Vienna's Design Landscape. Vienna Design Week - Contemporary Lynx - print and online magazine on art & visual culture

Vienna is an extraordinary city which has a lot to offer to everybody. Art historians mostly associate Vienna with its architecture and the Vienna Secession. For those fascinated with history, the Austrian capital is a perfect place where they are able to embark on a sentimental journey into the past. Top-class cultural events and the still popular legacy of eminent composers are also factors that encourage tourists to visit this city. Although there are a lot of historical pieces of architecture and monuments, the Viennese are still very eager to look for modern solutions when it comes to design and they perfectly complement the legacy from the past, thus creating a very promising future. It is not surprising that Vienna has been named the best city to live in (in the Quality of Living City Ranking) more than once.

Innovative approaches to design and the willingness to share knowledge in this field are what gave birth to the VIENNA DESIGN WEEK, claimed to be the most important festival in Austria. Its 16th edition took place from 16th to 25th September 2022. It was even more interesting than expected because it did not exclusively focus on product design, but also discussed the role of designers in creating city space. The event is not a trade fair, but it is rather aimed at finding methods of better and friendlier design. The organisers wish to present certain processes and find answers to certain questions, such as: ‘How does design coexist with objects, spaces and services which the society needs? How can design contribute to creating sustainable solutions, both in terms of social and environmental aspects?’ Recessed Lights

Vienna's Design Landscape. Vienna Design Week - Contemporary Lynx - print and online magazine on art & visual culture

‘It has space for a wide range of design approaches and sectors and offers views into related disciplines. The festival architecture opens doors to questions about design that are ever-present but often elusive and makes them accessible to the visitors – and it provides a roof for all those who create the world of design, a shelter under which they can take a break from the usual business in order to reflect, get their bearings, and exchange ideas.’ – Gabriel Roland, director of the VIENNA DESIGN WEEK.

Acting in relation to the circumstances at a given location is very distinctive for this festival. Each festival edition focuses on one district of Vienna as well as on design trends from a chosen country. Every year there is also a festival studio during the Vienna Design Week that serves as a meeting place and allows participants to build new relationships with the local and international design community. There are a few fixed formats during the festival, such as Stadtarbeit or Urban Food & Design. In 2022 a new PLATFORM section was introduced, which involves cooperation with external partners.


This year, the festival organisers decided to focus on the 6th district of Vienna, namely Mariahilf. As it is known, each district of the city has its own characteristic features. The municipal district of Mariahilf was established in 1850 and it is famous for its longest shopping street, Art Nouveau monuments, Naschmarkt,  the most popular market in the city, as well as numerous street stalls and restaurants. During the 2022 VIENNA DESIGN WEEK we could look at the architectural structure of Mariahilf from a different perspective, following the process of gentrification which the district underwent. But in spite of the changes, we can still find anonymous spaces there. The organizers pinpointed them in order to study the relationships between the local identities, common spaces and the anonymous trade and tourist infrastructure.

This year, the festival centres were located in three spaces of Mariahilf which are rarely accessible to the general public. One of them was the famous GSTÄTTN, i.e. an abandoned plot on Mollardgasse, which is surrounded by buildings standing close to each other. The other ones were GASSE (a former residential building) and GEWÖLBE (a former parking area). In each of these locations designers’ works were displayed.



The eerily abandoned space on Mollardgasse livened up when guests gathered there and projects were presented. The biggest installations shown during the VIENNA DESIGN WEEK could be seen in that location. The idea for this place was to be a meeting venue where discussions could be held. Therefore, a uniquely shaped table surrounded by benches was placed in the middle. It was designed by Miramondo, a company involved in designing public spaces. There was, of course, a stall with snacks, namely the Korean Vienna street food stand. The previously empty space was made so much more attractive thanks to huge OK SOLAR lamps designed by Stefan Diez and his students from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Several works that proved particularly attractive for visitors were inflatable pieces made by Frieder Bohaumilitzky and designed by Ursula Klein. Ursula aims to show us that city space has a political character. Her objects inflated with air occupy space and present an engaged, critical narration. The common project of Passionwege, entitled Under the paving stones, the beach (‘Sous les pavés, la plage’ was a slogan that symbolized the civil unrest in France in 1968), presented in the open space of GSTÄTTN, encouraged the viewers to speculate on what  there was and what could have been, and to look critically at the present. Who is this city for? Who designs it? What should it offer us?

