During our photographic explorations of Vienna we have repeatedly been forced to note the disappearance or, alternatively, the transformation and conversion of traditional businesses and shopfronts. We have taken this as an occasion to capture still-existing businesses on film, in the form of a work in progress. When possible, we would additionally like to strike up a conversation with the owners of each of these businesses.
A business’s window display is its most important space to present itself and draw the attention of passers-by to its array of products or services. An indivisible unity is formed by the surrounding framework, the entrance and the display extending into the interior. It is the first, usually fleeting impression that decides whether passers-by pause and whether their attention is attracted.
In Vienna, shopfront architecture has a long and remarkable tradition: Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner or Josef Hoffmann for earlier examples and Hans Hollein, Hermann Czech or Coop-Himmelblau for the later ones – to provide just a brief sampling. Our interest is not so much in such classics of shopfront design – instead, we want to capture those ordinary businesses, little groceries and service providers catering to everyday needs which are past their prime, but are still there. They can be found in every district of Vienna and in all kinds of locations. Their shopfronts stick out among those of the surrounding businesses. They are architecturally idiosyncratic and unique, but often of only minor interest in terms of history or aesthetics. For all kinds of different reasons, these businesses have been able to intuitively stir our interest: through their overall appearance, through a corresponding shopfront design, through their displays or through typographically interesting or unusual lettering. In some cases, however, it has also simply been the singular nature of the goods or services offered for sale.
In Vienna in recent years – alongside the determined persistence of long-established shops – two tendencies have become particularly apparent. On the one hand, the silent and unsung disappearance of old businesses – together with their shopfronts – and, on the other hand, the preservation of shopfronts of this kind through new tenants, typically accompanied by a metamorphosis of the area of business. Only in the rarest cases does the exterior then continue to correspond to the interior: it becomes a set-like frame for new designer shops, fashion shops or cafes in retro design.