Franz Alt: ‘The old and new Burgplatz in Vienna with the Imperial Forum project’, 1873, watercolour

Architectural Splendour

The Buildings on the Ringstrasse

1857–1913

Where once the city walls of Vienna had stood was now the scene of a huge construction boom: public buildings and stately palaces rose to fill one of the largest building sites in Central Europe. Drawing on a range of historical styles, architects designed buildings that were intended to demonstrate wealth and power. While the splendid edifices that line the Ringstrasse boulevard were a showcase for Habsburg dominion, they also constituted a monument to the new politically and economically influential social stratum: the ‘second tier of society’, the patrician class. Historicism became the architectural style of the Ringstrasse. In keeping with its principles, each building and its interior was intended to be a Gesamtkunstwerk in itself and also as part of the overall ensemble of the boulevard. The style chosen for each building was that which was held to be most appropriate for its intended use – a Greek temple for the Parliament, a medieval cathedral as ecclesiastical monument for the emperor, Renaissance palaces for the arts and sciences and a monumental forum based on classical models for the imperial residence.

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