The projects presented in a former residential building on Esterházygasse 22 added new designing contexts. There was an exhibition of works by Natalia Gurova who experiments with space, post-soviet motives, the idea of time and collecting. In her case, the borderline between conceptualism and design is fluid. Thanks to the support of kültüř gemma!, Natalia Gurova received a scholarship  which enables her to raise awareness and increase the recognition of the role of migrants on the design scene. This year, Natalia was selected to  cooperate with the Dutch 1m2 Collective to prepare an exhibition with changing exhibits (items we use every day). Her LIQUID HOUSE project was focused on historical and cultural identity as well as on the (un)availability of resources, formal and informal structures. In addition, the exhibition programme included design workshops for migrants.

Another project presented which was worth paying attention to was DARE TO SHARE AND WEAR, MARIAHÜF!  Performer Nina Sandino and designer Alexandra Fruhstorfer worked together and prepared a mobile intervention aimed at stimulating discussion about fashion. They used their very own OMG vehicle, i.e. the Open Mobile Garment Vehicle, which stopped at a few locations in Mariahilfer Straße to encourage passers-by to join the mobile clothing swap campaign.

Deal hunters, fashion minimalists and average people living in Mariahilf were invited to bring, share and swap clothes which they no longer wanted or needed. The mobile clothing swap stand was also a place where people could reflect on the following questions: Why do we need the items we buy in shops? What is the connection between what we wear and our environment?

In a tenement house a presentation IKEA – CELEBRATE LIFE AT HOME was organized. This year IKEA celebrated 45 years since its opening in Austria. During the VIENNA DESIGN WEEK IKEA highlighted the well-known products or IKEA classics, but presented them in an unconventional way. They told stories of the products in everyday life of their owners, in which they also emphasized current social issues and trends.

The festival also offered some visual surprises. One of them was WASEN, WESEN, WERKSTATT by Florian Tanzer, a video artist and designer, who presented his anthropomorphic vases.


The former parking area near the Rahlstiege staircase between Mariahilfer Straße and Gumpendorfer Straße is one of the most unusual columned halls in the city. This venue offered a space for presenting projects from the Urban Food & Design (Design Everyday) as well as Ornament (FOKUS) programs.

The VIENNA DESIGN WEEK and Vienna Business Agency organized Urban Food & Design for the fifth time already. This year its focal point were processes of economic transformation. Designers joined forces with companies from the broadly understood food industry in order to develop new solutions.  

A social enterprise EOOS NEXT cooperated with Lorenz Snacks to create a dystopic exhibit related to the complex interplay between morality and pleasure. The audiovisual installation they presented was supposed to portray the network of global connections and the influence they exert on us. By depriving the FUTURE CHIPS of their former look, they removed all related moral and ethical concerns.

The group exhibition entitled ORNAMENT and curated by Liv Vaisberg was organized in the same venue. It included modern pieces which studied the role of ornaments in design and their function in everyday life. It allowed us to look into the past and into the future. The ornament was defined as a means of sensory, critical and functional expression. One of the artists presenting her works at this exhibition participated in an artist-in-residence program in Schloß Hollenegg. In her project MOUNTED PORCELAINS Johanna Pichlbauer referred to the European habit of embellishing items from Asia with golden, bronze or silver mounts. This way, the items are made supposedly more attractive for western collectors. For example, vases became candlesticks, and sometimes lids or decorative handles were added to them. This tradition originated in the 16th and 17th centuries. As an artist-in-residence Johanna Pichlbauer referred to the tradition and added life to some old vases from Schloß Hollenegg storage rooms, thus allowing them to perform new functions. Her creative efforts gave birth to the collection of modern mounted porcelain.

It is worth mentioning that this artist is a member of the Design in Gesselschaft group along with ten other designers. Their goal is to work on projects that will result in introducing new items which would be friendly for societies.


