Monday, 23 May 2016

Vienna: More art nouveau

Wagner Pavilion, Karlsplatz

The last time we were in Vienna (October 2012) we did a "fin de siècle" walk starting from the Opera House. The intention this time was to cover as much as possible of the other art nouveau (or Jugendstil) buildings in the centre of the city. I built up a list from some research in the internet. I have of course included one or two other things that caught my eye during the walk.

We started at Karlsplatz, near our hotel, which we also covered last time. The pavilions are so stunning however that it was no hardship to see and photograph them in better weather conditions. The architect Otto Wagner was appointed design head for the new Stadtbahn, or metropolitan railway, now the metro, and the two pavilions which stand facing each other, were the entrances to the Karlsplatz station. This one is a museum to Wagner, while the facing one is a bar.

A closer view reveals the exquisite decoration including prominent sunflower motifs.

Now we Friedrichstrasse and Lothringerstrasse to reach the entrance to the Stadtpark. Here was another of Wagner's metro stations, currently being restored. The decoration is much less extravagant than at Karlsplatz. We had seen the attractive lettering on other old stations, especially outside the centre, while we were in Vienna.

You enter the park through either of a pair of portals, designed by Friedrich Ohmann and Joseph Hackhofe in 1903-7. They are on either side of the canalised Wien river, which is spanned by a bridge in the same style by the same architects.

The portal is more than a mere gateway as it houses shaded seating areas in the four corners. Here is a detail of the beautiful stone carving.

We strolled through the park noting various statues of composers and then as we skirted the lake we were startled by this terrapin, posing on a rock and showing off his delicate yellow and green colouring. Not very art nouveau, but you have to keep your eyes open for beauty wherever you find it.

Emerging from the far corner of the park onto the Parkring and then Stubenring, we turned left into Georg-Coch Platz to see Otto Wagner's extraordinary Osterreich Postsparkasse (Austrian Postal Savings Bank) building of 1904-06.

It is very surprising that Wagner designed this rather plain building, constructed in concrete and ornamented only by the statues on the cornice and by a metal studs, only a few years after his colourful, floral, art nouveau buildings. It has been hailed as one of the first modernist buildings. And this is supported by the simple, clean lines of the banking atrium.

We went round the back of Postsparkasse to reach Fleishmarkt where we were staggered by the exuberant brickwork and decoration of the Greek Orthodox cathedral, inaugurated in 1858.

A little further on was this extravagantly decorated building at number 14 Fleischmarkt. It dates from 1898-99 and the architects were Ferdinand Dehm and Franz Olbricht. I had to take this picture from an award angle to avoid the direct sun.

At the junction with Rotenturnstrasse, Fleischmarkt 1, is the Orestihof (1909-10) by Arthur Baron. This is notable for its geometric patterns.

Not far away, in Hoher Markt, is the famous Anker Clock (1911-14). This was created by the painter and sculptor Franz von Matsch and forms a bridge between the two parts of the Anker Insurance Company‘s building. In the course of 12 hours, twelve historical figures or pairs of figures move across the bridge. Every day at noon, all of the figures parade, each accompanied by music from its era. Curiously, all the figures are black or dark brown. By chance we arrived just bfore 12 noon and saw this wonderful pageant.

The reverse side is much plainer with seem now to be rather dubious carvings of naked children.

Feeling hungry we headed to the plaza by St Stephen's cathedral, a wonderful gothic structure dating from the 13th century, albeit with a baroque interior. It has been undergoing a lengthy restoration and the west end looks to have been recently completed.

We enjoyed an expensive but rather wonderful lunch in the Do and Co hotel restaurant (which had been recommended to us) and contined our walk along Graben, one of Vienna's main streets. At number 10, on the left, is a house designed by the uniquitous Otto Wagner. It is notably principally for the rooftop studio which Wagner designed for his own use.

Further along at number 13 is the Knize House (1909-13) by Adolf Loos, with fabulous mosaic figures. Loos became famous for his book Ornament and crime which argued that the demise of ornament was a sign of the advance of civilisation and for the modernist Loos Haus in Vienna, also known as the Goldman & Salatsch Building, which exemplified the lack of ornament.

Graben continues into Bognergasse where we found the wonderful Engel Apotheke building by Oskar Laske (1901-2).

Here is a more detailed view of the frieze over the first floor window - note the recurrence of the sunflower motif seen earlier in the Wagner Pavilion.

Further along we turned right into Tiefer Graben (the deep ditch, once a branch of the River Danube) to see the Hohe Bruche (High Bridge), where this street is crossed by Wipplingerstrasse. It was designed by Josef Hackhofer and built in 1903–04.

Passing under the bridge brought us to the end of our walk, the Orient Hotel, with its wonderful gold ornamentation. I can't find out anything about it architecturally, but it seems that it is famous for being a "love hotel.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: maybe 3 miles.

Rating: four and a half stars. Some old friends, some new gems and a few surprises.

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