Plácido Domingo expresses concern over Vienna development to Chancellor of Austria and Mayor of Vienna

Europa Nostra, the voice of cultural heritage in Europe, reiterates the crucial need to protect the Historic Centre of Vienna from the risk of unsuitable development plans. The Heumarkt redevelopment plan is a high-rise development that seriously risks disturbing the views on a city of great architectural beauty and heritage importance; moreover, it could lead to the construction of yet more similar high-rise buildings in the future. In 2018, Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute listed the Historic Centre of Vienna as one of the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe.

On 7 and 8 March 2019, in preparation of the meeting of the Board of Europa Nostra on 26 March, Guy Clausse, Executive Vice-President of Europa Nostra and former Dean of the European Investment Bank Institute, Laurent Lévi-Strauss, Member of the Board of Europa Nostra and Member of the Advisory Panel of the 7 Most Endangered programme and Lourdes Llorens Abando, a Technical Consultant working with the European Investment Bank Institute visited Vienna to meet with academics and activists engaged in the campaign to halt the Heumarkt redevelopment plan.

At the first meeting were Andreas Lehne, the nominator of the Historic Centre of Vienna to the 7 Most Endangered programme; Friedmund Hueber, civil engineer/architect and President of the “Österreichische Gesellschaft für Denkmal- und Ortsbildpflege”; Herbert Rasinger, President of the NGO “Initiative Stadtbildschutz”; Franz Neuwirth, engineer and Board member of “Österr. Gesellschaft für Denkmal- und Ortsbildpflege” and Hannelore Schmidt, of the “Initiative Monuments Protection”. Additional meetings took place with Alexander Kottulinsky, Council member of Europa Nostra and member of the Executive Board of Österreichischer Burgenverein, and with Board members of Europa Nostra Austria.

These meetings revealed that little progress has been made to stop the project and avoid the danger that it embodies. The issue does not pertain to the conservation of the current Heumarkt buildings, but rather to the respectful redevelopment of the area in line with standards that are compatible with the UNESCO heritage status of this part of Vienna, notably regarding limits on the height of new buildings.

On 1 April, the President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Plácido Domingo, wrote to Sebastian Kurz, the Chancellor of Austria and Michael Ludwig, Mayor of Vienna, to express his deeply felt concerns regarding the serious threats currently facing the Historic Centre of Vienna. In his letter, Plácido Domingo underlines the risk of Vienna losing its World Heritage status (Vienna was already put on the “List of World Heritage in Danger” as from 2017) and confirms his full support for the recent plans of both the Federal Government and the City of Vienna to introduce a reflection period to reconsider the development and to seek a new and fully UNESCO-compliant redesign of the Heumarkt area.

Europa Nostra will follow the development with keen interest and stands ready to help the City, the Country as well as UNESCO in their search for a viable and compatible solution.

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