The festival serves as an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to present their products and encourages them to interact with young designers.

An interesting example of cooperation between the festival organizers and local entrepreneurs was the project by Anna Zimmermann that was presented in the glass chandelier showroom of Bakalowitz, a company which has been creating crystal masterpieces for almost 180 years. Anna prepared several pieces of furniture and accessories made of metal components used to build these iconic chandeliers. She has observed the products by Bakalowitz, which brought her to an intuitive conclusion that the essence of their beauty are the metal parts. Usually, crystals are in the centre of attention, but Anna wanted the metal to play the main role in her work and she didn’t assume its normally secondary position.

The extremely popular Vienna Palmenhaus located in the very centre of the city also became a festival venue. Florian Tanzer placed his sculptures, which resembled fantastic animals, among tropical plants. Jutta Goessl presented her Think About the Box project, which is her idea of how to transform the whole delivery sector. She advocates adapting the folding boxes commonly used for fruit and vegetables into reusable boxes that can be carried in multiuse bags, created using material from trucks. This ambitious project aims to slot very simply and naturally into one of the systems that produce most waste created by the consumerist lifestyle.

One of the local pharmacies also became part of the festival. Such an idea may seem eccentric at first, but this first impression is really deceptive. Obviously, in old pharmacies we can often find non-gothic furniture. Such is the Saint Charles Pharmacy, where the LICKING ROCKS project was presented. This joint project by Simiæn, a design research group led by Julia Schwarz and Lisi Penker, and the chemist Alexander Ehrmann was dedicated to investigating the potential of the tea culture. It asked what experiences – beyond the simple act of pouring – could be offered by Austria’s tea, which is often consumed for purely pragmatic purposes. Designers provided answers in the form of tea glasses made from the most elementary material, natural stone, and an infusion made from lichen. This plant has the unique ability to absorb the taste of the environment in which it grows: on wild coasts, at bracing altitudes high in the Alps, or deep in sweet-smelling mossy forests. Drinking tea unexpectedly became an opportunity to taste wild nature.

The VIENNA DESIGN WEEK is an extraordinary festival giving an opportunity to meet designers and many other interesting people. It is also a platform for sharing experiences and spreading innovative ideas. Last but not least, the festival offers a rich educational programme which allows everybody to experience design and understand it better.

Vienna is a unique city that has a lot to offer.The first associations of an art historian with the capital of Austria are most often architecture and Art Nouveau.For history lovers, however, it is a place that offers the possibility of a sentimental journey into the past.Top-quality culture and the living legacy of outstanding music composers make Vienna popular among tourists.The large number of historical attractions, however, does not limit Viennese in their search for modern design solutions that creatively enter into a dialogue with the past, building a promising future.It is not without reason that Vienna has been selected several times as the best city to live (according to the Quality of living city ranking).

The awareness of the need for innovative design and education in this area is particularly evident in the implementation of the most important Austrian festival, Vienna Design Week.The festival, whose sixteenth edition took place on September 16-25, goes beyond the product design itself, focusing also on the role of designers in creating the city space.Due to the fact that the event is focused on searching for better, friendly design methods, it does not take the form of a fair.The organizers of Vienna Design Week aim to highlight the processes and answer the questions of how design connects with the objects, spaces and services that society needs, and how it can contribute to sustainable solutions, both socially and ecologically.

“The festival creates space for various understandings of design and related disciplines.The form of the event gives the opportunity to ask questions related to design, which are often lost in everyday searches due to the difficulty of formulating them.The event leaves space for the constructors of the world of design to reflect, orientate and exchange ideas, ”says Gabriel Roland, director of Vienna Design Week.

It is characteristic of the festival to react to the circumstances specific to a given place.Each edition of the event focuses on one of the districts of Vienna and the design scene of a selected country.Every year, VIENNA DESIGN WEEK changes the festival center, which serves as a meeting place, fosters the creation of a network of contacts with the local and international community of artists.The festival has several fixed formats such as Stadtarbeit or Urban Food & Design.In 2022, the Platform section also appeared, based on cooperation with external partners.


