The ambitious program of architectural improvements to Vienna
introduced by Emperor Franz Joseph I, including the Ringstraße,
the Rathauspark (City Hall Park), and the Opera. Friedrich von
Schmidt, who had been one of the architects working on Cologne
Cathedral, designed and built the Vienna City Hall between 1872
and 1883. It is the most significant secular building in the neo-
Gothic style in the city.
As Vienna is Austria's federal capital as well as a federal
province in its own right, it is the seat of the mayor and
governor of Vienna - two posts held by the same person.
The Provincial Assembly is composed of 100 members
and elected for a term of five years.
The huge chandelier in the historicist style is the most
striking feature of the 14-metre-high Council Chamber
where the members of the Assembly convene. It has a
diameter of five meters and 213 lights. It was cast in one
piece, weighs 3,200 kg and can be entered by maintenance
personnel to change the lamps. The coffered ceiling of high-
grade larch and spruce wood is decorated with 22-carat gold-
leaf rosettes. Directly below the ceiling, a series of frescoes
depicts events from the history of Austria and Vienna. The
section situated on the right hand of the central visitors'
gallery shows scenes from the 13th to 16th centuries;
one can see Duke Rudolf IV laying the foundation-stone
for the southern spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the
institution of Vienna University, the world's oldest university
where students are taught in the German language.
The left-hand side takes one into the 17th to 19th centuries.
Empress Maria Theresa is surrounded by famous exponents
of the politics, arts and sciences of her era. Most of the
pointed-arch windows with stained lead glazing facing the
gallery were reconstructed after the Second World War on
the basis of the original plans. The back wall of the central
visitors' gallery depicts the tasks of Vienna's municipal
administration in symbolic form.
Another attractive feature is the Senate Chamber which serves
as the meeting-room of the City Senate. This is one of the
most impressive rooms of the City Hall. A special sight is the
beautiful majolica fireplace - a present by the Guild of Stove
and Fireplace Makers dating from 1885 - on the wall facing
the entrance to the hall. The walls are covered with green silk
damask. The ceiling featuring inlay work and gilt elements is
intricately and richly decorated.
The Arkadenhof is one of the biggest inner courtyards in
Europe having a surface of 2,804 square meters, and can
be compared to the courtyard of the Doge's Palace in
Venice. A choir-type oriel along its western wall is a
reminder of the original project to build a chapel in the City
Hall. Lined by five-meter-wide, pointed-arch arcades, the
courtyard offers a fascinating setting for a wide variety of
events. A folding roof designed by the architect Silja Tillner
is a new addition to protect visitors against wind and rain.
It also houses the Municipal and State Libraries and Archives
which hold many key documents of Vienna's history and a
large collection of local memorabilia.
Article written by Anil Gupta.