taste) is the Kirche am Steinhof built by Otto Wagner, a Jugendstil church. You can visit it every Saturday at 15.00 or every Sunday at 16.00.
If you never have heard about the urban politics in “Red Vienna” (controlled by the Social Democratic Party) in the time between the two world wars, you should visit the Karl-Marx-Hof. It’s close to metro stop Heiligenstadt (U4). The social democrats taxed the rich and from that tax they built residential buildings for the poor. Such a kind of policy is something that is needed in the crises we face today!
The flats were for the first time equipped with an inside water toilet. At the same time Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky invented the Frankfurt Kitchen – a way of furniture adjusted to rationalising operations in the kitchen (in Austria called “American Kitchen”). Schütte-Lihotzky joined the Communists and the resistance movement.
Due to capitalist development and failures to counterbalance it by urban planning there are vast areas in Vienna that are devastated and the public space is downgraded. Recently there are projects carried out by the administration of the town that head in the right direction. E.g., the revitalisation of the ground floor areas in streets that have fallen victim to decay.
There are grass-root initiatives too like guerilla gardening with the aim to “reconquer” public space: Guerilla Gardening Wien. The Längenfeld is close to metro stop Längenfeldgasse (U6, U4).
One of the biggest urban development projects of Europe is the Seestadt Aspern project. The plans for mixed zoning raise hopes for reinstating the public sphere. There will also be an ecological bias: electro cars and a geothermic power plant which provides the whole area with energy.
*) These recommendations are subject to my personal taste and need not to suit your taste. I accept that there is a diversity of tastes. My hope is though that some of you might find my recommendations helpful. The same holds for political opinions uttered here. They are my personal opinions.