Thursday, April 3, 2014

Otto and Frank

I was supposed to be cleaning, so I escaped for a visit to the Postparkasse.  Architect Otto Wagner won the design competition to build this institution following the significant growth in the Austrian banking system.  In a nutshell, by the late 1800s Georg Coch developed a system of banking through Post Offices to appeal to small savers and a wide geographic network.  He then developed the concept of cashless transfers between accounts, or checking.  The main banking facilities were housed in and around Vienna's 1st District and the conditions were less than desirable for customers and workers, hence the competition to design and construct the new bank building.

Wagner's building opened in 1906.  Not everyone likes this design (then and now).  In the way back years of his association with the Secessionist movement, Wagner's work was considered avant garde and in stark contrast to the romanticism and historiches design preferred by many in the Empire.  With the construction of this building, Wagner's neoclassic and art nouveau design evolved into modernism.  How do I know this?  Well, for 6 euros you can tour the Otto Wagner museum in the back of the bank.

What is interesting to me is the similarity between Wagner and another of my favorite architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.  Perhaps there are scholarly works in existence about parallels between these two, I have yet to ask Dr. Google.  Wright visited Vienna during a trip to Europe in 1909-1910, after the Secessionist movement was already in decline and Wright was in a career transition.   Both Wagner and Wright were innovative in their designs and execution of architecture, right down to the creation of interior elements like furniture.

I decided to recreate two of the original photos on display.  This was a nerve wracking mission because I was essentially alone in the building, except for some security staff who appeared ready to yell at me for breaking some rule I couldn't possibly know I was breaking.

Otto Wagner also entered the competition for the design of the War Department building, located directly across the Ringstrasse from the Postparkasse.  The museum has the following display of his submission.

Unfortunately, he did not win the commission and this is what you see across from Wagner's modernist building.

This is the dichotomy of architecture in Vienna.  Sadly, many of Wagner's visionary projects for Vienna were never built.  My good fortune is the ability to find and photograph what exists today.  Can you tell I'm a fan?

Update:  I did find this scholarly work which asserts that Wright's European trip had more influence on his design evolution than Wright had on his European contemporaries.  Amazon link to the book is  here.

No comments:

Post a Comment