Paris meets Vienna: Urban Development / Urban Regeneration

The cities and regions shape the future of a common Europe. Comparison of cities is practice, however it should be used for productive exchange - instead of as a means of cities' ranking and image competition between cities. Paris and Vienna have entered this process and want to further develop it. An exchange on activities in urban regeneration on quarter level focused on citizens' participation in 2004 aroused curiosity to learn more.

Exchange Paris - Vienna 2004
Urban regeneration activities with citizen's participation on quarter level

The project Paris-Vienna 2004 dates from a meeting of the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl and his colleague Bertrand Delanoë in Paris in 2003, where comprehensive cooperation between both cities was discussed. The exchange was specified on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Vienna Architecture - Urban Renewal - Urban Conservation, The State of the Art IV" in Paris. The Vienna Municipal Department 50 took the lead for the exchange regarding urban regeneration on the level of the 2nd district in Vienna and the 4th district in Paris.

The Quarter of the Carmelites (2nd district, Vienna) and Le Marais (4th district, Paris) mainly show parallels concerning the proximity to the city centre, a historically grown structure of the quarter, the density of the old building stock, the relatively scarce portion of green space and the existence of a significant Jewish-orthodox portion of the population.

What distinguishes the Quarter of the Carmelites is defined by a distinctly minor importance given to cultural heritage (measured by the number and quality of historical buildings) and, therefore, its far minor affection of the effects of high tourist frequentation. Furthermore, Le Marais assembles more central functions in the context of the City than the 2nd district of Vienna and it shows a visibly higher socio-economic profile of inhabitants.

This fascinating mixture of similarities and differences promotes a productive exchange process, because, on the one hand, comparable problems and challenges are faced, on the other hand, this will make the importance of the context more visible through the confrontation with activities that, for example, relate to different groups of inhabitants - just to show an example.

One focus of common interests lies on measures of citizens' activation in the framework of the regeneration of public space.

Project urban regeneration on a quarter level

The emphasis of the concept, developed for 2004 in cooperation between Paris and Vienna, lay on the continuous exchange of information with the help of good practice, joined with public relations. Core activities were one three-day workshop in Vienna as well as Paris in the fall of 2004. Project communication used the languages German and French.

On the Paris side, the authority of the 4th district, represented by Mme la Maire Dominique Bertinotti, and the "Laboratoire de Sociologie Urbaine Générative "of the CSTB - Michel Bonetti, Patrice Séchet and Jean-Didier Laforgue directed the project. Numerous district and city institutions were involved, mainly in the framework of the workshops. Besides officers of management, there were experts from the field of urban planning, green space, traffic, cultural building heritage, and guests from e.g. Jewish organisations and the universities.

In Vienna, a work- and steering group composed of members of the municipality (City Planning Bureau / Infrastructure and Urban Renewal Office; Municipal Department 25), district authority, local area regeneration offices (Quarter of the Carmelites, Leopoldstadt) and local initiatives represented by Gecko Art, PlanSinn und K4/Jazzzeit. The coordination lay in the hands of Wolfgang Förster, municipal department 50 and Heidrun Feigelfeld, SRZ Urban+Regional Research.

The area regeneration office Karmeliterviertel refers to ample experience in citizens' participation (neighbourhood forums et al.), activities in shopping streets, mobilisation of children and youth, and - as a special profile - in area-based cultural activities.

Also, the partial involvement of the "Quarter Management", which has been initiated and which is currently running in the adjacent parts of the 2nd and 20th districts, contributed a positive effect.

Furthermore, the project also fit into the extensive activities in 2004 regarding "1974-2004: 30 Years of Urban Regeneration in Vienna".

The commonly agreed key focuses of the exchange were public space (streets, places, playgrounds - regeneration, activation), children and youth (adoption of the neighbourhood, planning participation) and culture (local initiatives).

Experience gained from the project

Does exchange concerning urban regeneration activities and citizens' participation between two so obviously different European metropolises like Paris and Vienna make sense? Does it contribute stimulation and results or is it confined to the mutual transfer of information and the exchange of cordialities?

