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A Room with a View – The Balcony’s Renaissance

Balconies are seen on the façades of houses even in Ancient Roman murals. Whether they are roofed like in the Roman Empire, fashioned from wood and ornately adorned as in India or decorated with carved lattices as seen in the Arab world – balconies have been integral to architecture for well over 2,000 years. Their different functions, depending on the era and particular culture, shape their design, and balconies will feature more prominently in the future, especially in cities.

Status symbol and backdrop for social interaction

Who would Romeo and Juliet be without the balcony? Where should the Pope recite his blessings, and what better place could there be for football teams to celebrate winning the cup? The ‘beam’ on the outer façade (the meaning of the original Germanic, Longobard word ‘balko’ – which is even the same in Old High German) comes in a wide variety of styles and fulfils an equivalent number of purposes. In the Arab world, it was a way for harem ladies to observe the world from behind the safety of an ornately carved screen, while they were mainly viewed as status symbols in Europe. Architecture and urban planning experts such as Maik Novotny often characterise balconies as a kind of ‘living shop window’. Outdoor spaces in city apartments became quite rare for a while, but were rediscovered as an architectural element around the turn of the 21st century. The desire to own a patch of green in the great outdoors, along with the trends towards urban gardening and growing your own fresh herbs and vegetables, have led to a resurgence in the construction of personal spaces in the sun. And balconies acquired another novel purpose during the pandemic, as Zurich architecture professor Tom Avermaete and his research team discovered: they documented life on balconies during the COVID-19 lockdown and observed them as places for prayer, exercise, political statements and musical performances.

From Biedermeier utopia to improving the microclimate

But life and ‘holidays on the balcony’ do more than just revive a little green Biedermeier utopia for the delight of its residents. The free spaces – assuming they are put to suitable use – have a real effect on improving the microclimate, especially in inner cities. Did you know that there are around 1.3 million balconies and almost one million terraces in Austria? Many of them remain unused! We should bear in mind that an undeveloped inner courtyard or a colourful neighbourhood allotment has the same potential as untouched nature: after all, cultivating these spaces adds quality to the city, provides nooks and crannies for nature to flourish and even promotes biodiversity. Once planted with herbs, flowers or vegetables, roofs and courtyards improve the microclimate in the city, enable self-sufficiency through the independent production of organic food and foster cohesion in urban areas. A small urban garden on a balcony or terrace contributes to the sensible use of rainwater, helps insects to survive in hot cities and acts as a natural air conditioning system.

WEGRAZ and a Room with a View

All our projects pursue the goal of creating symbiosis between humans and the environment by optimising the use of space and resources. It goes without saying that our properties would be inconceivable without free spaces like terraces or balconies. The new My Smart City quarter is an apt example of intelligent and holistic solutions that will satisfy demands far into the future (

The 70 apartments with their own gardens, balconies or conservatories that are under construction in the Graz Ankerstraße 2 & 2A project ( are prime examples of how strongly free spaces have come to feature in our everyday planning. The benefits for residents, nature and sustainable urban planning are persuasive and should set the tone for responsible project development.

Visit our website to learn more about trend topics and current terminology from the sustainable construction industry (


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