This year, the zone of Vienna that was the focus of the organizers' interest was the 6th district - Mariahilf.Each of the city districts is distinguished by something special.Mariahilf, founded in 1850, is known mainly for the longest shopping street, Art Nouveau monuments, Naschmarkt, the most popular market in Vienna, many market stalls and restaurants.VIENNA DESIGN WEEK 2022 offered a fresh look at the architectural structure of a neighborhood that has undergone gentrification.Still, anonymous spaces can be found here.The organizers drew attention to them in order to investigate the relationship between local identities, common spheres and anonymous commercial and tourist infrastructure.

During this year's edition of the event, the festival centers are located in three rarely accessible spaces in the Mariahilf district.Among them were Gstättn - an abandoned plot in Mollardgasse, located between dense architectural buildings, Gasse - a former residential building and Gewölbe - a former parking lot.Designers' projects were presented in each of these places.


The strangely lonely space at Mollardgasse came to life as a place to unite visitors and project creators.It is here that the largest installations shown during VIENNA DESIGN WEEK are located.In accordance with the idea that it was to be a place for meetings and joint discussions, in the center there was a table with a unique shape, with benches, designed by the Miramondo company, which deals with the planning of public space.There was also a snack corner, this function was performed by the Korean-Viennese street food-kiosk.The attractiveness of the previously empty space was enhanced by large OK Solar lamps designed by Stefan Diez and his students from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.It is also worth mentioning the works that particularly attracted the attention of visitors - these are inflatable elements created by Frieder Bohaumilitzky, designed by Ursula Klein.Klein's intention is to show that the city space is political.Its air-filled objects occupying space create engaged, critical statements.The joint project Passionswege, the work Under the cobblestones lies a beach (Sous les pavés, la plage - the slogan of a French protest from 1968) in the open space of the Festival's Gstättn seat, encourages speculation about what was and what could have been - as well as criticism what is.Who is the city for?Who designs them?And what should it provide?

Projects shown in a former apartment building, a tenement house at Esterházygasse 22, presented new conditions for design.One of the presented ideas was the exhibition by Natalia Gurova, who in her work uses the experiment with space, the post-Soviet context, the concept of time and collecting.In her case, the line between conceptualism and design is fluid.Thanks to the support of kültüř gemma !, VIENNA DESIGN WEEK was able to offer Gurova a scholarship to raise awareness and appreciate the position of migrants in the world of design.For this year's festival, artist Natalia Gurova, who was selected from among many applicants, has developed an exhibition with changing exhibits (everyday objects) together with the Dutch 1m2 Collective.The Liquid House project focused on the issue of historical and cultural identity as well as aspects of the (in) availability of resources and formal and informal structures.In addition, the group exhibition program offered design workshops to people from the migrant community.

Another project that attracted attention was Dare to Share and Wear, Mariahüf!Performer Nina Sandino and designer Alexandra Fruhstorfer have joined forces to enliven the fashion debate in the form of a mobile artistic intervention.With your OMG vehicle!Open Mobile Garment Vehicles made several stops on Mariahilfer Straße to encourage passers-by to join their itinerant exchange of clothes.Bargain hunters, fashion minimalists and the inhabitants of Mariahilf were invited to bring in clothes they no longer need and were also encouraged to reflect critically: why do we need what we buy?What is the relationship between what we wear and our environment?

On the first floor of the tenement house, there was an IKEA presentation - Celebrate Life at Home.This year, IKEA celebrated 45 years of its presence in Austria.As part of the Vienna Design Week, the company focused on the well-known "IKEA classics" products, but presented them in a surprising way.By telling the story of these items through their presence in everyday life, she also reflected current social issues and trends.

There were also some visual surprises, among them the project Wasen, Wesen, Werkstatt, video artist and designer Florian Tanzer, who displayed his anthropomorphic vases.


The former car park, located at the foot of the Rahlstiege between Mariahilfer Straße and Gumpendorfer Straße, is one of the city's most unusual pillared halls.During the Vienna Design Week, mainly projects from the Ornament (Fokus) and Urban Food & Design programs were presented here.(Design Everyday).The second, for the fifth time in a row, was organized together with the Vienna Business Agency.This year's format focused on the processes of economic transformation.Designers joined forces with companies from various sectors of the food industry to develop new solutions.

