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    Young Otto Wagner

     

    An undated photograph of the dapper young Otto Wagner. Probably in his early twenties in this photograph, he was at the beginning of a meteoric architectural career.
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    First Villa Wagner

     

    In a wooded suburb of Vienna called Hütteldorf, Wagner built his first home appropriately named Villa Wagner. Built in 1888 it is done in the style of Wagner's Ringstrasse buildings. That is, it was very historically derivative. It was badly damaged in World War II and it was scheduled to be demolished but was saved and eventually bought by the artist Ernst Fuchs who has turned it into his own museum (open to the public) while living in tax exile in Switzerland.
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    Karlsplatz Station

     

    By the early 1900's Wagner had come to the conclusion that the historicism of the Ringstrasse was a travesty. He joined many others in decrying the vulgar excesses of the architecture and called for a new order. Around this time Wagner won a very important double commission from the city and both were tied to transportation. One was for a lock complex and the other was for the design of the new Vienna Rail System which would include new stations throughout the city. Karlsplatz Station was one of these stations and it is only one of a handful that still exist.
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    Karlsplatz Station Detail

     

    There is in Wagner's work of this period a kind of Jekll and Hyde approach . The ornamentation of Karlsplatz station is without a doubt a product of Jugenstijl (Art Nouveau) sensibilities and yet, stucturally, there is also the building's classical proportions and the use of new building techniques and materials. He would hit his full modernist stride a few years later with the Postal Savings Bank.
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    Karlsplatz Station Night

     

    In the construction of the stations Wagner used a relatively new technique of steel skeleton and stone skin, in this case marble. Joseph Olbrich who worked for Wagner at the time probably designed much of the ornament. In 1981 after Vienna had begun replacing the stadtbahn (above ground city trains) with U-bahn (subways) Karlsplatz station was scheduled to be demolished. Public outcry saved the historic station and today, on ground several feet higher, it is a cafe and major tourist attraction.
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    Apartment Building At 38/40 Wienzeile

     

    In 1899, the year of completion for the Karlsplatz station, Wagner shocked Vienna by leaving the Kunstlerhaus (the organization that had recommended him for the city commissions) and joining the Secession. The two apartment buildings on Linke Wienzeile (numbers 38 and 40) were built at this time. There were many opinions about these buildings upon their completion and most were not very favorable.
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    Detail of Number 38

     

    The ornamentation on 38 has a very Secessionist feel to it and was likely Olbrich's doing.
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    Detail of Number 40.

     

    Called the Majolica house after the decorative ceramic glaze technique. The whole facade of this building is covered with colorfully painted ceramic tiles that depict typical Art Nouveau themes such as plant life in a highly stylized manner. A vertical line of balconies provides a line of demarcation between numbers 38 and 40.
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    Steinhof Church 1904-1907

     

    Early in the 1900's Wagner won two important commissions. The first was in 1902 for a Catholic church to be built on the grounds of a psychiatric sanitorium situated on a hillside outside of Vienna. Wagner used brick for the main structure and clad it in Carrera marble with fasteners that serve as decorative elements. During my stay in Vienna the church was undergoing major restoration and much of the exterior was surrounded by scaffolding. It opened again for full public viewing in October of 2006.
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    Steinhof Church Interior

     

    The Church interior is quite spectacular and it truly embodies the spirit of the Secession. It is a true gesamptkunstwerk (total work of art) and Wagner contolled every aspect of the Church's decor. The soaring white vaulted interior suggests a purity and the brightness of the Holy Spirit. With the gold accents on the vault and the ornate gold altar it is almost neo-baroque - but not quite. The Steinhof Church was evidence that the style of the past could be re- invented without resorting to pure historicism.
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    Kolomann Moser's Windows

     

    Wagner collaborated with other Secession artists including Kolomann Moser, Remigius Geyling and Othmar Schimkowitz. Moser designed these beautiful leaded glass windows for the east and west walls of the church.
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    The Postal Savings Bank 1904-1906

     

    Arguably Wagner's most modern building. He built more buildings in his modern style after the Postal Savings Bank but never again any that were so monumental. Using his tried and true steel skeleton and stone cladding construction, it takes on new meaning here with an overlayering affect mimicing medieval armor. The recessed bolts are capped in aluminum which in 1904 was still a very exotic metal. This modern lightweight silver colored metal would be used to great effect in the interior structure and in the furnishings.
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    Postal Savings Bank Interior

     

    Just as in Steinhof Church, Wagner uses a vaulted ceiling-and again a white one. This time, however, the whiteness is acheived through the use of translucent glazing and the whole of the bank interior is awashed in a soft natural glow. It is a stunning acheivement. Wagner was aware of Charles Rennie Macintosh's work on the Glasgow School Of Art and he was probably inspired to do such a large skylit ceiling by Mackintosh's own skylight in the GSA Museum, but sans timberframing. The bank was built in two phases with the from 1904 to 1906 and the second from 1910 to 1912.
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    Postal Savings Bank Heater

     

    The cylindrical heating venilators seem to have been transported from another world, for indeed there had been nothing like them in this world up to now. Keeping the interior warm was a necessity given the Vienna winters and the all glass roof. The venilators were spaced along the banks walls. The interior rooms and teller cages were non load bearing and could be re-positioned if necessary. Today the venilators perform the opposite task for which they were designed. With a modern mechanical system they have been incorporated as air extractors.
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    Villa Wagner II

     

    Twenty six years after building Villa Wagner on Hüttelbergstrassse Wagner decided to build a second version more consistent with his status of the Viennese purveyor of modernism. He chose a lot just two blocks up the street from his first Villa. The second dwelling was, again, appropriately named Villa Wagner II. It was a reinforced concrete stucture painted white with blue ceramic tile ornament. The narrow vertically oriented windows reiterated the severe geometry of the structure.
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    Villa Wagner II Entrance Detail

     

    The most decorative element of the house was the main entrance. The doors used the same exposed bolt theme as Steinhof Church and the Postal Savings Bank. Glazed Blue tile and a leaded glass transom window finished the door and surround. Above the door lintel is a depection of Perseus with The head of Medusa designed by Kolomann Moser and done in mosaic tile by Leopold Forstner.