On our travels there is always one place that intrigues me, that I don’t expect. It’s usually off the beaten path and something I stumble upon. It’s what makes traveling such an adventure. On one of our days in Vienna, we decided to take the Red Bus City Tour to another part of the city that we had not ventured to. Mainly, I wanted to rest my feet. I didn’t realize, until later, that there were different tours available, so it was just fate that this bus was there and we climbed aboard, not really knowing where it would be taking us. These are NOT HOP ON – HOP OFF buses. Imagine our surprise as we are moving right along, looking this way and that, when about 20 minutes into the tour, the bus stops and we are told to get off to see something. We are told we will be here for 1/2 hour and the bus will be back. I am not even sure what we were supposed to be looking at, I didn’t get that part, I was too focused on getting off the bus. We follow the crowd into a small lane filled with shops and cafes. The bus leaves. We walk a long block and come to a square where everyone is looking up and taking pictures of the building. What in the world? There are big trees growing sideways out of an erratic, mosaic-tiled, colorfully and spritely painted, apartment building with flower covered windows of various sizes. No two windows are alike.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, (affectionatly called 100 H2O) was a painter/environmentalist vehemently against concrete block buildings and lifeless streets. He became focused on architecture in the early 1950’s, writing a “Mouldiness Manifesto” and submitted models to a TV show to demonstrate his ideas of forested roofs, “tree tenants” and the “window right” of every tenant to embellish his own window. He also revealed a “high-rise” meadow house. He wanted housing in harmony with nature and man and appealed to the city of Vienna in 1977 to build a housing project based on his ideas. The search for a suitable building took several years and because Hundertwasser was not an architect he asked the city for a professional architect to develop his artistic concepts. Hundertwasser designed a forested tree house and the architect, Joseph Krawina, was found to transpose his architectural drawings into concepts. Krawina soon believed there was no way this was going to work. Krawina was replaced by Peter Pelikan. Eventually the house was built between 1983 and 1985 in the old Thonet Furniture Factory. Michael Thonet created the #14 chair, the famous bistro chair, in 1859, in response to a request for a cafe-style chair.
The seat was made of woven cane or palm, allowing the holes to drain spilt liquid from the chair! This chair, now called #214, is still produced today by the Thonet Company. Who knew?
Anyway, back to Hundertwasser’s design, the house was created with wavy floors and lack of straight lines. Bright glaring colors were used. In some areas the painting is shredded, revealing the original facade and foliage is present everywhere. In addition, uneven enameled checkerboard mosaic stones were used on the facade, all carefully arranged on the non-load bearing parts, creating an overall picture that concealed the boundaries between the floors. Floors and sidewalks were irregular “to stimulate the brain.” A winter garden and fountain were created in a nearby outdoor space through a tunnel-roof portico with the same enameled checkerboards and carpeted with wavy bricks and stones. The complex of 50 apartments, subsidized by the government to provide affordable housing, was built to bring a breath of fresh air to a city of boring, grey, blocky apartment complexes. Eventually all the original residents moved out citing “wobbly furniture and sprained ankles” and “no practical comfort,” but it was a hit with the general public and soon attracted visitors to this quiet neighborhood area. Now the building with no government aid, hosts 52 private apartments, 4 offices, 16 private terraces and three communal terraces, with a total of 250 trees and bushes. It’s one of the most visited spots and has become part of Austria’s cultural heritage in Vienna and was just soooooooo cool! Now back to the bus! Enjoy!
PS, I later found this advertisement for the KunstHaus. Must be the way to clean the floors! The Red Bus City Tour we were on was Tour #1 , Vienna Short and Juicy! Love it!