Vanessa Lastrucci, Landscape Architect
There is grace in this apparently insignificant and rather ugly piece of footway, in a random street of inner Vienna. It is a cheap, simple detail, yet full of value: an engraving in the asphalt filled with black topping commemorates the place where Olly Schwarz lived between the wars.
The little engraving - a carpet decorated with typical eastern European embroidery patterns - bears the traces of time: its life-time, when it was laid and then deformed by the cycles of heat and cold and the multiple steps of people walking; and also Olly Schwarz’s life-time, reminding us of the darker days of European history.
This urban carpet is not alone: it is in the company of a number of brass studs, carved slabs and other tiny details we walked past in quiet residential streets of Vienna, marking the place of raids against Jewish people, and commemorating their memory. Little urban details shared with Berlin, and similar to those I’ve seen in New York (albeit dedicated to other purposes).
To me, what is special about it is its humble-ness. It does not have the grandeur and the stand-out qualities of a monument (I saw a rather moving pair on the same theme), but it is just as effective.
This piece of footway calls on your attention for detail, your sense of observation, your alertness to your surroundings. It requires you to consider where you are, and where you are going. And, in your going, it requires you to take a moment for pausing and for thought.
The power is in the number of these tiny objects, affording a walk through history for those who are careful enough to look down. It is a history experienced through the movement of drifting from street to street, impressed in the body of the city and unveiled by such details, that can tell so much about Vienna.
(Note: in writing this article I discovered that the carpet is indeed a piece of public art; commissioned from Iris Andraschek and realised in 2012. ‘Tell this people who I am’ is its title.)