7 Must Sees Of Art Nouveau Architecture
Otto Wagner in Vienna. Austrian architect, furniture designer, interior decorator, artist and rebel Otto Wagner holds the key to Viennese Art Nouveau architecture. What is more – he essentially brought the city into the 20th century. Wagner’s modernist and art nouveau pieces celebrate the beauty of simplicity. (Even the most functional items like nails look decorative.)
Use these seven signature pieces to understand what gives this style of Art Nouveau its special touch.
Otto Wagner in Vienna: His Main Works
Otto Wagner (1841 to 1918) was one of the founding members of the revolutionary artists’ association Vienna Secession. The trained architect, visual artist and brick layer shaped Vienna with a series of constructions, from the Austrian Postal Savings Bank, villas, railway stations, and residential buildings to the most beautiful Art Nouveau weir on the Danube.
1. Pavilions At Karlsplatz
Otto Wagner in Vienna. The two identical green, gold and white pavilions at Karlsplatz are a great start to explore Otto Wagner and Art Nouveau architecture in Vienna. The pavilions were built in 1898 as station buildings of the Viennese city railway. Today, one of the pavilions houses a documentaryabout the life and architecture of Wagner, run by Wien Museum. The centrepiece is a model of the architect’s stunning Church at Steinhof.
Location: Karlsplatz, A-1010 Vienna
Timings: April to October; Tuesday to Sunday (and public holidays): 10am to 6pm; closed on 1st May, Easter Monday, Whitmonday and all other public holiday Mondays
Admission: EUR 4 (free admission for children and youth under 19 years of age)
Otto Wagner in Vienna. The Austrian Postal Savings Bank (Postsparkasse) is a whole world of modern aesthetics. Everything in this still operating Postal Savings Bank obeys the principles of functional beauty: from the aluminium coated iron spikes on the facade to the wooden panels, radiators, clocks, chairs, counters, and door handles. Otto Wagner’smost modern and most important building is a must see for design freaks. It also hosts a fine boutique museum about Wagner and the Postal Savings Bank, including historic photographs, sketches, innovative materials and an architectural model of the Postal Savings Bank.
Location: Georg Coch Platz, A-1010 Vienna
Timings: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to 5pm; closed on Sundays, public holidays and from 24th to 26th December;
Admission: EUR 6
3. City Railway Stations
Otto Wagner in Vienna. The most beautiful stations designed by Otto Wagner along the U6 are Karlsplatz, Längenfeldgasse, Gumpendorfer Strasse, Währinger Strasse, and Nussdorfer Strasse. The highlights along the U4 are Stadtpark, Schönbrunn, and Hietzing with Wagner’s Kaiserpavillon at 150 metres distance from the station. The pavilion was built as a private station for Emperor Francis Joseph, but was never used.
4. Wagner Villas I and II
Wagner Villa I/ Ernst Fuchs Villa
Otto Wagner in Vienna. Wagner built his first villa as a summer residence for himself and his family in a green leafy suburb in the West of Vienna from 1886 to 1888. The historistic building is simple, symmetric and white, a perfect background for exuberant details: doric columns, reliefs, coloured wall niches with sculptures, blue ornaments and rich cast iron rails. The villa is owned by Austrian Fantastic Realism painter Ernst Fuchs, who established his own private museum there. He restored many parts of the villa according to Wagner’s initial plans, and added his own flamboyant style to other parts, the interiors and the gardens. Expect an exciting mix of subdued Art Nouveau and extravagant Fantastic Realism.
Location: Hüttelbergstrasse 26, A-1140 Vienna
Visits: Tuesday to Saturday, including public holidays, 10am to 4pm
Admission: EUR 11 (EUR 8 with Vienna Card)
Public Transport: metro U4 to terminal Huetteldorf and then take bus 52A or 52B three stops to ‘Camping West’.
Otto Wagner Villa II
Otto Wagner in Vienna. Wagner’s smaller second villa is located right next to his first, and ischaracteristically modern. He wanted a smaller house once his children had left. You can see how much his artistic style had evolved towards Art Nouveau architecture in the 25 years between the construction of the first and second villa. The cubistic house was built in modern steel concrete, has narrow high windows and is much more sparingly decorated with blue stripes and ornaments, and aluminium nails.
The villa is privately owned and not open to visitors.
Otto Wagner in Vienna. The most popular residential buildings designed by Wagner can be found close to each other at Linke Wienzeile, next to Naschmarkt.
For further travel tips, go to Art Nouveau walk.
Linke Wienzeile no 38
You recognise this Wagner building on its great golden ornaments decorating the white facade and the corner shaped as a quarter of a circle, a then ground-breaking solution. The golden ornamentswere done by Koloman Moser, another great Austrian Art Nouveau artist and painter. Make sure you zoom in on the fabulous female bronze sculptures on the roof. Today, Linke Wienzeile no 38 houses a branch of an Austrian bank. As one of Europe’s prime Art Nouveau jewels, the building also features on a 100 Euro gold coin.
Linke Wienzeile no 40
My favourite Art Nouveau building in Vienna is the Majolikahaus at no 40. It is unusually colourful and decorative while maintaining a simple shape. The name Majolikacomes from the Spanish tile tradition in Mallorca. The building is tiled all over with glazed red poppy tiles. The greatest advantage of these tiles for Otto Wagner were, however, that they were durable and easy to clean. The building houses a second hand bookshop on part of the ground floor, and residential apartments on the upper floors.
The residential building adjacent to no 38 is the simplest of the three buildings but emanates a certain elegance. The pure white facade with circle shaped and rectangular ornaments and green slim window frames is grooved at the ground floor and mezzanine. Otto Wagner himself lived in the building for a few years. The building’s entrance is around of the corner of Linke Wienzeile, at Köstlergasse.
6. Church Am Steinhof
Otto Wagner in Vienna. Have you ever been to an Art Nouveau church? The Wagner ‘Kirche Am Steinhof’, Europe’s first church of the modern era, is an absolute highlight for fans of Art Nouveau architecture. Walls from white Carrara marble, a dome from gold foil, bronze angel statues, and colourful glass mosaic windows created a revolution for clericals, the people and some Habsburg family members. Tellingly for conservative Habsburg Vienna, the church was built on the grounds of Vienna’s psychiatric clinic for the Mentally Retarded. What I love most about this church: its light elegance spreads so much warmth and optimism.
Location: Baumgartner Höhe 1, A-1140 Vienna
Visits: Saturdays 4 to 5pm; Sundays 12 to 4pm
Public Transport: metro U3 to Ottakring and then take bus 48A to ‘Otto Wagner Spital’; alternatively take metro U4 to Ober St. Veit and then continue with bus 47a to the same bus stop;
7. Danube Weir At Nussdorf
Otto Wagner in Vienna. Wagner’s Danube Weir at Nussdorf and the Schemerl Bridge(1894 to 1898) are key highlights of aboat trip on the Western Vienna Danube and Danube Canal. The weir with its two imposing bronze lions on either side looks like a city gate, which was the architect’s intention. The weir marks the point where the Danube Canal bifurcates from the Danube. The weir itself was thoroughly renovated in the 1960s and 1970s, but you can still feel the architect when viewing the Schemerl Bridge.