Posted on July 2, 2013

Graffiti, Ankerbrotfabrik, June 2013

by Daniele Karasz

Shifting the ground on the “Island of Crete”

About migrants, brownfields and urban renewal in Vienna

Brownfields and the question of their reuse play a significant role in urban renewal projects. My research focuses on the reuse of different urban brownfields in Vienna. The aim is to comprehend the processes of reuse, to understand what kind of state and non-state actors are involved and how the processes of reuse are acted out. The research project particularly focuses on the involvement of migrants as actors in these processes. I thus look at the positions of migrants in urban restructuring processes in Vienna without taking the city itself, or a certain pre-defined group of migrants as an entry point to the analysis. The point of departure is the transformation of urban brownfields.

I use the term urban brownfield to refer to urban areas that have been used for industrial or commercial purposes, have fallen out of the use cycle, and are currently available for reuse. In many European cities the reuse of brownfields (especially in the case of large areas) has led to the redefinition of entire districts. In these cases we can observe how brownfield sites are repositioned within the cities’ inner geography; a process that arises from the intention (of developers, planers etc.) to give a new centrality to a previously peripheral space. That can apply to both, the brownfield itself and the adjacent urban areas. Going beyond the city scale, in my work I try to relate these inner urban processes to the repositioning of the Viennese brownfield and its surrounding in the framework of a transnational (and multi-scalar) interconnected system that has centers and peripheries. Thus the aim is to take the reuse of a brownfield site as an entry point to understand the repositioning of an urban area in the framework of both an urban and a broader transnational space. The focus lies on the role migrants might have in these processes.

Among others, I look at the former Viennese bread factory “Ankerbrotfabrik” transformed into a cluster for creative industries.I concentrate on the brownfield in relation to the small neighborhood named “Kreta” lying close-by. The traditional working class neighborhood is commonly called “Kreta”, the German name for the Island of Crete. There are several explanations for this denomination but most of them refer to two aspects: Firstly, the traditionally isolated position of the area inside the city and secondly, its considerable migrant population. Today 64% of the inhabitants where not born in Austria, 25% were born in the countries of former Yugoslavia and 14% in Turkey.

The reuse of the “Ankerbrotfabrik” attracts new capital, which transforms the brownfield and affects the neighborhood. My work considers how and on what bases the majoritarian migrant population of the “Kreta” neighborhood becomes an active part in the transformation of the adjacent factory and the re-development of the neighborhood itself. Thereby I look at several projects entailing a considerably large real estate investment, on the brownfield itself and/or in the “Kreta”. Migrants do participate to these processes in various ways: For instance the migrant population attracted the investment of large Austrian companies and international players into the development of a transnational project for talented young musicians and into the construction of the new center of the European network in the “Ankerbrotfabrik”. Yet another example are migrants from Bosnia acting as real estate developers. In different ways the projects develop in a situation of interplay of centrality and marginality on various scales. The determinative relationship is the one between a peripheral location in the city and a central position in a new transnational geography. The resident migrant population gets to be one of the keys that open the way to a new centrality in a transnational space. Contrary to its depiction as an isolated island, the “Island of Crete“ thus gets to be a hub of various transnational flows of capital and people.





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