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The Emperor’s Forum: The Burgring

Friday September 2nd, 2016

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burgring

 

Originally the area of the Burgring lay outside the Viennese city wall. It was only when Emperor Franz Joseph I. took the decision to grind the city walls and instead to create a boulevard, the Burgring became a part of the Viennese inner city. Originally from an avenue with five rows of trees, some of the most prestigious buildings in Vienna, such as the Hofburg, which gave it its name, as well as the art historical and natural history museum, are now found here.

Long-term planning

But it took a very long time. For quite a while, the Opernring and the Kärntner Ring were already popular strolls of the Viennese and Viennese, but it looked a few hundred meters still quite different: in the early 1870s, the foundation was laid for the design of the Burgring. Emperor Franz Joseph I wanted a suitable frame for his Hofburg and wrote a competition for the design of the place between Burgtor and Hofstallungen. Soon it was agreed that two museums were to be created here: the Art Historical Museum and the Natural History Museum, both of which were still called “Hofmuseum”. For the design of the two, Gottfried Semper and Carl von Hasenauer, by the way, were responsible – and they bore a very great responsibility.

The vision of the Kaiserforum

“You know, the erection of the two court museums was one of the most important projects of the city expansion. The Emperor was personally very much interested in an imperial forum at the Burgring – at any rate he did so when he heard my idea. Sometimes you have to get people to taste. However, the Kaiserforum was to be the crowning of the Ring Road in the form of an expansion of the Hofburg and the connection with the Habsburg collections. It began with the court museums as guardians of the treasures of nature and art. It should also be a representative of imperial plazas of ancient Rome and the Paris Louvre, “Gottfried Semper would probably describe his work. He was at that time the most important German-speaking architect, and without doubt aspired to great things – but after his death his vision of an imperial forum was never completed.

The two museums are, however, today a true visitor-magnet, both because of their architectural beauty and because of their important exhibits. That is why they speak for themselves, quite independently of the idea of an imperial forum.