Collaborative Urban Design „Life at the Helmut-Zilk-Park“

Collaborative Urban Design „Life at the Helmut-Zilk-Park“ as part of the Vienna Main Station Urban Development Project, Vienna / Austria.

The vision is a mostly car-free neighborhood with different characteristics on the fringes (rails, park, train station and traffic infrastructure) and slow-motion inner-promenade with small building-sites for the sake of architectural diversity and resilience. The planning site combines with its volume, density and building heights the bordering urban areas and provides a compact city with high quality standards in living, working and recreation. A set of urban rules with GFA limitation, situated accents with building heights, localization of edges and perforations in the block structure and a plinth of min. 4 m height comprise maximum flexibility for the architectural design.


the urban typology // 

The urban context
Since 2004 Austria’s Federal Railways Company (ÖBB) and the City of Vienna are jointly developing the brownfield of the former Southern Railway station into a modern Main Train Station for the City of Vienna. The area is located at the 10th district of Vienna, about 1, 5 km to the Inner City core and the Belvedere Castle, a mayor tourism site in City. The total urban development area is 109 ha, of which approximately 59 ha are designated for mix-use developments like residential projects for more than 7.000 units and about 20.000 workplaces, social infrastructure and facilities like a big educational campus (designed by PPAG Architekten) and the huge Helmut-Zilk-Park with an extension of approx. 8 ha (designed by Hager Landschaftsarchitekten).


bigger? //

After selling almost 80 % of the 1,2 billion m2 Gross Floor Area (GFA) building potential, the project’s steering committee agreed on changing the existing Masterplan Version O (design by Wimmer-Hoffmann & Hotz and further developed by ÖBB and City of Vienna) of approximately 15 hectare and 250.000 m2 GFA to develop an innovative and integrated strategy with an experimental Collaborative Planning Approach, which allowed stakeholders including local actors to involve in the design of this area.

Collaborative Planning Approach as Experiment
This project was the first of a series of collaborative urban design projects which were introduced as a test planning at the Department of Urban Design of the City of Vienna and it was the very first of its kind on a public level being with the ÖBB acting as initiating agency. This methodology follows as a traditional planning approach with regular planning steps, but adds additional steps, which help to create a participatory planning process and includes the critical stakeholders outside the initiating agency.


the collaborative sessions //

In a public tender process 49 international planning companies applied with a basic urban strategies for the narrow strip between the future Helmut-Zilk-Park and rails, but close and in visible contact to the historical Viennese neighborhood of Favoriten. After two jury sessions including a hearing the following planning design team was selected: Franz Denk, Artec Architekten, Rüdiger Lainer und Partner, Studiovlay, Gasparin Meier Architekten and MaxRieder.

Through a guided collaborative planning process, which was conducted from June till October 2012, the planning team developed together with the stakeholder-jury a new spatial strategy in five workshops. The following stakeholders were invited to give input during the planning sessions: The Chamber of Architects, two independent urban planning experts, two politicians, a traffic planer, a landscape planner, Gebietsbetreuung GB 10 (the local district development company), housing experts, a lawyer, the Chamber of Commerce, Fonds Soziales Wien (the Viennese homeless organization) etc. Throughout the collaborative planning process critical actors were included into the planning process, involving them in making collective decisions on the proposed urban design plan. As a result, when the final decision is made, all the actors feel committed to the urban design proposal – and the chances of implementation are increased dramatically.


the finished masterplan including lotification //

 Towards an integrated urban design approach
After the vision and the rough spatial strategy was defined, an urban typology and a more profound urban design study was conducted to be able to elaborate a more comprehensive feasibility study on the building volume, function of the area, use of the buildings, a concept of the open public space and its implementation with the main goal of establish a real estate sales strategy which was linked to the legally binding urban land development plan. This was the basis for a set of urban rules, a tool-kit for the implementation of the vision as conditional components in the sale contracts of the building sites (as kind of urban development contract).


the finished masterplan in the urban context //

The urban rules
These rules imply no guideline for architecture design, but contain urban planning principles, which allow a rich architecture portfolio on the building site. The original spatial strategy was mostly kept and not essentially adopted during the development process. As a kind of PPP model, urban rules were translated into contractual conditions for the sale contracts of the building-sites. The following urban rules show some samples for a conditioned-based urban design framework:

  • The development site exists of 14 blocks including 34 building-sites, ie. 34 transactions
  • The small building-site configuration (which allows a strong diversification of place making), max. 120 residential units, or about 12.000 m2 GFA is allowed, the smallest selling unit is approx. 2.400 m2 GFA.
  • Building-uses: mixed-use buildings, homeless care center, five cooperative housing projects, 11 small-scale housing projects, three multi-story car parks incl. experimental small-scale production areas in the ground floor level etc. Approx. 1500 – 2000 residential units according size.
  • Public space: four public spaces / squares which open gently to the park, but are generate a closed, urban feel inside; visual axes to the historical part of Favoriten is guarantied.
  • Slow motion and car-free inner-promenade with shops or service facilities in the ground floor area. Maximum low-rent for the first three years is fixed for incentive of new businesses. The shop/service areas are mandatory for the developers. The promenade is designed the speed for bikers and pedestrians.
  • Transportation concept: car free urban development area at the inner-promenade. Car parking for approx. 50 % of the cars is provided at three parking buildings at the urban fringe located close to rails. Park deck design is subject to architectural competitions.
  • Parking is limited with maximum 50 % units according building code, no minimum regulation.
  • Quality control: creating of a neighborhood development jury for the architecture competitions. Minimum the half of the building-sites has mandatory architecture competition.


the actual view of the ongoing construction site by 2013 //

The Vienna Main Station Urban Development Project is a Joint Venture of ÖBB Immobilienmanagent GmbH and the City of Vienna. I was the project leader of urban development within the ÖBB team from 2010 till 2013 and responsible for the urban design strategy and part of the sales team. The project is funded by the ÖBB, Stadt Wien and the European Union and is currently Austria’s biggest urban development site under construction. The site has the size as big as the 8th district of Vienna.