In 1886 a relatively unknown forty two year old architect named Otto Wagner built himself a pretentious derivative Italianate villa in Hutteldorf, a suburb of Vienna. After over fifteen years of a practice that included at least one state commission and numerous buildings on and around the Ringstrasse the supremely confident Wagner had still not left his enduring mark on the city of Vienna. However, in the early 1890's this was about to change. Wagner won a hugely important double commission from the city. One was for a lock complex that would help control the flood-prone Danube. The other was for the design and construction of the Vienna City railway system that would include new stations at various locations. Also in 1894 he was appointed Professor of Architecture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. It was from this position of power that Wagner's influence began to be felt throughout Vienna. Mentoring Joseph Olbrich and Joseph Hoffmann, among others, and publishing his first theoretical work, Moderne Archtektur, Wagner's impact on modern Vienna would be profound. Acutely aware of a need to move beyond the historicism that dominated Viennese art and architecture Wagner supported the 1897 intellectual revolt against the art establishment led by his student, Joseph Hoffmann and assistant Joseph Olbrich, and painters Gustav Klimpt and Kolomann Moser. In 1899 Wagner would scandalize Vienna by joining this radical group that called themselves the Vienna Secession.
Wagner was always working on several projects at once. Between 1904 and 1906 his two major projects were the Postal Savings Bank and Steinhof Church which was to be sited on a steep hill in the middle of a new psychiatric hospital in a Vienna suburb. The Postal Savings Bank exemplified Wagner's approach to the architecture of the new urbanism. The building's elegant facade with windows almost flush to the walls and use of new materials such as aluminum provided a strong statement that a new architecture was indeed replacing the ostentatious historicism of the Ringstrasse. The interior of the bank was no less profound with the main hall receiving much of its illumination from an arched skylight of glass and steel.This concept was borrowed from Charles Rennie Macintosh who had used smaller versions in several of his buildings including the Glasgow School of Art. It was first used in Vienna by Wagner's former student, Joseph Olbrich, in the 1899 House of Secession. Wagner's bank interior also featured sculptural streamlined venilators that have become icons of modern design. In Steinhof Church Wagner realized for the first time gesamptkunstwork or "total work of art". Several artists from the Secession assisted Wagner, including Kolomann Moser who designed the large exquisite leaded glass windows . Twenty five years after building his historically deriviative villa at Hutteldorf, Wagner built himself a second more modest and certainly far less derivative dwelling on a vacant lot just down the steet from his old villa. He worked somewhat collaboratively with Kolomann Moser who is responsible for much of the decorative elements. Among influences was Frank Lloyd Wright whose work had recently been published in Europe. Wagner lived in the new villa for six years. He died in 1918. Today visitors can pay to visit the original villa which is owned by the Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs but the second is privately owned and can only be viewed from the street.