FRIEDENSREICH HUNDERTWASSER: 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