European Affordable Housing Consortium, SHAPE-EU


As part of the habiTAT apartment block syndicate, the house project Bikes and Rails creates self-organized affordable living and working space for many generations. In the Sonnwendviertel-Ost, near the Vienna Central Station, the project aims at enabling ecologically, socially and economically sustainable living,  and therein become part of a future-oriented social change. It was awarded the Na-Wo Award for Sustainable Housing Projects by the Climate Alliance Austria in 2019. The project celebrates the bicycle as an inexpensive, socially just and climate-friendly urban form of mobility and actively helps to establish the city and bicycle as a logical combination for many. Solidarity and social responsibility beyond the housing project are core values. After around 3 years of planning and 1.5 years of construction, move ins will start in spring 2020.




The project was realized within the framework of subsidized social housing. It is part of a new urban development neighbourhood (Sonnwendviertel Ost) whose concept was developed in a cooperative process. All parking spaces are on the outskirts of the district (between the railway facilities and the residential buildings) and the main access road is free of traffic. In the architecture competition, plots of land were kept free for co-housing projects and assemblies on which the architect could apply. The submitted competition entries were assessed not only according to the usual criteria of economy, ecology, social sustainability and architecture, but also according to how much the modules could contribute to the revitalization of the district. In the given case, these are a bicycle cafe, common rooms and the revitalization of the district through an access area completely glazed to the urban area (which also serves for passive use of the sun)

The creation of speculation-free space is a central concern for us. That is why we are part of habiTAT, the apartment block syndicate in Austria. Membership in habiTAT means that our apartment building is withdrawn from the market for all time. The house will be bought freely after completion, thus ensuring cost-effective freedom for all current and future residents. At the same time, we are establishing a model for future assemblies and demonstrating how self-organized, affordable living space can be created for everyone and secured against being exploited on the real estate market in the long term.


Issues tackled

A particular problem with this project was that a lot was built at the time of construction and it was very difficult to find a construction company.
This meant that it had to be searched for a long time in order to find a suitable company that could also realize the construction within the tight construction cost range.

Actors involved


According to the special location of the building, the south facade opens up to the sun and the urban area, the west facade has generous windows in the direction of Helmut Zilk Park and the north facade remains relatively closed with window openings that provide a visual view of the green space.

The ground floor is transparent and provides space to complement the public areas in the form of a covered terrace (in the west) and a covered outdoor area (like an arcade) in the south. There is a bicycle café and a bicycle workshop as well as a common room.
A southern veranda is used for communication with the public space, for access and as a communal area with private loggias.
The basement, the ground floor and the southern veranda are made of concrete, the living areas are made of wood (ceilings and central wall: cross-laminated timber panels, outer walls: wooden frame construction).
There is a communal roof terrace on the roof. Bicycles can be parked in the garden in a basement. There are also storage rooms in the basement
The building concept was developed in a joint process and the apartments are also planned individually.
The house is designed as a passive house.

The living area is constructed entirely of wood (5 floors, wooden stud walls and cross-cut wooden ceilings). This living area is placed on the ground floor and connected to the concrete structure of the winter garden. The ventilation takes place via two central ventilation systems with heat recovery, the air distribution takes place via vertical shafts.

The realization takes place within the tight financial framework of the Vienna housing subsidy. The project is part and first project of habiTAT – the apartment block syndicate in Austria.
The habiTAT is a solidarity of house project initiatives all over Austria with the aim to buy real estate freely and to secure self-administered and affordable spaces. In this context, money was collected through direct lending (crowd leaning) and it can also be made available to residents who have no saved funds.The creation of speculation-free space is a central concern for the project. The house will be bought freely after completion, thus ensuring cost-effective freedom for all current and future residents.

Why it works

The project was only possible thanks to the special commitment of the u group, the architect, the developer and also the executing companies.
A new form of living was found, the cafe and the bicycle workshop liven up the district, an alternative financing enables residents without financial resources to move into one of the apartments, and the building offers the highest building biology comfort and minimal environmental impact (district heating, passive house quality, wood construction).