Four benches in a playground in Wehilstraße
Global recovery by a single mode of production (capitalism) has made governing bodies generally consider public space "active" when commerce is part of the equation. In a sense, public space (like private space) is not evaluated relative to its use-value but rather according to its power to enable commercial exchange.
The pandemic significantly reinforces this assertion for two reasons:
• Firstly, outdoor interactions present a lesser risk of contagion.
• Secondly, when most traditional social contracts integrate the presumption of innocence as a foundation, the new conditions we are under present a rupture of this very concept: we are under the presumption of illness.
As a consequence, we face a contradictory injunction: leave the domestic sphere but stay hyper-vigilant. This paranoid state equates to the complete internalisation of capitalist relations. While Vienna is famous for the care given to public space in its most touristic areas (generating a profit for the city), we propose to act on two types of spaces:
• Public spaces which were historically bound to commerce, like markets and storefronts.
• Public spaces that have had little to no investment and where commerce has sometimes emerged organically, often in its underground form.
Our project consists of outdoor furniture covered with marks every 20 cm. While they could serve as an objective measure of social distance, we leave their use to the users' discretion. We do not doubt that public space is successful when hosting a combination of use and misuse, not entirely conditional to firm ownership, and where habits can form. Caring could be one of them.
• The Handelskai Gemeindebau is one of the numerous social housing schemes of Vienna. In the open courtyards of Handelskai, one encounters the typical welfare landscape: placeholder devices for recreational activities with few signs of actual usage.
• We propose to complete the western courtyard by adding four benches placed on the edges of the paved area. The four benches (l = 200 cm, w = 40cm, h = 45cm) are built out of concrete and anchored to the ground with a steel frame (h = 5 cm).
Photographic backplates: Nicole Maria Winkler