How an architect's style may develop in the course of
an era as exciting as the Belle Epoque, one can observe very good by following the work of
Otto Wagner (1841-1918), especially
by comparing the two neighbouring villas on the Hüttelbergstraße in the XIVth
district (Penzing). Wagner, having started his architectural studies in 1857, was (and still is)
the most famous Viennese architect of his time; he built the first villa in 1886 and the second
one in 1912/13.
Villa Wagner I (1886)
Wagner built this villa in a historic
style on the edge of the Hütteldorf forest to live there himself; here, symmetry is dominant.
The only concession to the new trends in architecture is the using of iron for the banisters of the
magnificent stairs. The square building in the centre is flanked by two pergolas and dominated by
a loggia built of four enormous columns.
Villa Wagner II (1912/13)
In 1905 already, for his architecture
lessons, Otto Wagner designed a first draft of this villa which he later built slightly changed;
he wanted his wife Louise, 18 years younger than him, to live there after his death, but she died
in 1915, three years before him, in the villa, so Wagner sold the house.
Between the first villa and this here lies a quarter of a century of experience and developement.
You notice at once the development from neo-renaissance to modern architecture, from historicism
to autonomous decoration (Ottokar Uhl), made possible only by the changing of the construction
technique. The cube shaped building, with its small, high and rectangular openings, makes us guess
the construction of reinforced concrete. The roof ledge, still alluding to the renaissance, is
drawn down like the brim without the hat (Friedrich Achleitner). The decoration is confined
to thin stripes of blue glass and aluminium nails on the edges underlining the main floor. The
window above the entrance showing Perseus with the head of Medusa was designed by
Kolo Moser and created by the Wiener
Mosaikwerkstätte (Vienna Mosaics) of
"Nothing of the Post Office Savings Bank reminds us of the 'free Renaissance'. No reminiscences of
historical styles, no palazzo architecture, no monumentality from the treasury of tradition,
but everything is functional. The question of material comes to the fore. Iron concrete, glass,
marble, aluminium, hard rubber and so on, these are the elements the building consists of.
Nothing but new words! No architect would have thought about it at the time when the
Länderbank1) was built. Otto Wagner discovered it. Even if he did not invent
these materials, he gave them, however, their actual meaning; he discovered their use for the
architecture." (Joseph August Lux, Otto Wagner, Munich 1914)