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Vienna wins Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2020

Laura Puttkamer
Every two years, the City of Singapore awards a prize for special achievements and contributions to creating liveable, sustainable, and vibrant urban communities. For 2020, Singapore has awarded the prize Vienna.
Vienna wins Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2020. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash




Every two years, the City of Singapore awards a prize for special achievements and contributions to creating liveable, sustainable, and vibrant urban communities. For 2020, Singapore has awarded the prize Vienna. Read more about the award and Vienna’s convincing application here.

Award winner Vienna

On March 14, it was announced that the Austrian capital is the winner of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for 2020. Every two years, Singapore awards this prize for outstanding achievements and contributions that create liveable, sustainable, and vibrant cities. The 2020 awardee was announced late due to the pandemic. Later in 2022, another city will also be named this year’s winner.

The agency Urban Innovation Vienna had submitted the application for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize on behalf of the city. The combination of history and modernity particularly impressed the jury, as Vienna has both a cultural-historical foundation and a sustainable, future-oriented vision for the future.

“I am very proud and grateful that Vienna has emerged as the winner among so many ambitious cities. We will continue our consistent path of high quality of life for all with the greatest possible conservation of resources through social and technical innovations, while remaining a reliable partner for others,” said Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ).

Vienna convinces with its “reinvention”

The jury of the Lee-Kuan-Yew World City Prize declared that Vienna had received the award for its successful reinvention in the 21st century. In doing so, the city had succeeded in preserving its special identity as the capital of culture, music, and history. In addition, the jury highlighted Vienna’s leading role as a climate-conscious city. Vienna’s urban development plan, STEP 2025, was described as the “epitome of a holistic approach to planning” because it presents a clear and shared vision.

As early as 1989, Vienna built a 21-kilometer-long flood protection channel, which can now be used for recreational activities and is also surrounded by a large park. Through these and other measures, Vienna has succeeded in improving the water quality and flow of the Danube in the city and the surrounding area. This has brought economic benefits, but also social benefits such as closer links between Vienna and the suburbs.

Social housing, affordable mass transit and smart city

In addition to this focus on sustainability, the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize jury also emphasised that Vienna is a pioneer in social housing. There have been pioneering projects in this area since as early as the mid-19th century. Today, Vienna offers a large variety of affordable housing and new communities, such as in Aspern Seestadt and Nordbahnhof.

The active promotion of cyclists and pedestrians in Vienna through a large network of public transport with multimodal connections also convinced the jury. The annual public transport ticket in the city costs 365 euros, or one euro a day. Since 2018, more Viennese own the annual ticket than a car. 28 percent of city residents walk, seven percent ride a bike, 38 percent use public transport and 27 percent use motorised transport.

According to the jury, another reason why Vienna won the World City Award is the Smart City Wien Framework Strategy. Since 2011, this strategy has been helping to optimise the quality of life in Vienna with the help of smart city technologies. Innovative technologies are integrated with existing infrastructure to achieve long-term social and sustainable, environmentally friendly goals.

Finally, the jury also praised the many grassroots initiatives in Vienna, such as the Grätzloase. Here, citizens can actively contribute to shaping public spaces.

A video showcases this years laureate Vienna.

The award ceremony

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize will be awarded this year at the World Cities Summit in Singapore. This will take place from July 31 to August 3, 2022. In addition to a certificate, Vienna will also receive a cash prize of 300,000 Singapore dollars (approx. 201,000 euros) and a gold medal worth 50,000 Singapore dollars (approx. 33,600 euros).

In 2016, Vienna had already been honoured by the award jury together with Auckland, Toronto, and Sydney in the “Special Mentions” category.

The Lee-Kuan-Yew World City Prize

The Lee-Kuan-Yew World City Prize is named after Singapore’s first prime minister. It is jointly organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA) and the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) and sponsored by Keppel Corporation. The award has been presented every two years since 2010.

“We hope that through the award, we can gain inspiration, share experiences and move forward together as a global community,” said Dr Cheong Koon Hean, chairman of the 2020 Nominating Committee. According to its website, the award seeks to recognise cities and their leaders, as well as key organisations that demonstrate foresight, good governance, and innovation in addressing the many urban challenges.

In doing so, the jury favours best practices that are practical, cost-effective and can be easily replicated in other cities. The aim is to inspire cities around the world and promote sustainable urban development.

These are the previous winners of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize:

  • Seoul (2018)
  • Medellín (2016)
  • Suzhou (2014)
  • New York City (2012)
  • Bilbao (2010)

If Vienna intrigues you, you might also want to check out this Metropolis Explained.

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