Friedensreich Hundertwasser (artist); Joseph Krawina (co-creator); Peter Pelikan (implementing architect)
Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter who employed vibrant colors in his works. It is no surprise, then, that when he became interested in architecture in the 1950s his building designs prominently featured color. Hundertwasser developed a philosophy of architecture which rejected functionalism (i.e. practicality) in favor of whimsy. He thought the straight line “godless” and thus his design for the Hundertwasserhaus used undulating lines on the exterior, and originally uneven floors on the interior before this idea was scrapped for practical reasons. Hundertwasser also aimed in his designs for greater harmony between man and nature; for this reason, there is extensive landscaping – 250 trees and bushes across 19 communal and private terraces – throughout Hundertwasserhaus.
After collaborating with Joseph Krawina and Peter Pelikan for its implementation, Hundertwasser took no money for his design, stating that he was merely glad he had prevented something ugly from going up on the street instead. (Of course, there was a chorus of critics who derided Hundertwasserhaus as kitschy, and itself the ugly building.) The building is currently an apartment block, with 53 apartments and 4 offices. Every apartment owner is entitled to decorate the exterior around their windows as they wish, in a nod to Hundertwasser’s views on this subject:
“Windows in rank and file are sad, windows should be able to dance… A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardized man who lives next door.”
After walking the streets of Vienna, all baroque opulence, it is a singular delight to duck onto an unassuming residential side street and come upon the Hundertwasserhaus, a melting crayon box dream of a building. Looking at this creation, I construct an image of Hundertwasser as a man with a permanent twinkle in his eye, someone who appreciates irreverence and injects playfulness into his art. I don’t know if any of this is true, but when you see a building that appears to dance before you, you have to imagine it is the case.
Photo : Vienna, Austria / June 2016
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