The social enterprise EOOS NEXT has partnered with Lorenz Snacks to create a dystopian production that addresses the complex relationship between morality and pleasure.The presented audiovisual installation was intended to make people aware of global interdependencies and the impact they have.By releasing the Future Chips from its former appearance, it has also been freed from all moral and ethical associations.

The collective exhibition Ornament, curated by Liv Vaisberg, was also organized in this space.Contemporary works have been collected to investigate the role of ornament in design and its function in everyday life.Looking back and to the future, the exhibition showed ornament as a means of sensual, critical and functional expression.One of the artists presenting her works took an artist-in-residence in Schloß Hollenegg.Johanna Pichlbauer: in her Mounted Porcelains project, she referred to the practice of decorating Asian porcelain items in Europe with gold, bronze or silver frames in order to make them more attractive to Western collectors.This tradition dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries.Vases became candlesticks, received lids or decorative handles.As part of an artistic residence, Johanna Pichlbauer started a dialogue with tradition and revived the old vases from the Schloss Hollenegg warehouse, giving them new functions.The result of her creative realization is a collection of modern porcelain.

It is also worth mentioning that the artist co-creates, together with ten other designers, the Design in Gesselschaft group, which aims to develop designs that will contribute to the implementation of socially-friendly objects.


The festival involves local entrepreneurs to present their products and encourages them to engage in dialogue with young designers.Designers, through their innovative approach, introduce a new context to the world of design.

An interesting example of the festival's cooperation with local entrepreneurs is the implementation of Anna Zimmermann's project in the showroom of glass chandeliers of the Bakalowits company, which has been producing crystal wonders for almost 180 years.The designer created a series of furniture and accessories made of metal components of these iconic chandeliers.After observing Bakalowits' objects for some time, she intuitively came to the conclusion that the metal elements are their essence.Instead of the crystal, which is invariably the center of attention, she wanted a secondary metal to play the main role.

The iconic Palmenhaus, located in the city center, has also become the stage for presenting design.Artist Florian Tanzer presented to the public his sculptures resembling fantastic animals among tropical plants.Jutta Goessl, on the other hand, showed the Think About the Box project, which is a proposal to change the entire supply sector by adapting collapsible crates commonly used to transport fruit and vegetables to reusable boxes.These boxes can be transported in reusable bags.This ambitious project aims to fit very easily into one of the systems that produces the most waste resulting from the consumptive lifestyle.

One of the Viennese pharmacies also joined the festival.While this may seem like a rather eccentric idea, nothing could be more wrong.It happens, after all, that in pharmacies with traditions you can find neo-Gothic furniture.This is what Apteka św.Charles, presenting the Licking Rocks project.This collaborative work by Simiæn, a design research group led by Julia Schwarz and Lisi Penker, and chemist Alexander Ehrmann, explored the potential of tea drinking culture.The question was asked what experiences - apart from the simple act of pouring - could Austrian tea, which is often consumed for purely pragmatic purposes, offer.Designers provided answers with stone tea cups and lichen infusion.This plant has the unique ability to absorb the flavor of the environment in which it grows: on wild coasts, at high altitudes in the Alps or deep in forests smelling of moss.Drinking tea has unexpectedly become an experience of the taste of wildlife.

The Vienna Design Week festival is a unique place to meet people from the world of design and others.It is also a platform for the exchange of experiences and innovative ideas.With all this, the festival also has a rich educational program offering the opportunity to experience design.

design festival 2022, Gabriel Roland, Urban Food & Design, VIENNA DESIGN WEEK, Vienna Secession, Vienna's Design

Art writer, a graduate of Polish Philology and Art History based in Warsaw. She's a member of Contemporary Lynx editorial team and Social Media Manager. She explores contemporary photography and writes mainly about women photographers. Her research interests also include film history.

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Vienna's Design Landscape. Vienna Design Week - Contemporary Lynx - print and online magazine on art & visual culture

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