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Cities as habitats of the future


The creation of exercise spaces and attractive open areas in cities and towns is a subject that is being increasingly covered in the media and specialist publications and is now focussed on in public debate. The idea is to more extensively employ parks and green spaces near residential zones as sites for sport and exercise. There are appropriate usage plans that take into account training concepts based on theories propounded by sports science experts that are designed to promote the sustained employment of exercise trails and the motivation and attraction of the potential target groups. Vienna City Council is currently mounting an exhibition on this future-orientated subject.


A new 'outdoor living room' for Vienna

An extensive vitality and fitness trail has been constructed in the Bodenstedtgasse park and was opened in June 2016 as a supplementary 'outdoor living room'.

Vienna's residents feel as relaxed in their parks and woods as they do at home and in a major conurbation such as this city, green spaces represent very significant oases of calm where it is possible to unwind. "In the warmer periods, Vienna's public parks become extended living spaces and to ensure that there are enough such leisure areas for the population of our constantly growing city, we are continuing to build more of these 'outdoor living rooms'," explains Ulli Sima, Vienna's councillor with responsibility for the environment.

On 29 June 2016, following just over six months of redesign work, the roughly 7000 m² vitality and fitness site on the Bodenstedtgasse in Vienna was opened. It is located just one minute from Floridsdorf station and was created as part of Vienna's largest green space development campaign for decades. "It was of especial concern to me that the redevelopment work should be realised as rapidly and efficiently as possible. I wanted the park to be available for everyone as soon as was practicable," reports district representative Georg Papai.

The residents of Floridsdorf now have their 'old' park back, but in an entirely new form. A public consultation process was held so that they could input their ideas and wishes with regard to the transformation of this green space. Many of the residents' proposals were, in fact, implemented. "For us at wohnpartner, it was inspiring to be in charge of the coordination of this consultation process. We are particularly pleased that the incorporated suggestions of the residents are apparent in the finished facility and that cooperation between neighbours has taken root here in this form," comments Claudia Hagenauer, head of team 21 of the wohnpartner organisation that works to improve quality of life in Vienna.

Nine pieces of fitness equipment and a skate park are now available for the use of the local residents. The vitality and fitness units are not only designed to boost stamina, but also to improve coordination skills, flexibility and strength. Two men are here enjoying the use of the leg trainer while testing their sense of balance by means of 'walking' without using the hand support. However, it is advisable to leave such potentially hazardous stunts to those who know what they are doing. The horizontal bar also tempts users to show off their acrobatic prowess. There are a wide range of different ways in which both experienced and inexperienced users can employ this piece of equipment.

Shady trees, a turfed pergola and numerous seating options on benches and walls together with three hammocks provide the opportunity for visitors to linger and regain their breath during or after a training session. There is an adjoining grassed area that has been converted into a natural meadow where many animal and plant species have found a home.

The planning and construction phases of this new 'outdoor living room' went without a hitch and the outcome is not just a delight for those involved but for the local community as a whole.

This new 'outdoor living room' is a sustainable and forward-looking example of innovation inspired by the special exhibition 'Future of the City' currently being held in Vienna's Museum of Technology.


What will future urban living spaces be like?

There is no doubt that it is the destiny of humankind to live in cities. Although urban developments cover just 2% of the surface of the globe, some 50% of the population of the world already live in cities and there are predictions that this percentage will grow to more than 66% by 2050. But this worldwide expansion brings questions with it. How do we want to live in future? What sort of environment do we want to inhabit; what should we build, use for transport and for the generation of energy? How will we feed ourselves? How will we organise our urban world? And who will be in charge of our cities? Because of the continual back and forth between growth, social concepts and actual urban development, we constantly need innovation to give form to the future of cities and to do justice to the wide range of different needs. The 'Future of the City' exhibition of the Museum of Technology of Vienna is designed to enable visitors to consider the issues from an Austrian and international perspective.


The special exhibition 'Future of the City' in Vienna Museum of Technology

The section 'Movement' is part of the 'Future of the City' exhibition and looks at various aspects of future human mobility within cities, such as new modes of transport, new transport routes and in particular the changes with regard to travel behaviour. But the main focus here is on people as pedestrians, as a group that wants to (or should be) more aware of its opportunities to move independently within the urban environment. A city can itself be designed to encourage its residents to move 'under their own steam' by providing or preserving suitable pathways and areas. One of the aims of the exhibition is to provide inspiration for the future development of such spaces and it proposes that the future of mobility should be seen in terms of the promotion of pedestrian traffic. A city that invites you to take a seat is one thing ‒ a city that invites you to walk about another and better thing. Nobody enjoys walking amidst the roar and exhaust of cars; it is much nicer walking in a well-designed pedestrian zone. Shops are aware of what a difference it can make ‒ people are more relaxed and more willing to spend. This has become apparent in one of Vienna's main shopping streets, the redesigned Mariahilfer Strasse. Movement also means taking a stroll in a park, working-out together or alone on an exercise trail and even just bending down to admire a plant in a public garden and then straightening up again.

As Vienna Museum of Technology puts it: "In order to be able to suitably extend the pedestrian network, it is first necessary to understand the particularities of pedestrian movement. In Zürich, the average resident walks for 5 minutes and covers a distance of 390 m. In Central Europe as a whole, when women walk they cover an average of 340 m and men 400 m. Mean walking speed is 1.34 m/s. Stride length is approximately 0.63 m; but there are major differences. In order to cover 50 feet (approx. 15 m), people in Itea in Greece require some 22 seconds while in Prague in the Czech Republic they need only 8.5 seconds."


Exercise is good for you exercise facilities

In many urban areas, 'multigenerational playgrounds', 'outdoor fitness programs' in parks and exercise options in public spaces are currently in vogue. In some instances, this can take a very regimented form; in Mexico City, for example, passengers can obtain a ticket for a free subway ride in return for ten knee bends. At the same time, new forms of sport are being invented, such as parkour and free running and urban bouldering that use the obstacles provided by the city landscape as the challenge to be overcome.

These completely new and well-thought-out forms of exercise concepts are becoming increasingly popular and studies are being conducted to investigate the impact of such outdoor physical movement on communal, health and social factors. 

In the exhibition at Vienna Museum of Technology, there is an exhibit that encourages visitors to themselves try out various forms of exercise ‒ the playfit® leg trainer can be used in many ways in connection with interactive stations.

  • Visitors can exercise as a pair and thus form their own little 'exercise community'.
  • They can practice the kind of movements required by pedestrians to negotiate their way across a city, such as overcoming different height levels, moving through a crowd and stepping on and off a moving walkway. The leg trainer helps improve agility, coordination and the sense of balance, strengthens muscles and stimulates mental fitness.
  • This offers an unusual way to obtain a new perspective on one's surroundings that is at variance with that experienced during normal walking activities.
  • And one can also measure one's performance.

The exhibition runs from 9 June 2016 to June 2018


Text: Renate Zeumer (playfit GmbH)

Image: playfit Gmbh

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