Vienna Art Nouveau, Otto Wagner and the City Trains

Vienna Art Nouveau, Otto Wagner and the City Trains

Vienna-Art-Nouveau-2The question of an efficient infrastructure is a topic that inevitably dominated Vienna during the late 19th century, at the moment when the city’s population underwent rapid expansion. The capital city of an Empire, Vienna had become a magnet for people from all over Europe looking for work. There was a high demand for labourers of every type since, just a few years earlier, Vienna’s venerable medieval city walls had been demolished in order to make way for the grand boulevard of the “Ringstrasse” and the construction of the impressive buildings that lined it. The need for a modern system of public transportation was therefore a logical consequence of the city’s demographic and topographic upheavals. Thus, in the latter part of the century, Vienna’s parliament engaged urban planners to draw up metro lines that were to connect the suburbs with the city centre along the Ring.

Vienna-Art-Nouveau-3The architect chosen for this massive and sensitive assignment was Otto Wagner, who was already famous for giving materials and functionality a leading role in his work by contrast with the tendency of many of his peers to privilege ornate decoration. From the beginning, Wagner’s aim was to create a metro design that would be iconographic, easy to recognize and which would fit equally into different regions of the city, and which would highlight Vienna’s cosmopolitanism. It is therefor  not surprising that he chose to work with the international avant­ garde style of “Art Nouveau” or “Jugendstil” as it is called in German. The outcome was a series of design elements for Vienna’s metro, including fences, doors, and stone carvings that could be combined and re­combined according to the different needs of each station and the surrounding area. We will visit two of the remaining stations to begin discussing the idiom of Viennese Art Nouveau and its ideological underpinnings.

Starting out at the beautiful pavilion at Karlsplatz, we lay a foundation for our discussion by visiting the small Wagner Museum. From here we walk to the Stadtpark station, the best preserved of the original metro stations still in use. Here we will start to delve into some of the design elements. One of the most remarkable features of this station is the adjoining artificial riverbed constructed for the little Vienna river, since the waterway needed to be rechanneled when the city train was built and one of the major issues was how to integrate the realigned river into the new city landscape.

Vienna-Art-Nouveau-4Our next metro stop visit will be Kettenbrücke station. On our way we visit and explore the famous Sezession art building, the icon par excellence of Viennese Jugendstil, as well as two beautiful apartment houses by Otto Wagner. Here we will flesh out the philosophy behind Jugendstil and consider the symbols and materials favored by its practitioners. From Kettenbrücke station we will step onto the metro for our last stop, a visit to the imperial station. This outstanding building was erected outside the Schönbrunn castle solely for the Emperor to use. The crown jewel of the line, this station had a symbolic meaning as well, namely to show critics of Vienna’s metro that the emperor supported the line. In this small but dynamic building, we will recognize all the elements that we encountered throughout the walk and at the other stations, while also noting the methods used by Wagner to translate the generally bourgeois style of Art Nouveau into an aesthetic with imperial grandiosity.

ProkschChristine Proksch holds a BA in Cultural Journalism and a MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Copenhagen. She finished with a Master about the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. In order to dig deeper into her favourite topic, Austrian Literature around 1900, she studied German and Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna and fell deeply in love with the city and the vast cultural landscape. Since 1998 she has lived permanently in the city.. Today she mainly works as a cultural journalist reporting to Danish Medias about the cultural life in Central Europe. She has also written the most sold Vienna guide and guide to Austria in Denmark.
SmithNicholas Smith is an American who moved his life to Vienna after marrying an Austrian. He is in the last year of completing his MA in Journalism from Columbia University in New York City while also freelancing writing articles on Vienna history, arts and culture for The Vienna Review (the largest and most distinguished English language newspaper in Austria).
OconnorStephen O’Connor earned his PhD in Military History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is passionate about recounting the many ferocious battles waged over Vienna from Roman times through the Ottomon Threat, Napoleon, the Hapsburgs, and of course, the global wars of the 20th century. In fact, he is as passionate as most Irishmen are deemed to be at recounting a good tale of any kind, but particularly those that have to do with the fascinating history, arts and culture of the Vienna he moved to and fell in love with along with the Austrian who he married there. He presently works as a teacher of English for Viennese professionals.
FelicitasKonecnyFelicitas Konecny Felicitas Konecny studied architecture in Graz, Naples and Vienna. As a student she organized conferences, co-founded a research group, wrote articles, held seminars and worked freelance at architectural firms. This wide-ranging experience led her to a position as the secretary of the Austrian Society for Architecture (1997-2003). Five times she was a co-curator of the biennial Architecture Days in Vienna, from 2005–2010 she edited a program on architecture for Vienna‘s Community-TV-Channel „Okto“. In 2012, she became a licensed Austrian tour guide. Her tours are mainly focused on the urban development of Vienna from the origins to the present day and architecture in its respective socioeconomic, political, cultural, and aesthetic context. What makes Viennese architecture special to her: the multifaceted interplay of buildings from all ages in this historic city and the prominent role of social/affordable housing as a motor for innovation and a challenge for the best architects. Although an enthusiastic native Viennese, she despises cliches and is happy about visitors with a critical eye.
JaleAkcilJale Akcil Born in Istanbul, Jale Akcil has been living for 33 years in Vienna and considers herself a great appreciator of her adopted city and its culture. In addition to obtaining her MA in History and Art History from of the University of Vienna, she attended more than 8 years of training at the conservatory as a pianist. Having worked in various roles in the field of tourism for 25 years, she decided to become a licensed guide in order to spend more of her time sharing her own passions for literature, architecture, art and travel.

 

Additional costs:
Otto Wagner Pavillon:

From April to October, when the museum is open, this tour incorporates a visit to the Otto Wagner Pavillon. Admission fees are as following:
EUR 5 for General admission
EUR 4 for Senior citizens, students, holders of Vienna Card and persons with disabilities
Starting Location:
Café Museum
Operngasse 7
A-1010 Vienna, Austria

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

Cancellation and Tipping


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