Based on the experiences gained from one year of contacts and two comprehensive workshops, these questions can be answered very positively. European metropolises face many comparable tasks - from the comprehensive level of urban development down to the minute, "day to day" efforts for positive neighbourhood development according to the needs of the inhabitants and those working on site. The exchange project shows that mutual learning from experience stimulates and helps in day-to-day work. Numerous proposals from the different approaches shall be adopted in future activities.

A first finding: Paris and Vienna absolutely communicate" at eye level". In fact, the Paris Region represents another dimension, but only about 2,12 million inhabitants are living inside the administrative borders that are under the responsibility of the local authority and the local administration ('inter muros'),- a figure that, by all means, is comparable to Vienna.

At the level of inner city districts and quarters, comparable challenges have risen to foster the quality of life: sustaining the quarter identity, upgrading green space, steering traffic, careful dealing with the built cultural heritage and intelligent modern interventions, vitality of the local economy and - above all - active involvement of the citizens in balancing diverse interests.

Paris meets Vienna 2006

In 2006 the issue was extended to urban planning and implementation on city level. Two executive council departments - "Housing" and "Urban Development" have joined together for this task.

The main objectives were exchange on urban development (planning instruments and implementation) and on urban regeneration and cultural heritage.

The core activity and highlight was a two-day event in Vienna with seminars on these key issues, on 27 and 28 November 2006.

Each day was dedicated to a key issue - to the challenges and innovative activities in the framework of a new urban development and urban regeneration policy, and to the new Urban Development Plans - PLU Plan Local d'Urbanisme from 2006 in Paris and STEP 05 Stadtentwicklungsplan 2005 from Vienna - and their implementation.

Challenges and innovative activities in the framework of a new urban development and urban regeneration policy

Although the starting points are quite different, less in the orders of magnitude and in the basic policies than in population development, the geographical position and the basic legal principles, the same urgent problems must be addressed; globalisation, changing markets and social disintegration.

The City of Paris must deal with its future role in a mega-agglomeration, and with contradictory objectives and demands within the city borders, such as social mix versus the interests of investors, the pros and cons of high-rise construction and the question of mixed use and various ownership rights within buildings.

Large volumes of traffic, a lack of free space and a lack of affordable housing are all to be dealt with. -The city needs to develop friendly city centres and modern practice in handling cultural heritage.

Current city policy is meeting this challenge with an ambitious major inner-city development project , the G.P.R.U. on almost 1,000 ha. The majority of these plans are focussed on the 'Couronne', which means "in the outskirts along the city limits".

For Vienna, the general challenges are not very different. The administrative limits also contain a comparable number of inhabitants - 1.6 million in Vienna and 2.12 million in Paris - and of building stock.

However, there are some differences. Paris is keen to keep and attract inhabitants, but Vienna is faced with forecasts of population growth, which were not on the agenda during the elaboration of the Urban Development Plan. Compared to Paris, Vienna has the advantage of a considerably larger stock of subsidised housing and more effective funding for housing.

The new Urban Development Plans - PLU, STEP 05 - and their implementation

The second workshop was intended to deepen knowledge of parallels and differences in the conceptual and regulatory frameworks. The embedding of construction measures in an overall concept and basic principles of planning and related concepts were the focus.

The similarity of the current substructures of planning is remarkable - their principles, their orientation, their direct link to implementation programmes and the strong advocacy of citizens' participation in both cities' policies.

However, in contrast to the STEP, the PLU is a comprehensive body of legislation. Therefore, there are differences in the regulations as well as in the forms of organisation, which should be evaluated and further developed.


In the long term, in Vienna as in Paris, the future lies in thinking and acting in and with the agglomeration. This starts with the neighbouring municipalities and goes on into the big European development zones.

The concluding panel discussion showed the great interest of both sides and the first results in terms of reciprocal learning and identification of transferable principles and practice.