'Rasen am Ring' in Vienna

This year's 'Rasen am Ring' in Vienna took place for the fifth time and was an impressive demonstration of how civil society, represented by 15 non-governmental organizations and associations, is able to transform public space in a wonderful and inspiring way. (I am using the word 'wonderful' on purpose to describe this transformation, as the degree of wonder on bypasser's faces was really extraordinary in the moment you observed them being confronted with what happened on the ring road!).
The platform 'autofreie Stadt' (car-free city) managed to find together and develop the momentum to push through this official 'demonstration' (yes, it is legally a demonstration!) of how a city could look like if cars would be taken less seriously. This year there has been also a little politics-media-police frenzy as police firstly didnt permit the demonstration at a desired location but then after some back and forth allowed it again at the location where 'Rasen am Ring' happened the previous years. I guess after this year's success it is time to see it as an annual event simply pushing it through again and again.
I was curious about how Vienna's ring road can transform from a street into a 'Rasen' (lawn) so I visited the event on the earlier side to witness the 'implementation phase'. By the way for the non-German-speaking readers: the German phrase 'Rasen am Ring' has a nice double meaning, as the German homophone 'Rasen' doesn't simply mean 'lawn' but also 'to speed'.So 'Rasen am Ring' can be read as 'Lawn on the ring road', but as well as 'Speeding on the ring road', which, of course, is a nice hint to what is usually happening in this space. 
A day like this brings back ideas such as closing down car traffic on Vienna's ring road for cars and developing a huge boulevard in the city, a thought maybe as impossible to imagine as it was - previous to 1974 - hard to imagine to shut down traffic on Vienna's Kärtner Strasse, which is nowadays a prime pedestrian shopping street.
Anyway. Arriving early at 'Rasen am Ring' was wonderful as one could observe various reps of civil society organizations putting this thing together. They were helped by a bunch of school kids who obviously extremely enjoyed getting themselves muddy by carrying heavy rolls of lawn turf into location, unrolling it in teamwork and then stroking the greens into position.
After the volunteers had successfully laid out the greens, the soft organic layer, which was responsibly separated from the asphalt by a layer of plastics, was quickly taken over by a nicely diverse mix of people. One great observation was people passing by the event inside of the tramway which still passed the crowd left and right. Some of them just simply didnt believe their eyes, some gave a thumbs-up and some simply laughed.
During the day the event developed nicely and attracted a multitude of people.Also the Viennese version of ape man paid a visit with his grapevine rod (thank you for this man!) and a pluralistic society could be imagined by observing the soli-bar a few meters in front of the MOET-champagne-bar.
Next to a serious lobby for walking in urban environments there has been a strong presence of bicycle-related initiatives of Vienna. Below you see how a (for sure red) bike-box could look like in Vienna. The bicycle workshop of WUK was present showing how a mobile workshop could look like and some of the crazy bikes of Radlsalon provoked people to become

'Rasen am Ring' simply is an event which puts life into a city and creates situations of thinking about alternative scenarios and use of (public) space. In this sense I wish for it again and again and for more such initiatives in Vienna and in many cities across the globe!


Anonymous said...

this is a great story...thanks for sharing

barbaraelka said...

this is a great story