Schottenfeldviertel: A Snapshot of a Little SoHo

This city’s passion for graphic design is at home on the photo-centric Westbahnstraße in the 7th, where the goal is not only to preserve the art but constantly test its limits | Photos: Andreas Kattner

The vibe makes it hard to resist dubbing the 7th District’s Schottenfeld Viertel a “Little SoHo”.

Like the New York original, this edgy neighbourhood once housed factories and warehouses, and the repurposed buildings are striking.

Above all, this tiny Grätzl orbiting Westbahnstraße is dedicated to all things photographic, spanning from Kaiserstraße to Bandgasse, with outliers as far north as Neustiftgasse.

As the birthplace of Lomography and homestead of Florian Kaps, the saviour of Polaroid, Vienna is certainly serious about celluloid.

 

This city’s passion for graphic design is at home on the photo-centric Westbahnstraße in the 7th, where the goal is not only to preserve the art but constantly test its limits | Photos: Andreas Kattner

This city’s passion for graphic design is at home on the photo-centric Westbahnstraße in the 7th, where the goal is not only to preserve the art but constantly test its limits | Photos: Andreas Kattner

The Photo-Viertel

Since Viennese photography pioneer Orator began selling cameras at Westbahnstraße 23 in 1847, it’s been the go-to place for the industry.

In 1888, Joseph Maris Eder founded the Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr-und-Versuchsanstalt (Federal Training and Research Institute for Graphic Arts and Media) lovingly called “die Graphische” at Westbahnstraße 25. Now moved to Layserstraße in the 14th, it is still Austria’s leading institution for print and media technology, photography and graphic design, bringing the movers and shakers of the industry to the area.

Peter Coeln’s legendary leica Shop moved here in 1994, rich in tradition (with prices to match). Coeln also founded the next-door westlicht in 2001, which shows cutting-edge and moving collections, like the current World Press Photo exhibition (closing 13 Oct.). It also boasts a fantastic collection of artefacts, like pigeon-toted spy cameras from WWI.

In 2011, it acquired the European portion of a unique Polaroid Collection, including shots by Ansel Adams, Luigi Ghirri, David Leventhal, Helmut Newton, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Robert Mapplethorpe. An auction of photographs and vintage cameras is planned from 11-23 November (see www.westlicht-auction.com).

Across the street is camera 31, a second-hand and vintage shop, owned and run by Franz Gibiser, a former Orator employee. “I wouldn’t have set up shop on any other street,” he grinned. He described two types of clientele, the over-40 nostalgia generation (i.e. “I’ve wanted to buy this one since I was 15”) and the younger enthusiasts who sidle in saying they “want to make pictures like in the ‘50s.” The trend toward old cameras began in the ‘90s, but today, he thinks the fascination with analogue photography comes from the advent of photoshop. Now, “perfect is boring.”

The Leutner brothers cover the print and display process. On the corner of nearby Kaiserstraße, Felix’s foto leutner supplies museums and top artists with state-of-the-art, large-format prints as well as photo editing and enhancement services. As demand increased, brother Georg’s leutner bild werkstatt began offering sophisticated framing, setting photos in acrylic glass or mineral glass to give photos enhanced optical depth.

But that’s just the beginning: This is a real mecca for shutterbugs.

Factory housing

Across from Westlicht, Felix Leutner exited café podium as I entered.  This establishment spans the street level of a former leather manufacturer. With concrete tables and plastic chairs resembling foggy yellow artisan soap, the ambience is nouveau-industrial: Nothing is quite clean, except the design.

Many of the buildings are now residential, with huge 120-160 square-metre airy lofts. These wide-open spaces are also perfect for photo studios. On Schottenfeldgasse, there is studio 65 in an art deco building with two dark brown wooden entryways labelled “Lager” (storage) and “Bureaux” (offices). On the nearby Zieglergasse artwerk studios has a wide selection of equipment and amenities.

This sliver of the 7th is popular for temporary art installations as well, and two projects are immediately visible. Past elektrobiker a mod electric bike, accessory and cycle fashion shop, neubau, the “Pop-Up Store for Products of the 3rd Industrial Revolution”, cannot be overlooked in bright red, orange and yellow stripes on the corner of Zieglergasse. It sells a small series of locally developed products in an absurdly artsy space. The programme kunst frischmarkt has installations of artwork by fresh graduates from the University of Applied Arts scattered in shops all around the outer portion of the 7th.

Food and Entertainment

Traipsing through these streets will work up an appetite in the most avid point-and-shooter and sustinence nearby.  Passing market – one of few remaining Viennese vinyl stores – onto Zieglergasse, you’ll find the oh-so-Spanish Toma tu tiempo serves tapas to its art-students and bobos in a simplistic marriage of industrial and Mediterranean décor.

For the more refined palate, gaumenspiel offers slightly-French concoctions with wine, cheese and sorbet accompaniment. The place drips with friendliness, and diners feel lucky to stumble on it.

Up on Kaiserstrasse, passing the overpriced bakery Felzl (boring bread, good coffee) at the corner of Westbahnstraße, and continuing down you can stop in at a sweet little Italian wine bar, 13° tredici gradi, selling wines from Castello di Gabbiano’s castle vineyards of northern Italy.

Accross the the street is impossible, the humble palace of Polaroid. A repair shop and retailer (see “Polawalk”, p.7), the shop is a beacon of innovation. It is the offspring of Florian Kaps’ Impossible Project, which saved Polaroid from certain demise, and now makes cheaper non-toxic film, and a new Pola-camera is in the making.

 

TVR_21_10_13Podium, Westbahnstraße 33

www.restaurant-podium.at

 

Westlicht, Westbahnstraße 40,

www.westlicht.com

 

Impossible, Kaiserstraße 74 

www.the-impossible-project.com

 

Elektrobiker, Westbahnstraße 26

www.elektrobiker.com

 

Market

Zieglergasse 40,

www.dasmarket.at

 

Gaumenspiel

Zieglergasse 54,

www.gaumenspiel.at

 

13° Tredicci Gradi, Kaiserstrasse 81

 www.facebook.com/13gradi

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