From fortification to promenade

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In the first half of the nineteenth century – until the city walls were demolished in 1858 – the bastions became the favourite promenade of the Viennese, where they could enjoy the views and parade in all their finery.

Maria Theresa had already cherished plans to unite the city with its suburbs. At the end of the 1760s the idea was mooted of encircling the city centre with a kind of ring road by razing the fortifications in order to ameliorate the shortage of housing. However, the project came to nothing because of objections from the army, which feared the city’s defences would be compromised.

In 1770 Joseph II had the glacis levelled and a road laid out around the city with footpaths to all the suburbs. Three thousand trees were planted. The glacis became a popular place for taking a stroll. Lemonade stands were set up: marquees with tables and chairs outside where people could buy lemonade, almond milk and ices. In 1776 the roads and paths were furnished with lanterns to make them safer. The by now park-like expanse of the glacis, which was even equipped with fountains in the vicinity of the present-day Stadtpark, remained a popular recreational area with the Viennese middle classes.

The area that was later to become Karlsplatz provided a pleasant leafy contrast to the densely built-up city.

The man-made landscape of the glacis was frequently painted by Viennese veduta artists who aimed at creating realistic depictions of urban or landscape views. A particularly popular motif was the view from the city walls across the park-like landscape towards the Karlskirche and the Polytechnikum, as it provided a pleasing combination of Nature and monumental architecture.

Julia Teresa Friehs