Last time I was in Vienna, I finally took the time to have a look at the Hundertwasserhaus. It’s a short tram ride from the center, in a residential neighborhood of big apartment blocks. Anyone who has ever taken Art History 101 has studied this innovative apartment building, constructed between 1983 and 1985 according to the ideas of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He was a one-of-a-kind artist, architect, environmentalist, philosopher, social activist and general pain in the neck to “the powers that be” during his lifetime. For instance, he sometimes appeared completely naked when asked to give a lecture. He was far ahead of his time, though.
The apartment building itself is hard to really look at; it’s crowded into an urban block, and since its residences are private, tourists can’t enter for a look around. More interesting is the nearby museum devoted to Hundertwasser and his art, the Kunsthauswien.
I especially liked the Tree Tenants: a number of balconies are occupied by trees, creating a vertical green landscape right in the middle of a sterile urban block. Hundertwasser wrote extensively about trees as legitimate residents of city buildings. He commented, “Cars have chased the trees up into the storeys of houses…We suffer daily from the aggressivity and the tyranny of our vertical sterile high walls. But streets in the cities will become green valleys where man can breathe freely again.”
There’s a funky cafe and terrace in the back of the museum, a perfect place to contemplate the life and times of a thinker and man of action. Colored bottles installed in a window, where other people might think of using stained glass? It makes perfect sense, in this enchanting museum off the beaten path in Vienna.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!