Just over a year ago I relocated to Vienna with my partner from the UK. We discovered Erholungsgebiet Wienerburg (Wienerburg Recreation Area) while out exploring our local area one very cold and snowy day in January. Recently I returned in similar weather conditions with my camera, having seen hooded crows and other corvids gather there in large numbers at dusk the previous evening.
When researching for this post, I was not surprised to discover this 123 hectare site in Vienna’s 10th district was formerly a brickworks (the largest in Europe) until the 1960s, as I had noticed on previous explorations that the soil in many places in Vienna seems to be a heavy clay, perfect for brick-making. The pond, reed-beds and woodland came into being in the 1980s, as the result of an earlier urban regeneration competition in the late ’70s. There are similar repurposed open areas dotted across Vienna, each adding to Vienna’s reputation as the world’s most liveable city, according to the EIU (Economic Intelligence Unit).
Vienna may be known primarily for its well-preserved grand architecture, its opera house, palaces and museums (there are over 100 of these), but there is also a list of ‘natural monuments’, including trees, rocks, bodies of water, etc., which are given a status akin the listed buildings in Vienna. Large sections of this recreation area are listed and therefore protected.
There is a particular atmosphere to be found on dull grey days, especially as the light makes an almost sudden plunge into darkness. They are not conditions favourable to regular photography and perhaps many would struggle to find inspiration in the apparent absence of a dramatic sky or other features that would make picture-taking easier.
Yet it is during that transition into night, when buildings become transparent against a sky drained of daylight that I love to stand on the threshold between one world and another, feeling my sense of self dissipate into the darkness and become one with it.
The crows gather like the shadows and settle on a silhouetted landscape devoid of colour. My imagination fills those mute shadows with secrets. I am invisible, a dream unremembered the next morning.