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The Big Cities project, founded in 2012 by the Laboratory of Cultural Projects and Ulysses, the Club of Cultural Travel at the HSE Faculty of Humanities School of Cultural Studies, has just been on its seventh trip.
During the week the participants explored Vienna, but not as typical tourists with excursions around places of interest found in guide books. The trip organizers, Petr Mazaev, Head of the Laboratory of Cultural Projects, and Jan Levchenko, Professor of the School of Cultural Studies, suggested a new way of looking at the city on each walk and discussed what they’d seen in the end of each day. Journalist and lecturer Julia Kamaeva, graduate of the HSE master’s programme in applied cultural studies, also participated in the trip.
The format of the trips resembles field training. Such a perspective focuses the participants on creating a professional background for the cultural perception of space, its forms, images, and narratives.
Vienna can surprise a curious traveler. Vienna is a city where baroque churches stand side-by-side with functional houses by Otto Wagner, an architect who was one of the first to remove decorations from walls. And in the next district, amazing, absurd, but memorable buildings by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, whose incineration plant looks more like a water park, spring like mushrooms from the ground.
‘We found ourselves in Vienna during a heat wave. And now I strongly associate heat with the pompousness, abundance, and excessive luxury of Austrian baroque, while Art Nouveau architecture brings up an association with much-desired cool – probably due to its metal and glass.
There is a well-known feeling about a new place: any movement brings something unknown and unpredictable. You can study the satellite view of the city in detail and browse through hundreds of photos, but moving around the city in reality is something else. This feeling of the first impression, of something unknown and then getting used to it is how you get to know the city, and you want this feeling to last as long as possible. And then you start to remember people who live in the neighbourhood where you stayed. The image of the city comes to life with visual images of people who you managed to examine, remember, noticing something about and who fired your imagination in some cases. Together with its museum masterpieces, luxurious imperial baroque, and modern art, the citizens of this city are something very special’.