The Austrian Gaudí
On the corner of the Löwengasse with the Kegelgasse
in Vienna's third district stands one of the city's most visited
tourist attractions: the Hundertwasser house. An original apartment
building so different from classical architecture, so daring in
its color and so closely linked, according to its creator, the
architect and painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, to the needs
of the man of our time.
Although the news came out yesterday, Hundertwasser
died on Saturday on the transatlantic liner, where he was headed
for Europe after leaving behind his new land, New Zealand. Born
in Vienna on December 15, 1928, with the name of Friedrich Stowasser,
his artistic talent already stood out as a child in the Montessori
nursery. Being a half-Jew, he had to quite school after the arrival
of the Nazis in Austria, which did not prevent him from obtaining
his diploma once the war was over.
Like all individualists with genius, Hundertwasser
never finished his academic training at the School of Fine Arts
in Vienna. In 1952, he preferred to join the avant-garde A.rt-CLUB,
rejecting the rigid aesthetics of the 1950s. Although his early
paintings were realistic, Hundertwasser little by little found
his own style, characterized by the spiral; he also refused vertical
lines and right angles in architecture.
Independent of his acts of rebellion, like when
he dropped his pants in front of a Culture councilor, back in
the 60s, in protest against rationalism, the greatest scandal
he was involved in was with the plan for the Hundertwasser House,
with which he definitively made the leap to fame.
«A late Gaudí», «pseudo-architecture» or «toy
fortress» were some of the denominations used by the press of
the day when, in 1983, the first stone was laid for this unique
building. Although there was also somebody who called it the "eighth
wonder of the world." With this house that is fascinating from
any visitor, Hundertwasser created an entire volume of philosophy
that intended to respond to the key question in the work of every
architect: to what degree can architecture help to satisfy the
psychological and environmental needs of our time? To that end,
the artist conceived undulating floors, facades and walls, as
if they constituted a curtain, shaken by a light breeze.
"Man becomes paralyzed by walking on flat floors,"
he said. The apartments, 33 to 150 square meters in size, only
have rounded angles with wooden floors. Every door and window
is painted in different colors, and the mosaics placed on the
facades, floors and walls were created at random by the artist
with the inspiration of the bricklayers, with whom he got together
during break times at the tavern on the corner. On the roof of
the building, there are green areas, where chestnuts, beech trees
and lilacs grow.
"Man lives better if he has a grass roof over
his head," he claimed. The golden tower, decorated with mirrored
tiles "so that the stars, sun and sky will be reflected on it,"
became the symbol of all his creations. "A golden age is beginning
now," he said in the 80s. "The times in which only the rich owned
towers have passed, and the average man will also own them know,
even golden ones."
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian architect,
was born in Vienna in 1928, and died on board the transatlantic
liner, Queen Elizabeth II, on February 19, 2000.
Tuesday, February 22, 2000