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News

Five centuries of Austria's blooming cultural heritage recorded

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) : 23 May, 2005  (Technical Article)
Over 1,700 Austrian parks and gardens from five centuries were documented in a work spanning 20 years. With the publication of the last of the three-volume series, this enormous survey of Austria's historic gardens has now been concluded. With aid from the Austrian Science Fund, the Institute of Landscape Architecture and Garden Design of the Vienna University of Technology has thus succeeded not only in creating a consolidated basis for further scientific work, but also in delighting the hearts of Austria's garden lovers.
For centuries gardens and parks served as locations of recreation and aesthetic creation. However, so far they have received little attention in the scientific literature. This scientific shortcoming has now been remedied in Austria, a three-volume publication offers for the first time a comprehensive overview of the historic gardens in the country. For this, numerous gardens and parkways in Austria have been surveyed and described in detail together with the associated structures. Furthermore, the parks have been placed in chronological order based on the date of the first recorded work. Additionally, their current and former appearances were compared and so gradual modifications of the garden landscape were documented.

Timeless Gardens
The publication portrays the still existing garden facilities in Austria from the Renaissance period up to about 1930. For the purpose of clarity, the over 1,700 entries are subdivided according to federal states in three volumes. The first volume introduces the gardens of Lower Austria and Burgenland, the second volume deals with the gardens in Upper Austria, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Carinthia, Styria and Tyrol, and the third volume, the Viennese gardens. The focus is the institutional and residential parks that have been intensively shaped for many years. These gardens are ordered in the typological groups, church, secular or public sectors, respectively.

Regarding this, the project director and author of the book, Prof. Eva Berger of the Institute of Landscape Architecture and Garden Design at the Vienna University of Technology says: 'First of all, we have shown the variety of gardens and parks of ecclesiastical residential buildings, for instance monasteries, and of secular buildings such as castles or city palaces. Also, parks in several sectors such as the administration department or the hotel and restaurant industry and public parkways were recorded. Thus the volumes afford a consolidated, and sometimes even surprising, impression of Austria's past horticultural activity.'

The world famous palace gardens of the Upper and Lower Belvedere in Vienna, which are considered prime manifestations of aristocratic garden design, are a good example of how new and surprising information was unearthed. These flower gardens served aesthetic purposes first of all, but were actually supplemented by annexes till 1793, as one learns in the 3rd volume, which satisfied the culinary indulgence of the aristocracy: the kitchen gardens.

A Thicket of Information
The publication of the three volumes is the fruitful completion of the 20-year project 'Inventory of the Historic Gardens' of the Institute of Landscape Architecture and Garden Design. In the scope of the project, the project director Eva Berger and her team researched secondary literature on architectural and garden history for references to still existing historic open spaces of well-known buildings. In addition they also followed verbal hints from numerous people. In response to this indirect information, multiple journeys in the federal states followed so that eventually over 1,700 historic gardens and parks in Austria could be recorded.

With the FWF-funded publication of the three volumes, the results of this first-time nation-wide documentation are a consolidated basis for further scientific activity regarding the Austrian garden culture and garden art. The books will also serve as a significant source of information for preservation and conservation measures for this blooming cultural heritage, and will convey to the interested public the rich asset of historic gardens and parks in Austria.
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