About LinzSituated on either side of the Danube, Linz is the capital of the Federal Province of Upper Austria. Population-wise its 190,000 inhabitants make it Austria’s third largest city after Vienna and Graz. If you factor in Greater Linz, the population figure rises to 250,000. The city offers jobs to approximately 200,000 people, 90,000 of whom are commuters. The high proportion of commuters accounts for the congestion of Linz’s streets on weekdays. No other major city in Austria compares with Linz with regard to the ratio between the number of residents and the number of jobs.
Linz is a city shaped by industry. Its baroque city centre is still intact and features several important sacred buildings, including the cathedral of St Mary’s, Austria’s largest church building. From the mid- 19th century onward the city became increasingly industrialized. Today it is the centre of a cluster of clean and highly profitable industries, whose single most outstanding characteristic is its unique symbiosis between culture, industry and nature.
A great variety of cultural landscapes and places worth visiting are within easy reach of the provincial capital. A trip to the north, across the gently undulating, wooded Mühlviertel, takes visitors to the world heritage site of Cesky Krumlov/Krumau. To the south there is St Florian, the famous monastery, and a little farther afield is Steyr, with its remarkable historical industries, which is Linz’s spiritual twin in many respects. The Salzkammergut with its scenic lakes and mountains is only an hour by car away.
Shaped by IndustryThe first large-scale metal-working company dates back to 1840 when Linzer Schiffswerft, a major shipyard, started operations; shortly afterwards Krauss, the German train-engine factory, followed. Linz was also important as a location of the textile industry. Industrial and population growth went hand in hand. A dreamy country town in the 1850s with no more than 26,600 inhabitants, Linz had a total population of almost 50,000 only twenty years later. This kind of growth continued until the early 1970s. Linz’s Danube Port, which is situated on Europe’s most important waterway, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is Austria’s largest port and the largest port in the Danube’s upper reach.
National Socialism and Military OccupationIn the Nazi era Linz settled into its role as Steel City. In 1938 the huge steelworks and armament factory “Reichswerke Hermann Göring” was built in Linz’s southern precincts, necessitating the razing of the village St Peter. The Reichswerke were to form the basis for VOEST and Linz’s chemical industry. Bindermichl, Spallerhof and Neue Heimat, huge new developments, were built to house the tens of thousands of workers. Nor was that the end of the story: Linz also harboured three satellite camps connected to nearby Mauthausen concentration camp, whose purpose was to supply the armament industry with forced labourers.
Hitler, having chosen Linz, where he attended school, as the place to retire to in his old age, wanted to transform the city into a cultural metropolis adorned with monumental buildings and the world’s largest collection of art works. To make this happen, the Nazis looted artworks from private collections and museums across Europe. In view of the advanced planning for the city’s transformation at the hands of the Nazis it is fortunate that the only projects to be realised were the Nibelungenbrücke, the so-called Brückenkopfgebäude that close off Hauptplatz to the north and a spate of communal housing projects. After the War the influx of refugees further swelled Linz’s population to a degree that was only effectively dealt with in terms of urban planning and new infrastructure in the late 1980s. In 1951, at a time when the city was still divided into a Soviet zone of occupation north of the Danube and a US American one, Linz already had as many as 185,000 inhabitants.
Cultural RelaunchIn 1966 the predecessor institution of today’s Johannes Kepler University was founded, making Linz a university city at last. In the meantime it also boasts a University of Art and Industrial Design, the Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität, the Katholisch-Theologische Privatuniversität and two teacher training colleges. Self-Healing For decades Linz was burdened, both in Austria and abroad, with the reputation of a dust-ridden, dull industrial city with proverbially bad air quality. As of the late 1970s the city started a self-healing therapy: it imposed strict emission limits on its industries on the one hand and embarked on an ambitious, well-informed course of cultural development. In 1974, when setting up residence in the ill-reputed old city centre was still considered an act of courage, the Brucknerhaus, designed by Heikki Sirén, opened its doors. The Upper Austrian Bruckner Orchestra, which is closely associated with Brucknerhaus, has acquired a worldwide reputation. Exhibitions such as forum metall (1977) and forum design (1980), both conceived at the University of Art and Industrial Design, caused a stir on an international level. 1979 saw the first, visionary Ars Electronica Festival, which, thirty years after its foundation, has established itself as one of the most spectacular events worldwide in the field of digital arts and technologies. The Festival is closely linked to Linzer Klangwolke, which, along with Internationales Brucknerfest, is one of the fixtures on the cultural calendar each year.
The Ars Electronica Festival served as condensation point for Linz’s re-interpretation of the concept of culture. In view of the city’s location between Salzburg and Vienna, the people in charge of Linz’s positioning considered it inauspicious to attempt to mount a competition with these traditional bulwarks of bourgeois high culture, opting instead, in the sense of a culture of no one left behind, for more easily accessible versions of art and culture that stressed the elements of contemporaneity and experiment. The city administration itself created Pflasterspektakel and LinzFest, two extremely successful and popular international festival formats, while Stadtwerkstatt provided the alternative cultural scene with their own arena. Stadtwerkstatt and the culture centre Kapu became the home of a vibrant musical scene, which turned Linz in the early 1980s into a mecca for fans of underground music. The “young guns” among Linz’s theatre enthusiasts founded Theater Phönix in 1989, which has established itself in the meantime as a respected medium-size independent theatre alongside the Landestheater Linz. Independent activists of the culture scene initiated the Festival of Regions in 1993, which takes place as a movable feast at different venues across all of Upper Austria every other year and offers a region oriented programme of art and cultural practices.
Ars Electronica Festival has been complemented with Ars Electronica Center as a “museum of the Future” and as a research institute. In 2002 children and young adults witnessed the start of the international theatre festival Schäxpir, which takes place every other year and offers contemporary theatre for children and young adults. In 2003 the City’s art collection found a new permanent home in the architecturally outstanding Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, the new nextdoor neighbour to Brucknerhaus on the embankment of the Danube. To this highly varied fare Linz added in 2004 the Crossing Europe Film Festival, which specializes in the best the young European cinema has to offer. A new music theatre is under construction at present and due to open in 2012.