May 21 – November 1, 2015

"It is my will…" – with these words, at Christmas time 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph gave the green light to the redesigning of Vienna. In his handwritten letter, published in the official Wiener Zeitung, the Emperor announced that the old fortifications would be demolished, and the Glacis would be built on.

Work began on the demolition of the bastions as early as March 1858. The beloved paths along the bastions and the glacis with its trees and meadows were replaced by an extraordinary and splendid boulevard, which was opened 150 years ago on 1 May 1865.

Like no other urban development project, the construction of Vienna's Ringstrasse marked the onset of modernity and the transformation of Vienna from a Biedermeier idyll into a European metropolis. The demolition of the outer fortifications, where today the Gürtel stands, in 1894 marked the first conclusion of this urban development transformation at the end of the 19th century.

During this period of transformation, the most outstanding artists of the Empire, as well as gifted laypersons, genre painters, photographers, and local authors, bore witness to this upheaval. They documented Vienna's metamorphosis into a metropolis through various means and perspectives.

The exhibition features a rich collection of photos, graphic art, plans, caricatures, and newspapers sourced from the extensive archives of the Austrian National Library. It serves as a poignant reminder of the monumental transformation that occurred during this era. The exhibition captures the conflict between the "demolishers" and the "preservers," the glorification of "old Vienna," and the apprehensions about what was evolving into a melting pot of nations.

The significance of the Ringstrasse, both as a showcase for the old aristocracy and the emerging bourgeoisie to flaunt their wealth and as an embodiment of a significant wave of globalization, is evident in a manuscript dating back to 1866. This manuscript, displayed for the first time in the "Vienna Becomes a Metropole" exhibition, was authored by a Vienna judicial official. Its text, accompanied by newspaper excerpts, uniquely conveys the essence of life during that era, providing valuable insights into the zeitgeist of the time.

Die Verwendung des zur Verfügung gestellten Bildmaterials im Rahmen der Berichterstattung über Ausstellungen der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek ist kostenfrei. Copyright, falls nicht anders angegeben: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

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