City with a female face: how modern Vienna was shaped by women

The Austrian capital has been pioneering ‘gender mainstreaming’ for nearly 30 years. How did the city come to be so far ahead – and could its gains be lost?

At 240 hectares, the neighbourhood of Aspern, Vienna, is one of the largest urban developments in Europe. By the time it is complete in 2028, it is due to be home to 20,000 people, plus another 20,000 workplaces, and with an explicitly family-oriented design. Centred on an artificial lake and with half of the entire area devoted to public space, it is billed as “Vienna’s Urban Lakeside”: a model city-within-a-city, in a place that already has the one of the highest qualities of life of any city in the world.

When Christina Atta moved to Aspern four years ago, she was one of its rare single women. “I was alone with my cats, and everybody had children,” she says. Now she is pregnant with her second child, however, Atta, 35, can better appreciate its design. Her only complaint is that the bus to the city can’t accommodate all the young children.

As a series of crises puts Europe under strain, some cities are fighting back with innovative solutions. From hyper-specialist shops beating the online threat in Berlin to the Bulgarian city reversing the country's brain drain, from the Italian city finding new ways to tackle addiction to gambling to the Swedish town that has found innovative ways to combat extremism, we look at what European cities are doing to live better in our increasingly urban world.

They designed cities like there would be no other people than men going to work in the morning and coming back in the evening

Related: If women built cities, what would our urban landscape look like?

If you want to do something for women, do something for pedestrians

Our aim is to make sure that all the infrastructure and services of the city can be equally used by women and men

If [gender mainstreaming] didn’t happen, we would feel it. But as long as it happens, we don’t see it

Related: What would a city that is safe for women look like?

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