Hannes Richter

Chicago - Vienna - Chicago

Hannes Richter

Following a century of dialogue and exchange between the two cities of Chicago and Vienna, a two-day international conference entitled Chicago - Vienna - Chicago: Urban Icons and the Transatlantic Relationship was held on November 11 and 12, 2004 at the University of Chicago. The conference aimed at exploring the cultural links and identities shared by the two cities. Specifically, it focused on cultural transfers, urban development, migration, and the role of music in the urban perceptions of both cities.

Opening with a discussion on Chicago and Vienna in the 19th and 20th Centuries, a panel, chaired by Austrian Consul General Elisabeth Kehrer, explored the urban planning and evolution of the two cities, the architecture of Chicago's skyscrapers and the Prairie Style contrasted with Modernism in Vienna and the key technical and aesthetic motifs taken from each other's traditions. Other topics were the influence of the World Fair in Chicago in 1893 on Adolf Loos and its consequences for Vienna, and the influence of Austrian architects on such personalities as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Tours of the University of Chicago's campus as well as Chicago's historic skyscrapers built between 1870 and 1930 offered the participants living examples of style.

Under the title Migration, Exodus, and Cultural Transfers in Chicago and Vienna, a second panel presented talks on the hidden Austrian roots in the melting pot of Chicago, documenting migration and assimilation from the 50s and 60s. One talk was about intellectual transfer using the example of three renowned scientists from Vienna, the philosopher of science, Rudolf Carnap, the mathematician, Karl Menger, and the lawyer/sociologist, Hans Zeisel. They interacted with the Chicago circles in exile while pursuing academic work, and had considerable impact on post-war Austria. Another contribution was offered by the Austrian historian Gerald Stourzh, who spoke of the exhilarating atmosphere at the University of Chicago where he taught during the 1950s, and its importance for his subsequent academic career in Europe.

The Jugendstil of a Vienna Metro Station

Under the chairmanship of the historian Oliver Rathkolb from the University of Vienna and the Democracy Center of Vienna, a third topic was Fin de Siècle Pictures of 1900 and 2000: Artifacts of Modernity or Regress into a Constructed History. Some of the topics presented were: Vienna and Chicago from 1890 to 1919, Images of Vienna from Chicago as Exhibited at the World Exhibition of 1893; A View of Chicago from Vienna: Chicago Images and Public Opinion: Vienna Shouldn't Become Another Chicago; and the role of musical lieux de mémoire (memorable places) in the urban notion of Chicago and Vienna.

A final panel discussion focused on Viennese/Austrian Images in British, U.S. and Austrian Films with examples taken from Billy Wilder’s The Emperor Waltz (1948), Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) and Erich von Stroheim’s Merry Widow (1925).

Chicago skyscrapers on Michigan Avenue