One of the joys of Vienna’s transit system is that some key pieces of it were built in 1898, mostly designed by Otto Wagner. It was the era of Art Nouveau (called Jugendstil in Vienna) which later grew into full-blown Deco. A few examples are over the top, such as the Karlsplatz station house:
But mostly it’s pleasing in a very low-key way, as in these stations along the U6 viaduct.
Look closely at the lettering. The “R” captures a bit of the organic, plantlike texture that Art Nouveau was all about:
These stations are just over a century old, but I can still see the gentle optimism in them. Note that compared to the florid architecture of the late 19th century, Art Nouveau could seem minimalist, cool.
The same look extended to operations infrastructure, which means it was meant to inspire employees, not just riders. Here’s one of the main tram sheds from the period:
Art Nouveau corresponds to one of the great eras of planning idealism, when it was still possible to talk, without irony or apology, about ways that architecture and urban form can cultivate happier, more productive, and even more ethical citizens. It’s meant to help people feel the sense of possibility that comes from being young. (The Austrian term for Art Nouveau was Jugendstil, literally a “style of youth.”) To me, at least, it still works. Even in ruins:
Some more personal and non-transit reflections on Art Nouveau are here.
Otto Wagner is a fascinating example of an architect who also did some great urban civil engineering. There is a great exhibition of his work from the Wien Museum that is located in the Karlsplatz U-Bahn entrance across from Jarrett’s photo http://www.wienmuseum.at/de/standorte/ansicht.html?tx_wxlocation_pi2%5BshowUid%5D=37&cHash=5edbc6aa17. The museum is very small but manages to present a nice summary of Wagner’s work.
Also don’t miss his private station designed for the Kaiser at Schoenbrunn adjacent to the Hietzing U-4 station http://www.wienmuseum.at/de/standorte/ansicht/otto-wagner-hofpavillon-hietzing-1.html (German). It’s only open on Sunday mornings (see German website for times) but well worth the visit for fans.
Of course you can see Wagner’s influence in the design of many stations on the U-4 and U-6 lines. Both these lines were operated with steam engines in Wagner’s day and were later converted to electric trains then into Vienna’s U-Bahn network, but the stations were maintained. Here is a link to my flickr photos of Vienna public transport, many photos are of Otto Wagner stations and bridges: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andynash/sets/72157609214252387/
Vienna has done a wonderful job restoring many stations designed by Wagner. A couple years ago they finished there rehabilitation of the Gumpendorferstrasse Station (U-6). It is great that the city does not eliminate history from their transportation infrastructure in the name of efficiency or current fashion. As places like NY Grand Central Terminal show, old pedestrian flow designs often work much better and the buildings are much more gratifying as many modern designs.