Friday, 11 May 2018

Vienna: Wagner House 1 / Ernst Fuchs Museum

We journeyed out to Hutlsdorf at the end U-Bahn line 4 and walked the mile or so to Wagner House 1 or the Fuchs Museum. You can see straightaway that it has something of a Palladian quality: a main building with two symmetrical wings, all topped with urns. Apparently Palladio was Wagner's favourite architect.

The building has quite an interesting history. It was built in 1886-88 by the architect Otto Wagner for his own occupation. By 1905 he was making plans for a new smaller house a little further along the road. It seems he saw this as being more suitable for his wife after he died (and apparently there is a German term for this type of building: “Witwensitz” or “Seat of the widow”). The house was bought by a businessman of Jewish descent named Ben Tiber and he vacated it in the 1930s when he left the country. During the Second World War the house was used by the Nazis and after the war it was left empty until 1972 when it was bought by Ernst Fuchs.

Fuchs was an artist and set about renovating the building in line with his own rather florid and exuberant taste. His then filled it with his own art works. However, he deserves great credit for saving the building from terminal decline. Happily, one wing was not altered and retains the original decorative scheme of Otto Wagner and stained glass by Koloman Moser. 

Now for the tour. The entrance is round the back and you are invited to explore upstairs first. You climb the stairs lined with a wallpaper which seems at first to be quite William Morris in style, but a closer look shows a somewhat sexual element which you gradually see pervades his work along with fantasy themes.

The large room upstairs has one original feature, a lovely ceramic panel by Koloman Moser.

There is also some nice furniture by Fuchs.

 And even a painting in the style somewhere between Burne-Jones and Munch.

Back downstairs you enter the main living room which again has quite pleasing art deco style furniture, but over-wrought paintings. The right wing gives a feeling for Fuchs's larger paintings, although again the chairs are attractive in an art deco style.

The left wing however is the great delight for any fan of art nouveau or Jugendstil architecture. This is the view through the doorway.

The upper walls and ceiling are covered with exquisite geometric patterns in gold. These are of the kind that Wagner made famous on the railway pavilions now located at Karlsplatz.

The corners of the floor have lovely mosaics with a snake pattern

The stained glass is in the Tiffany style and is full of vibrant colour.

Outside there is a suitably over-the-top structure, called the Brunnenhaus, by Fuchs.

Rating: four and half stars. A very interesting experience, but I would have preferred more Wagner and less Fuchs.

Further information: there is an excellent piece about this Villa and the nearby Wagner Villa 2 (which we unaccountably failed to visit) on Wiki Arquitectura.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Graz: Schlossberg


We started our second walk of the day at the pretty Schlossbergplatz. At the far end of the platz is the staircase carved by First World War prisoners. We decided to resist the temptation of climbing the stairs and instead walked along the road parallel to the river and took the funicular to almost the top of Schlossberg. This helpfully means you can have a more or less linear walk from the top of Schlossberg down to the city centre.

You emerge by the imposing Bell Tower of 1588.

 Continuing uphill you pass the Casemate Stage. A casemate was a storeroom which was also used as a cell for prisoners.

Soon you reach the flattish area at the top – 467m. There are pleasant views over the newer parts of the city towards the surrounding wooded hills. We wondered if a ridge walk was possible.

There is a wonderfully vivid statue of a lion which commemorates Major Hackher who successfully led the last military defence of the fortress from attack by Napoleon's army in 1809. No likeness of him was available, so the lion stood in.

Just behind the statue is a nice art nouveau balustrade.

It was remarkably quiet and calm on the top, but much to my dismay although there were trees and flowers, there were no butterflies – and this continued throughout our exploration of the Schlossberg. Why I wonder?

We headed downhill to explore the terrace in front of the Stable Bastion. Its massive walls are 6m thick and 20m high. On the right of the entrance was this splendid art deco mural. I haven't as yet discovered its significance.

At the base of the bastion there was a fine entrance portico.

And lower down there was a sweet Chinese Pavilion built around 1900. From there there was a good view of the Kunsthaus revealing the curious nodules on its roof.

Now we followed the path downhill to approach the famous Clock Tower. It is a handsome and worthy emblem of the city and dates from 1712.

Now we followed a winding path downhill towards the city centre, passing an entrance to one of the numerous tunnels which were dug during the war as air raid shelters. We emerged onto Karmeliteplatz and enjoyed the renovated Carmelite convent with its beautifully painted facade.

