In a dramatic conclusion to the 19 day exhibition of Hypotopia, hundreds of people marched along Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse to gather outside the Austrian parliament.
Hypotopia – a model city built out of concrete blocks – was on display outside the famous Karlskirche church in Vienna’s fourth district until Thursday afternoon.
The city was meticulously designed by students to house over 100,000 inhabitants – at the monumental cost of €19 billion. This is the same size as the bill presented to the Austrian tax-payer to bail out the failed bank Hypo Alpo Adria.
The organisers, frustrated by the passive reaction from the public to the financial scandal, described Hypotopia as a “protest in concrete”. They decided to create a €19 billion model city to help people visualise the scale of the waste.
Yesterday afternoon protesters gathered at the exhibition in Karlsplatz, opposite the Technical University where many of them study, to dismantle the city and transport it along the Ringstrasse.
Using a combination of trolleys, wheelbarrows – and, in some cases, just their bare hands – the students carried just over 25,000 kg of concrete blocks from the university to the parliament.
They were led by the team of architects and urban planners responsible for Hypotopia’s design. At the front of the group was a large banner proclaiming, “We bear the weight of the future.”
Since its inception at the start of the summer, Hypotopia has steadily grown in size and reputation.
The project has even attracted the attention of the Austrian president Heinz Fischer, who took a walk through the model city on Thursday afternoon and spoke to some of the organisers.
“The point of building the city was to raise awareness of this huge waste of money,” one of the protesters explained.
“But it’s not just about understanding how much we lost out on – we need to do something about it too. That’s why the march is so important. We need the politicians to actually change something.”
Alongside the physical exhibition, accompanying lectures which were open to the public were also held over the last three weeks in the Technical University of Vienna. They covered topics concerning the city such as transport, energy resources and the economy.
Although the exhibition in Karlsplatz is now over, the student activists were quick to emphasise that this is not the end of Hypotopia. The remaining concrete blocks are to be recycled and put to further use, and a small selection is being donated to Vienna’s Museum for Applied Arts (MAK) as part of next year’s Vienna Biennale festival.
In a similar vein to Hypotopia, this event claims to be the “first of its kind to combine art, design and architecture with the aim of generating creative ideas and artistic projects to help improve the world.”
By Ajit Niranjan