Karl Marx Hof

May 14, 1933     10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Karl Marx Hof

"The rooster tails are demonstrating for Fascism in Schönbrunn today," prints the Social Democratic Kleines Blatt on Sunday, May 14, 1933. "The republican people of Vienna will celebrate republican freedom at the same hour in the municipal housing projects." 

While the Austrian Homeland Protection (Heimatschutz) is evoking a bygone age of heroes in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, "Red Vienna" looks to a socialist future.  On Saturday, May 13, 1933, the Arbeiter-Zeitung publishes a Social Democratic declaration strictly rejecting the annexation of Austria by a Germany under Adolf Hitler.  However, "German-Austria" should not become an authoritarian "corporative state" (Ständestaat) as the federal government envisaged, but remain a democratic republic, offering asylum for "German freedom and German culture." The long-term objective of the Austrian Social Democrats was still to "join a free and peaceful Germany of the future." 

One of the about fifty "freedom celebrations" taking place in Vienna on May 14, 1933, was organized in the Karl Marx Hof at Heiligenstädter Strasse 82–92, which continues to rank among the largest housing complexes in Vienna today. With 1,382 apartments for around 5,000 people, the municipal housing project (Gemeindebau) between the Heiligenstadt train station and the Hohe Warte stadium was the size of a small town. 

Open-air concerts and political speeches are held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the two courtyards linked by a central tract with driveways and tower constructions.   Only 28,751 of the 156,027 m2 ground area were built on, just under a fifth of the total area. The "freedom celebration" takes place among the spacious garden areas and playgrounds intended for community use.

"Only a municipal construction activity concerned with public health can and must consider the hygienic side of building in such extensive dimensions," the Vienna municipal construction office declared in the brochure for the opening of the Karl Marx Hof. 

The majority of the apartments were 38 to 48 m2 and equipped with fitted kitchens, running water, and toilets. Communal facilities with baths and showers were built in the public part of the estate, along with electric launderettes, two kindergartens, a dental clinic, a pharmacy and a health insurer with an outpatient clinic, a youth center, a post office, a public library, and numerous retail units. 

It is characteristic of Vienna's interwar urban planning that a single housing block rather than multiple smaller buildings was erected on the Hagenwiese in Heiligenstadt from 1926 to 1930. Instead of the Karl Marx Hof, a garden city would also have been a possibility, as the architect Adolf Loos had endorsed as head of the Vienna Settlement Office (Siedlungsamt) in the early 1920s. 

The Social Democratic city government suggested another route, however, once the starvation after World War I was alleviated. From 1923 to 1934, around 400 municipal housing projects with approx. 64,000 apartments were constructed in Vienna, providing windows in all rooms, WCs, running water, and gas stoves. 

The Karl Marx Hof is also typical in terms of design. Its architect Karl Ehn was a student of Otto Wagner, whose urban planning had a longstanding influence on the municipal housing program. The monumental residential blocks countered the bourgeois representative architecture of Vienna's Ringstrasse with socialist institutions. 

Life in public housing was organized according to strict rules—from schedules for garbage removal to gender segregation in the launderettes.  The communal solidarity for which the city government strived was to develop in the courtyards.  Consequently, on May 14, 1933, the municipal housing projects served as infrastructure in which to build a counter-public against the Austrofascist "Turks Deliverance Celebration" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier).

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24 h
May 13, 1933 – 2 p.m.
May 14, 1933 – 2 p.m.

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