Conditions: a beautiful sunny day.

Distance: maybe 3 miles.

Rating: 5 stars. Such as lovely place to explore or do nothing much.

Graz: both sides of the River Mur

Generalihof Clock Tower

For our morning walk we completed our exploration of the old town centre on both sides of the River Mur, starting at the Generalihof and pausing there to admire the green stone clock tower. We walked along Landhausgasse and admired the detailing of the entrance to the Landes-Amtshaus.

We then headed off to the right into the so-called Veal District. The main sight is the Franciscan Monastery, founded in 1239 by the Minorite order. The tower was added in the 17th century.

The side entrance is quite anonymous but a helpful passer-by showed us the way in. Inside there is a sprawling complex with a wonderful cloister.

The church has no transept and the cloister is therefore not in the usual position of the angle between the nave and the south transept. It also has irregular sides. The church has a dramatic ridged vault …

… and surprisingly bright modern stained glass.

It is a few steps from the monastery to the bridge over the Mur.

The colourful sides of the bridge are covered with lovers' padlocks. We first saw these in Amsterdam, but now no self-respecting bridge of the appropriate design seems to be without its share. In the background is the Graz Kunsthaus (Art gallery) of which more in a moment.

Looking up river, you see the Murinsel, an artificial island designed by the New York artist Vito Acconci .We thought it a wild and wonderful idea.

On the far back there is a closer view of the Kunsthaus which was designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier and built in 2003. Close up it seems to be a giant balloon with a sort of gallery on top.

To one side, and now the Kunsthaus café is a rather lovely cast-iron building which was presumably once a market.

We turned round the back of the Kunsthaus and my eye was caught by this fine house with vaguely art nouveau details picked out in pink.

We walked long to Mariahilferplatz with its large 17th century Baroque church. 

There is a first view of the Schlossberg, with the castle on the left and the Clock Tower on the right.

We crossed the river via the Murinsel, which turned out to have a café and a sort of open air theatre in the centre. As we reached the other side we were struck by how full and fast-flowing the River Mur was.

Conditions: warm and sunny.

Distance: about a mile and a half.

Rating: four stars. Interesting and enjoyable, but doesn't really stand alone.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Graz: City centre

The Glockenspiel

We are briefly in Graz, Austria's second city and a World Heritage Site, on our way to a family event in Vienna. We have arrived here in the early evening and there is just time a for a walk around the centre. We are following a route from the Tourist Office guidebook, but starting at our hotel,

Walking up Burgergrasse the first thing we noticed was the imposing Mausoleum of Friedrick II, the work of the Italian Giovanni Pietro de Pomis.

We walked round the back of the Dom (Cathedral) to reach the Burg, now the seat of the Regional Parliament, but once an imperial palace. Across the courtyard was an attractive medieval looking tower …

… and inside was a simply astonishing double spiral staircase built in 1499-1500. I am not sure that my picture does it justice.

Coming back out into the courtyard we noticed an alcove with rather lovely wall paintings dating from the late Middle Ages. We now pass the rather plain main facade of the Dom, the Cathedral. It was built 1438-64 by Emperor Friedrick II.

Then we headed down Hofgasse to discover this wonderful shop front (a bakery).

 We turned right into Sporgasse where I was struck by the unfamiliar nature of the street scape.

The Palace Saurau, which dates from 1566, was fairly mundane outside but had this rather wonderful gargoyle of a vengeful Turk just below the eaves.

Doubling back to continue along Sporgasse there is a quite beautiful courtyard once the Hof Des Deutschen Ritterordens (House of the Teutonic Knights). 

Sporgasse leads into the Hauptplatz or main square. At the end is the late 19th century Town Hall. We thought it would look better in polychrome brick like our great Victorian town halls in England.

While on the left is rather lovely art nouveau style house

Just as you are leaving the square there is the well-named Painted House with frescoes by Johann Mayer in 1742.

Continuing along Herrengasse you see on the right the imposing Generalihof.

Behind it is the Landhaus (Regional Parliament) Courtyard with a beautiful Renaissance two storey corridor by Domenico dell'Allio.

Next door (the white building) is the Armoury, now a museum.

A left into S and a left into x brought us to Farbergstrasse wit the wonderful Glockenspiel

The building next door had some nice mosaics.

Distance: about a mile and a half.

Rating: five stars. Full of interest and unlike anywhere we have ever been.