Going around in circles in Vienna

I call architecture frozen music.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe described architecture as frozen music. The Ringstrasse, a street that epitomises the architecture of a past era, where symphonies and architecture are in harmony with each other.

As casual visitors to Vienna, we become acquainted with the Ringstrasse. This street has structured the Austrian capital in a way that is unique among the world’s urban features. This is an avenue in constant two-way motion. The Ringstrasse has a moat-like effect on city life, as streets run into the road from the outer and inner cities, gently merging with the constant flow.

The thoroughfare separates the Inner Stadt—a genteel, cobblestone throwback to Mozart’s Vienna—from the outer city. It is also an outdoor gallery of historic edifices best experienced by a tram ride. These buildings date from a formative period in Vienna’s history following Franz Joseph’s announcement of the start to the Ringstrasse’s construction in the mid-1800s. This funded a boom in elaborate construction.

The public buildings that went up on the Ringstrasse around the same time—the State Opera, Museum of Fine Arts, Burgtheater, City Hall, for example —are elaborate, reminiscent of similar construction during that era in other major European capitals. This is a period of Viennese construction that has created an identity for the city, much the same as the Victorian age created an English architectural identity.

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