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The sea level of the urban area ranges from 151m (Lobau) to 542m (Hermannskogel). The lower altitude includes deciduous woodland and the Flyschbergland of the Wienerwald (Leopoldsberg, Kahlenberg, Hermannskogel) in the north-west, west and south-west. The higher altitude comprises the Wienerberg and the Laaer Berg, where glacial terraces are intersected by Wienerwald streams. It ranges into the water meadow and alluvium areas of the Danube as far as the edge of the Vienna basin at Schwechat in the south-east and to the Marchfeld in the east and north-east.
During the initial stages of urban development, space was provided by numerous glacial terraces situated between the Wienerwald and the Stromtangente. The growth rings extend from the medieval Old Town to the baroque suburbs and the outskirts from the Gründerzeit and radiate through the old arterial roads. The medieval city was founded on a city terrace around 10m above the level of the river meadows and was situated inside the walls of the previous Roman camp. A noticeable ascent leads to the Arsenalterrasse, and even higher lies the Laaer-Berg-Terrasse. The building work for a bridge across the Danube was not started until 1439 because of the very wide water meadows (reaching up to 6km). Floridsdorf came into being in the second half of the 18th century and was used as bridge head in the Marchfeld. In 1904 it was incorporated in the urban area of Vienna. But since the Gründerzeit, urban growth has been aligned towards the west and south-west, where it was confined by the Flyschhöhen of the Wienerwald. Only as recently as the last decades of the 20th century have the areas to the north and north-east of the Danube been enhanced and developed as locations for business and habitation in the course of city expansion.
The public spaces are divided into two stages of development distinguished by the time of construction: the ‘inner city’ (Innenstadt) from the Gründerzeit and the ‘outer city’ (Außenstadt) from the inter- and post-war years. The cityscape today is an amalgamation made up of residential areas surrounding the city centre in two rings: the ‘suburbs’ (Vorstädte) located in today’s inner districts 3 to 9 situated between ring road (Ringstraße) and ‘belt’ (Gürtel); and the ‘outskirts’ (Vororte) outside the Gürtel containing the outer districts.
The suburbs evolve into business quarters as well as into residential areas for the middle class; the outskirts outside the Gürtel constituted the ‘classical workmen’ districts (12th, 15th, 16th and 17th district). To the south (23rd and parts of the 10th district), south-east (11th district) and beyond the Danube (21st and 22nd district) there are companies requiring large amounts of space. There are also areas for city expansion, where large-scale housing estates were built in the seventies and nineties, such as the Wohnpark Alterlaa, the Siedlung Wienerfeld-West und -Ost, the Per-Albin-Hansson-Siedlung-West und -Ost, the Großfeldsiedlung, Neu-Stammersdort and others. On the periphery are the old-established allotment-garden areas (1992: 235 garden-plot associations with 25,377 members and 1300ha cultivated acreage) and detached housing estates. The exclusive residential areas are situated in the south-west (Hietzing) and north-west (Neuwaldegg, Währing, Döbling) as well as the wine grower and wine tavern villages, such as Nußdorf, Grinzing, Sievering and Neustift am Walde. Public parks are located throughout the urban area: Stadtpark, Volks-, Burg-, Au-, Belvedere- and Schwarzenberggarten, Liechtenstein- and Türkenschanzpark, Schlosspark Schönbrunn with Tiroler and Fasangarten and others.
The Prater is situated at the eastern periphery, the Lainzer Tiergarter at the south-western periphery, the Donaupark in the north-east and in the south the Erholungspark Laaer Berg. In the south-east is the Erholungsgebiet Donauinsel between Danube and New Danube (21.1km long, 533ha in area) – which is unique in Central Europe – with its nature-sanctuary Toter Grund and, attached to the north-east and south-east, the natural water meadow landscape Aulandschaft Lobau. Dedicated as a nature sanctuary by building regulations (Wald- und Wiesengürtel) it is used as an oxygen reservoir and recreation area; it comprises about 7000ha. Vienna holds 20,507ha of green space which is mainly agriculturally used areas (7643.30ha) and forest (7025.54ha), with a small part given over to grassland, garden plots and parks (1513.91ha). The Wiener Stadtgartenamt administered 2706 public allotments in 1992. The agricultural enterprise of the Stadt Wien administered 1750ha in 1995. Among the 438 natural monuments (1992) rank the Obere Mühlwasser and the Wald am Johannser Kogel in the Lainzer Tiergarten. Wildlife sanctuaries were (in 1992) the Lainzer Tiergarten (2263ha) and the Untere Lobau (2088ha), landscape conservation areas were the Prater (498ha), in Döbling (1205ha), the Obere Lobau (531ha) and in Liesing (654ha) as well as several other tracts of landscape.
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