Why is this high-rise tower sinking

Living in a high-rise. A study on living culture and quality of living in high-rise residential buildings in Vienna.

initial situation
For a long time, living in high-rise residential buildings was marginalized in Vienna: apart from a few projects, relatively few traces of the global high-rise boom can be seen in Vienna, this applies to modern architecture (Herrengasse high-rise) and reconstruction (tower of the Körner-Hof) as well as to the Period of urban expansion and suburbanization (Alterlaa, Mitterhofergasse), when high-rise construction boomed in many European cities, especially in the socially supported sector, and shaped the image of residential towers as potential "slums in the sky" (Lynsey Hanley) for a long time. As in other European metropolises, since the turn of the millennium, high-rise residential buildings have received increased attention as an urban form of living. In the discussion, besides aspects of urbanity and the attractiveness of the city in the global city competition, the pressure to live due to the dynamic population growth dominates: Current forecasts calculate an increase in the Viennese population from currently 1.75 to over 2 million around the year 2030. That is also a lot internationally The starting point of the study is the question of urban embedding, quality of living and living culture, but also in relation to the social and economic sustainability of vertically dense living.

Content and objectives
The aim of the study was to find out what contribution the residential high-rise, in the context of pronounced urban growth, can make to the increasing demand for high-quality and at the same time affordable living space, to what extent the residential high-rise offers offers for specific living cultures and lifestyles and with which urban and socio-spatial challenges Construction of residential high-rise buildings is connected. Following on from an exploratory pilot study from autumn 2013, both socio-structural ("who lives in high-rise apartment buildings") and socio-cultural issues ("how people live in high-rise apartment buildings") were examined for a selection of five residential towers. It was examined how living in high-rise buildings is subjectively experienced and perceived by residents and how different dimensions of living quality (functional, social, socio-psychological, aesthetic, economic) are assessed; to what extent living conditions and concrete living experience correspond to living needs and living in a high-rise apartment building mobilizes specific issues and concerns; and how the high-rise apartment building is perceived externally (image, attractiveness, neighborhood situation), also with regard to its placement and embedding in the urban space; Finally, the way in which living in high-rise apartment buildings is characterized by specific cultural preferences, insofar as a socio-cultural milieu formation is favored and a corresponding target audience is addressed.

The results of the study not only allow a typification of living in high-rise buildings, but at the same time the identification of characteristic challenges and problems that arise in connection with living in high-rise buildings, be it with regard to its suitability for everyday use (accessibility, technical vulnerability), the social structure (Neighborhood) or in the external relationship (urban and socio-spatial embedding in the city quarter).

Methodical approach
Building on the results of the exploratory preliminary study, five residential high-rises were defined as study units in consultation with the client, taking into account various aspects such as city location, segment of the housing market, architectural type, construction period, including four residential towers from the most recent construction period after 2000 (Monte Verde Tower, Simmering high-rise , Hochstädtplatz, K6 tower) and a tower from the 1970s (Geiselbergstrasse) for comparison purposes. The core of the study was a standardized questionnaire survey on the topics of living experience and satisfaction with living, neighborhood, evaluation of the apartment, the residential building and the living environment, use of communal and open spaces, living ideas and living environments. A total of 36% of the residents of the residential towers mentioned could be reached, the highest utilization was achieved in the residential buildings Simmering and Hochstädtplatz with just over 40% each, the lowest in the residential building Geiselbergstrasse with almost 30%. To control the sample, data from the register of MA 23 at building block level as well as anonymized data provided by the developers were available.

Accompanying the quantitative surveys, in-depth interviews with residents as well as discussions with house supervisors and property developers were carried out to provide a differentiated knowledge of the living environment and housing needs as well as the problem areas and need for action. For the analysis and evaluation of the urban embedding, social space inspections were carried out; these were also used for the creation of movement sketches and for conversations with local residents. In addition, online research was carried out on media reports, resident forums and public documents about the individual housing projects as well as some additional expert interviews, including the good practice example of the use of common rooms in the Alt-Erlaa high-rise apartment building.

Results and Conclusions
Individual case analyzes and questionnaires allow the selected high-rise buildings to be typified according to financing model, type of ownership, equipment, target groups and city location: The type of investor housing for members of target groups with more affluent purchasing power (Monte Verde Tower) and the barrier-free, subsidized housing for middle classes in the commercial area (K6 ) as well as types of socially mixed vertical densification in inner-city locations (Hochstädtplatz) and in polycentric urban regions (Simmering), finally the type of prefabricated housing in a peripheral location in the countryside (Geiselbergstrasse). What the newer high-rise buildings have in common is their symbolic function as architectural markings in the changing urban structures, especially in the polycentric city.

Even if the residential towers examined differ in terms of their location, their property structure, their architecture and, last but not least, their demographics and social structure, living in high-rise buildings, at least in the form examined in this research, primarily represents a form of living for the social middle class. It is true that in some segments the threshold for entry costs has been lowered relatively sharply due to subsidies (including super subsidies), and social mixing is sometimes sought by including facilities such as assisted living or student apartments; however, the proportion of economically weaker population groups is low, while the residential towers are also always (in some cases primarily) addressed to a more affluent population, not least for cost reasons. This regards the apartment as an investment and appreciates the representative effect (synonym for modernity and cosmopolitanism; "apartment with a view"). This is particularly pronounced in so-called investor housing, where the proportion of more highly qualified people, both older wealthy and younger, often in partnership and at the beginning of a family, is above average. At the same time, there is a vertical social differentiation in all residential high-rise buildings: If expensive condominiums and more expensive rental apartments are mostly on the upper floors (clear view, brightness, quiet), the social status of the residents tends to decrease on the lower floors. Disturbances from noise, lack of view, lack of light or winds are particularly pronounced here.

