Towards the end of 2017 we went to Graz, Austria, on a business combined with pleasure trip.
Here are some brief thoughts and observations from that trip.
Blimey – Frankfurt Airport seems big. Is it as large as it seems or do you just have to taxi a long way?
The River Mur goes through the centre of Graz and down stream it is dammed to create an hydro-electric power station At one time I got the impression that the energy supply company in Graz is owned by the municipality (or the state in some way) – does anyone know if this is the case? Let me know.
The arrivals hall at Graz Airport with an advertising display of local and regional businesses. Note that nearly all of these companies actually make things, adding and creating value. Quite a contrast with what I saw at London City Airport on our way home – it was all accountants, management consultants and banks – value extractors rather than creators. And note that the one bank which is advertised at Graz Airport is actually a cooperative. Also note the regional Clusters – for example the Styria Autocluster.
Much is made of the region – Styria – and there are two farmers’ markets in the city centre which operate everyday of the week except Sundays, with local farmers (the actual farmers, running small market gardens it would seem) selling their own produce. Local Styrian produce included Pumpkins, Pumpkin Oil, Giant Beans, and Apples. Saturday was the main market day, with many more stalls, and shoppers, than weekdays, but each market was operational every week day with a reduced number of stalls plus the permanent booths.
I liked the metal clad doors and shutters which were a feature of old buildings in the city centre
The tallest building in the city centre (but across the river from the old city) is the A1 Telekom building. This telecoms, satellite, broadband, TV Satellite company seems to be at least partly state owned – 28% of the shares as far as I can make out.
The Kunsthaus and a general view across the city
They are not afraid of mixing up contemporary and traditional architecture.
Much of the residential development in the city centre is made up of courtyards but it is not unusual to find small business amongst the homes – a mixed use we don’t see much of (if any) in the UK.
I visited the Botanic Gardens with its new glass-houses but it is a shame the old green-houses have been left to deteriorate An example of where it is ‘easy’ to get funding for a new capital project but not to cover the running costs of an existing facility?
A nice example of attention to detail – individual flues grouped together to form a sculptural effect.
An Art Nouveau district It was interesting to see ‘home made’ scaffolding erected on site from timber rather than metal scaffold tubes Can you imagine this in the UK? Someone would throw a fit.
I liked the rawness and sculptural form of the Technical College The photos don’t show it well but I loved the idea of turning the rainwater drainage system into a water feature (when it is raining that is).
Another example of new and traditional next to each other without any problem or fuss
There are still examples of run down buildings next to well maintained and renovated ones
A new residential estate near the exhibition grounds – at first sight I thought this was a new prison!
The nearby Exhibition site was not much more than an industrial estate – but perhaps that’s all you need for a local exhibition ground
An example of a traditional shopping street
New and traditional mixed up and next to each other
Another view of the Graz Kunsthaus
The Museum of Archaeology – a modern structure in the grounds of a Schloss
Traditional houses in the hills with new homes in a more contemporary style built in their grounds and amongst them
Typical new apartments being built – note the large balconies
There is still industry in the city Siemens bogie plant. The bogies for London’s Thameslink Trains were made in Graz – https://www.siemens.co.uk/en/news_press/index/news_archive/siemens-manufactures-first-thameslink-bogie.htm)
Simple but effective – Grasses in small bags being used to demarcate public and private space outside a coffee shop – an idea to steal and use in UK town centres.
We were in Graz as the Christmas decorations were being put up – upside down Christmas trees above the main shopping street One shop sold nothing but glass Christmas decorations
A modern office building
In Graz they are not afraid to put a modern box on an old building
The leisure gardens, often seen in Europe, which help to make high density city living work – something which we, in the UK, are ignoring when we say ‘the continentals live at high density in their cities, so why shouldn’t we?’.
Another new building in the heart of the old city – it was noticeable that many new buildings have had to provide underground car parks beneath them Graz has a bit of a bike culture (quite a few times we heard the squeal of bike breaks as one just avoided hurtling under a car), but it is not ignoring cars as a necessary means of transport.
Sometimes it is useful to learn how others see the UK
Traditional and new again
An example of traditional courtyard housing in the old town
This part of Graz, redeveloped after the Second World War, is considered by locals as the rough part of the city, and is looking a bit run down in places (a nice little find whilst exploring the back-streets was the Bauer distillery – we highly recommend the Hazelnut Schnapps). We noticed that even the local SPAR shops had a section for regional produce ‘From Styria’. I don’t see any of our local co-ops in the UK having, say, a Kentish Produce Section – perhaps it’s about time they did.
Graz has a lot of small ‘squares’, each one setting up the Christmas booths which seem to have much more of a social function that the copies which we have recently introduced in the UK. We really need to made our own traditions, and do them in our own way, instead of trying to copy them (badly) from others.
A view of the fields from which the produce for the farmers markets came from A nice little reminder of how different UK fields look from those on the continent.
So, to end, some quick thoughts and observations on spending a week in Graz:
a city with a population of 230,000 (in a metropolitan area with a population of 430,000), can be a centre for manufacturing;
there is a strong regional influence with industrial clusters and a strong tradition of regional food and produce;
A city of 230,000 can have two farmers’ markets, selling fresh food, every day of the week, except Sundays;
230,000 is the population of a small London Borough -so there is no reason why London Boroughs (or a grouping of them) can’t have their own industrial cluster strategies; nor why they can’t link with their rural hinterland to promote regional and traditional food and produce;
we (in the UK and London) shouldn’t be frightened of building new and modern next to old and traditional, but at a small and local scale rather than the large scale which intentional investors want;
there are different ways of running our businesses; we in the UK could have locally owned and controlled utilities and banks.