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Vienna: An Open City in Divisive Times

Public lecture hosted by LSE Cities

Vienna is at the heart of a Europe increasingly defined by political upheaval. Following the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, national election campaigns in the Netherlands, France and Germany are continuing to sharply divide public opinion and debate in 2017. Are Europe’s nation-states turning inward? Can its cities claim to be open and cosmopolitan in this context?

Vienna’s “Step 2025” Urban Development Plan defines the city as “cosmopolitan,” viewing “the diversity of its population as a key development factor that will continue to render the city attractive for talented people from all over the world, international investment, pioneering research institutions and international organisations.”

The city’s Deputy-Mayor, Maria Vassilakou, is a leading advocate of this vision. In a public lecture followed by a discussion chaired by Savvas Verdis, Ms. Vassilakou discussed the challenges of governing a cosmopolitan city in a divisive political climate, while also outlining Vienna’s wider environmental and social agenda.

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  • Maria Vassilakou

    Maria Vassilakou

    Maria Vassilakou started her political career as Secretary General of the Austrian Students’ Union. In November 1996 she became Member of the Vienna Provincial Parliament and in 2004 Head of the Parliamentary Group of the Green Party. Since November 2010 Maria Vassilakou is Deputy Mayor of Vienna and Executive City Councillor for Urban Planning, Traffic & Transport, Climate Protection, Energy and Public Participation. She is the first Executive City Councillor with a migration background. She was born in Greece and sees Vienna as an open, modern and diverse city.

  • Suzanne Hall

    Suzanne Hall

    Suzanne Hall is an urban ethnographer, and has practised as an architect in South Africa. Her research and teaching interests include social and economic forms of inclusion and exclusion in the context of global urbanisation, where she currently focuses on the micro economies and spaces of urban migration. From 1997 to 2003 her practice engaged with the role of design in the context of rapid urbanisation in poor and racially segregated areas in Cape Town, and her work has been published and exhibited nationally and internationally. Suzi was awarded an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant (2015-2017) for a comparative project on ‘Super-diverse Streets: Economies and spaces of urban migration in UK Cities’, which emerges out of her LSE Cities’ research project research on ‘Ordinary Streets’. She is a recipient of the LSE's Robert McKenzie Prize for outstanding Ph.D. research (2010) and the Rome Scholarship in Architecture (1998-1999). Her research monograph, City, Street and Citizen: The measure of the ordinary, was published in 2012.

  • Savvas Verdis

    Savvas Verdis

    Dr Savvas Verdis is a senior research fellow at LSE Cities, the Deputy Director of the Executive MSc in Cities and the founder of challengecircles.com . Until recently he was Director of Infrastructure Economics at Siemens Cities. At the LSE, he manages the Executive Education programmes, which include: tailored learning experiences for organisations;  the Executive Summer School programme on London and Global Cities;  and the Executive MSc in Cities. He has worked as a consultant for numerous city and national governments on their infrastructure strategies in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey. From 2009 to 2012, he was founder and CEO of Property Analytics, an algorithm-based property rating website which ranked residential properties in London and New York.  He received his PhD from Cambridge University in 2007.