The survey revealed a high level of satisfaction with living, which is also reflected in a pronounced intention to stay and in the fact that a large majority would recommend the high-rise apartment to friends and acquaintances. An exception is the residential building of the 1970s, in which a larger proportion of people who are already retired live and where the less pronounced satisfaction with housing also expresses changed demands on housing. The respondents cited the view and prestige value as the most important advantages of living in a high-rise apartment building, the most important disadvantages being adverse effects from external influences (wind, heat, noise), but also social stress (anonymity) and the sometimes considerable cost burden.

Living in the residential tower corresponds to individualized living needs and living experiences. In this respect, too, living in high-rise buildings, in the residential towers examined, represents a form of living for middle classes. The survey shows that living, as an area of ​​life, is of great importance overall. Central contents are security, retreat and intimacy, living in the green and central location. The survey showed that “materialists”, i.e. people who focus on professional success and material lifestyle, and “creative people”, for example new self-employed people, are those living environments that feel most appealed to by living in a residential tower. Both milieus are characterized by an individualized lifestyle and living style, without any pronounced local ties and with social relationship structures that extend across the urban space. Families or people who have a less privatized and individualized lifestyle and living style feel less addressed by living in the residential tower and are less likely to express a permanent intention to stay. High-priced segments in particular support the orientation towards the inside and towards privacy (“staying for oneself”), ownership increases the interest in maintaining value, the need for active neighborhood is less pronounced.

In the towers examined, living in the residential tower is characterized by a fragile social cohesion. The radius and intensity of neighborly relationships and activities are limited: Around half of the respondents reported no contact of any kind with the other residents. Community activities among neighbors are selective. In some apartment towers, mechanisms of social control (mutual attention to order, cleanliness, security) are more pronounced. Neighborhood conflicts arise in connection with the use of communal areas; they require professionally trained contact persons to regulate and resolve them. Greater participation in community activities, including the organization of tenant interests, could only be observed in one of the residential towers examined, in connection with a conflict with the homeowner. As contact or interaction zones, the common rooms (which can usually only be used with advance notice) do not fulfill the intended function. Common rooms are generally not so widely accepted or rather viewed as a prestige factor (e.g. in-house fitness rooms or wellness areas). If there is a desire for communal activities, this is more lifestyle-oriented (e.g. walking groups). An exception is the pool on the roof, which is accepted and desired by the residents as a leisure activity. Other characteristic meeting places in densely populated residential buildings such as staircases or laundry rooms only rarely fulfill an interactive function; the elevator is a place of encounter, but at the same time it represents a factor of uncertainty. From this point of view, residential towers are characterized by social vulnerability. This is evident not only in the encounter situations between residents or neighbors who are strangers to each other, but also in relation to the accessibility of the buildings: high-rise buildings with mixed uses (doctor's offices, social facilities, restaurants) seem to be more exposed to vandalism, pollution, break-ins, but also to perceived insecurity . As the survey shows, fixed professional housekeeping promotes the subjective feeling of security and also fulfills a vital networking and information function, which in turn has an overall positive effect on living satisfaction.

High-rise residential buildings are also technically vulnerable structures. For this reason, too, security is a key issue for residents. This not only affects the necessary access to the apartments by means of lifts, but also factors such as fire alarm systems, central heating or ventilation systems. All of these equipment features have to be constantly maintained, renewed and checked and represent an enormous cost factor in comparison to traditional residential construction, both for the property developer and for the residents. The establishment of permanent property and house attendants, as modern facility management, increases both objectively, for example through faster detection and reaction to defects, and subjectively, security and reduces costs through the early detection of technical defects. Fixed housekeeping also acts as a contact for the residents (interface between owner / developer and residents) and in this way not only contributes to maintaining the value of the building, but also to the satisfaction of the residents.

A central theme of living in a high-rise apartment building is the embedding of the urban space. Many of the residential buildings are being built in new urban district centers or newly developed commercial areas based on the model of the polycentric city. The public space of the city quarter is often characterized by sealed areas, without a quality of stay, with individual traffic and high noise pollution; it is often neighborhoods with no recognition value. By designing the open space and equipping the high-rise buildings (with shopping malls, for example), the island effect of the high-rise buildings is reinforced. In the high-rise apartment buildings examined, there is a certain lack of concept; the open spaces are often designed in such a way that they only fulfill a transitory or representative function; in some cases they do not meet the minimum legal requirements. This is where particularly disadvantageous aspects of investor urban development become apparent. Property developers could be made more responsible for creating open spaces with a quality of stay for the neighborhoods in the area.

The results underline the need to recognize structural tensions and to actively shape them in order to minimize their latent conflictuality. Structural tensions exist along four lines: On the one hand, in the external relationship between the residential building and the urban environment; second, in the internal relationship between social mix and social inequality; thirdly, in the time dimension between the lifetime of a residential building and the changed usage needs of a changing (aging or replaced) population; fourth, with regard to the lifestyle between individualization and community building.
  • Promoter
    Institute for Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Vienna
  • Project team
    Christoph Reinprecht
    Cornelia Dlabaja
  • running time
    03/2014 - 12/2014
  • Contact
    christoph.reinprecht [at] univie.ac.at
  • Downloads
  • Abstract 294.59 KB
    Project report 5.62 MB