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Join Vienna as they celebrate 150 years of the Ringstrasse

Join Vienna as they celebrate 150 years of the Ringstrasse

Avril-Ann Braganza

With exhibitions, balls and contests in store, plans for the 150th anniversary of the Ringstrasse seem to promise a grand celebration.

Vienna celebrates the 150th anniversary of its most beautiful boulevard, the Wiener Ringstraße, this year. While celebrations began on 31st December 2014, they will continue until November 2015, although the first half of 2015 is more important for the anniversary, since the Ringstraße opened on 1st May 1865. Important events like the Life Ball (16th May) and the Eurovision Song Contest (23rd May) will take place then. The Austrian capital will mark the boulevard's anniversary with numerous exhibitions that include 'The Genesis of the Ringstraße', that will document the Viennese population’s preparations for the major urban development project; as well as 'The Ring. Genesis of a Showpiece Boulevard 1857–1865,' an exhibition that tracks the boulevard’s beginnings, from the initial planning stages to its formal opening on 1st May 1865. Previously unseen blueprints, designs, models and photographs tell the tale of the architects, painters and sculptors attempting to capture the essence of the era. The exhibition looks at the coming together of new and old Vienna, construction sites and wasteland, demolition and rebirth.

By the late 18th century these fortifications had become obsolete as military techniques had changed. In 1850, the Vorstädte (today the Districts II to IX) were incorporated into the municipality, which made the city walls an impediment to traffic and so on 20th December 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the fortifications surrounding Vienna’s city centre to be demolished. He ordered a boulevard, complete with show-piece buildings to be constructed, on the grounds in front of the old walls and towers, which had previously been used by the military. It was now a link between the city centre, which was dominated by the imperial residence and the palaces of the aristocracy, and the surrounding districts inhabited by the middle and lower classes, Finally, the construction of the Ringstraße marked the transformation of the capital from the historic residence of the Habsburg monarchy to a European metropolis.

Emperor Franz Joseph officially opened Vienna’s Ringstraße on 1st May1865, although completion of the boulevard was still a long way off. Some of the biggest architects of the day such as Theophil von Hansen, Heinrich von Ferstel, Gottfried Semper and Carl von Hasenauer have made their mark on the Ringstraße. Today, some of the most important buildings of the city line the Ringstraße, including the Vienna State Opera, Burgtheater, Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum of Natural History. In addition, it is also home to buildings that mark population’s emerging democratic self-image including the Parliament, City Hall and University as well as the mansion houses of the upper middle classes–particularly well-to-do Jewish families–such as Palais Epstein, Palais Todesco and Palais Ephrussi, which would host exclusive salons. During its heyday the Ringstrasse was lined by no fewer than 27 coffee houses, of which only three remained.