Vienna – the capital of Art Nouveau
Not just for art connoisse
Viennese architects and artists created magnificent works that are still admired all over the world to this day.
“To every age its art, to art its freedom.” This is the inscription above the portal of the Secession, one of the most famous Viennese Art Nouveau buildings. The great painters, architects and designers of that time felt committed to this maxim, and they created magnificent works that are still admired around the world to this day. In hardly any other city is the beauty of Art Nouveau as well-preserved as in Vienna. It is the expression of a revolutionary spirit that dominated the city over 100 years ago, in the decade before the outbreak of the First World War, moving away from the monarchy’s historicism, which copied stylistic elements from the past, towards new objectivity. Everything new at that time was expected to fit in with the new modern society, and meet its requirements.
In the space of just a few years, renowned architects filled the city with an array of remarkable buildings: Art Nouveau churches, houses, offices and commercial buildings shone out across Vienna. Nearly all of them remain intact today and many have been restored. Vienna is one of the Art Nouveau capitals of Europe and it attracts tourists and art lovers in droves. Come with Högl on a sightseeing tour of the most beautiful Art Nouveau attractions in the heart of Vienna.
The Secession, one of the most famous buildings in Vienna, was completed in 1898. It is the nucleus of Viennese Art Nouveau, named after the ‘Vienna Secession’, a new artists’ association founded by Gustav Klimt, that had broken away from the conservative Künstlerhaus artists’ union. Joseph Maria Olbrich built the modern exhibition building on the street known as Wienzeile, next to the Naschmarkt market. Around 20 temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists are held here every year. Its dome of gilded leaves is the symbol of the Secession and is the only one of its kind in the world. In the basement, you can see Gustav Klimt’s ‘Beethoven Frieze’, a masterful interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, spanning a length of 34 metres.
Kirche am Steinhof
In the Vienna Secession’s exhibition rooms, you’ll be able to see modern contemporary art which does not shy away from experimentation.
Just outside the city centre, in the grounds of the Baumgartner Höhe Socio-Medical Centre, an architectural masterpiece dominates the skyline. The church of St. Leopold was built in 1907 by Otto Wagner, the pioneer of Viennese Art Nouveau architecture. From the facade to the interior design, right down to the light fittings and the pews, there is a perfect harmony between practicality and beauty. A special atmosphere exists inside the church, where large stained-glass windows are transformed into illuminated paintings by the incoming light. An 84 m2, 4-tonne mosaic picture has pride of place behind the altar.
Otto Wagner’s vision was to transform the Wienzeile between Karlsplatz and Schönbrunn into a magnificent boulevard. So, from 1898 to 1899, an ensemble of three houses was built – the so-called ‘Wienzeilehäuser’ (houses on the Wienzeile). They are utterly unique worldwide, and model examples of Viennese Art Nouveau architecture at the turn of the century. The facade of one of the three houses is covered in majolica tiles with intricate floral motifs. The imposing, colourful Majolica House combines beauty with practicality. The idea behind the ceramic facade is that the tiles simply need to be washed down, to keep them looking like new.
The house known as Majolikahaus at Linke Wienzeile 40 was built in 1898. The facade is clad with majolica tiles decorated with floral motifs, made by the Wienerberger company.
The ‘Stadtbahn’ was the original Viennese transport network. Opened in 1898, the trains were still steam-powered at that time, transporting people and goods across the city. The special thing about the Stadtbahn was that all the constructions for the railway were not only functional, they were also built in keeping with the art of the time. Otto Wagner designed all the walls, bridges, viaducts and tunnel entrances in the same style. From the flooring to the railings and gates, right through to the ticket offices - Otto Wagner’s artistic signature is recognisable in even the tiniest detail. Today the railway lines have been converted and are used by the U-Bahn (underground) trains. The old Stadtbahn pavilions have been restored to their original condition and now have a new function as U-Bahn stations. Only the Wagner Stadtbahn pavilions at Karlsplatz no longer fulfil their original role; they are now used by the Vienna Museum to house an exhibition about Wagner which is open during the summer season.
The Otto Wagner pavilion at Karlsplatz is a permanent exhibition documenting the life and work of the great Austrian architect.
In the 9th district, there is a steep drop in the terrain between two streets: the Strudlhofgasse and the lower Liechtensteinstrasse. In order to connect the two levels, a magnificent stairway was constructed out of Mannersdorf limestone. It is now one of the most important examples of Viennese Art Nouveau architecture. Two curved stairways lead upwards, meeting in the middle at a fountain with water pouring from a face’s mouth. Because of its impressive appearance, the stairway is frequently used for open-air events. For example, concerts are held there as part of ‘Vienna Choir Week’.
The Strudlhofstiege became world-famous through the novel of the same name by Heimito von Doderer, written in 1951.
What is equally fascinating about all the Art Nouveau works is their combination of beauty and practicality. The flawless design, the strict forms and the use of modern materials in the buildings and works of art are captivating. This combination of aesthetics and comfort also lies at the heart of Högl’s product development and is the root of its success. The current Högl collection is influenced by Viennese Art Nouveau, and won’t fail to impress with its feminine shapes, artistic decoration and exquisite materials.
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