Saturday, 20 May 2017


I was really curious to see this building, as it looked like a total departure from all of the other homogeneous, eye-pleasing, neoclassical architecture in Vienna. It is the Hundertwasserhaus - a creation of Austrian painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). 

Hundertwasser was thought to be a natural heir to Gustav Klimt artistically, with the heavy use of pattern and decoration in his paintings (above). In the 1950s though, as well as painting, Hundertwasser  became involved in humanitarian political and environmental activism, and applied himself to the field of architecture.

As an architect Hundertwasser was opposed to the earlier modernist work of fellow Austrian architect Adolf Loos, who advocated against decorative elements in architecture. Hundertwasser thought straight lines godless and immoral, and that anything drawn with a ruler was done without feeling. Hundertwasser also expressed the idea that austere buildings and environments were the cause of human unhappiness. There certainly appears to be some truth in this opinion with the recent rethink and demolition of many older council estates. 

The Hundertwasserhaus was built during 1983-85 with the aid of architects Josef Krawina and Peter Pelikan, and within there are a range of apartments, offices, and private and communal terraces. The design of Hundertwasserhaus employs organic principles such as the use of uneven floors which Hundertwasser called "a melody to the feet", onion domes, a roof covered in grass, and trees growing inside the rooms.

The Hundertwasserhaus is certainly an interesting building. Refreshing as it is to see a radically different architectural style in Vienna, I personally do not think it has aged well. To my eyes it looks dated. It seems to be a mish-mash of styles randomly thrown together, and decorated with bright, (now badly faded) paint, and a few mosaic tiles half-heartedly slapped on. I think Gaudi's visions of organic architecture in Barcelona are much more fully realised and cohesive, given that he had full control of his projects. Money may also be a factor. Gaudi's patrons had pockets deep enough for him to fully indulge his fantastic visions without him having to compromise on design or materials financially. For this project Hundertwasser was largely reliant on the skills and talents of the other two fully fledged architects.

In a city of row upon row of neoclassical architectural pastiche you can understand Hundertwasser's desire to rebel, and create something new and unique as the Secssionists before him did, but I don't think Hundertwasserhaus is the solution. Above is a picture of the building with it's neighbour, which is more uniform and typical of neo-classical Viennese architectural styles found in the Innere Stadt. I don't understand how, or why the British phone box fits in (two picture above), but it certainly adds to the random mix.

Across the way from Hundertwasserhaus is the Kalke Village of cafes and shops, designed on the principles and handiwork of Hundertwasser. As an environment I found it quite contrived and like a theme park. I really did not like the atmosphere in the Kalke Village which seemed to be aimed specifically at getting tourists and visitors to part with their money, so I exited pretty swiftly. 

As the apartments and offices in Hundertwasserhaus are private, the public does not have access. I would be interested though, out of curiosity to see the interiors with undulating floors, and wonder how practical those inhabitants with trees growing in their apartments with limbs supposedly extending out of the windows find this experience.

There was another Hundertwasser architectural project nearby, but after seeing Hundertwasserhaus I didn't feel particularly inspired enough to seek it out.

& Kalke Village
03 corner of Löwengasse & Kegelgasse
Landstrasse District