This is a comparative analysis of the writings of two 19th century Austrian Urban Planners.
Camillo Sitte (City Planning According to Artistic Principles, 1889) and Otto Wagner (Modern Architecture, 1902) are referenced by scholarship as representatives of two clashing schools of thought on the city: Historicism and Modernism. Sitte and Wagner produced their theories on planning during the Fin de Siecle period of Austrian history (1850-1910): a unique intersection of political and cultural changes manifested upon the physiognomy of the city of Vienna.
This paper preludes their principles of city planning by establishing context for the historical processes which led the city of Vienna to become a theater for their emergence.
In my analysis, I reject the notion that the divergence in their approaches to city design is based upon the traditional conflict between archaic and futurist visions of the city. Rather, I argue that both treatises are founded upon a modernist conception of the city as a fragmented entity (culturally and architecturally); that there is no unified, guiding concept in contemporary life. I review Schorke’s writings on the Idea of the City in the European tradition in order to introduce Enlightenment, Anti-Industrialist, and Modernist conceptions of the city by intellectuals ranging from Voltaire to Baudelaire. I review David Frisby’s The City Designed, revealing parallels between Wittgenstein’s theory on language and the city as a concept. Referencing William Johnston (The Austrian Mind), I offer a brief summary of the political transition between Enlightened Absolutism and Liberalism in Austria and introduce the parallel effects of this political transformation through the modernization of the city of Vienna (a great influence for Sitte and Wagner). In this section I comment on Schorske’s account of the expansion of the city past its medieval fortifications and on how the construction of the Ringstrasse was a liberal response to the centralization of the Old Dynastic Vienna. I survey Sitte and Wagner’s original texts and argue that Sitte looks to the cities of antiquity for Proven Forms in order to create a unifying cultural myth, whereas Wagner rejects them and focuses instead on New Forms as a radical, utilitarian response to modern fragmentation.
Ultimately, this paper establishes historical significance and brings broader emphasis to abstract theories on a subject which may otherwise seem mundane to readers uninterested in architecture or urban planning.