What are “window rights?” The visionary artist/architect/activist Friedensreich Hundertwasser believed that life in big cities destroyed human individuality, unless the buildings themselves allowed each person to create a unique exterior. For the apartment building he designed in Vienna, the Hundertwasserhaus, he decreed this revolutionary idea:
“A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach.” He also believed that children should be allowed to paint and color walls as far up as they could reach.
I’m sure the people who live in the Hundertwasserhaus are used to tourists staring up at the facade of their home. Still, I tried to be discreet when I was there. I couldn’t help taking a picture of one person’s way of decorating a balcony, though: with a plaster replica of Antonio Canova’s “Venus Victorious.” The original, a breathtakingly lifelike and lifesize creation in marble, reclines in regal splendor in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. The model was Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Pauline; her husband was the Borghese prince who commissioned the piece. Pauline was quite a free spirit in her day. When asked if it bothered her to pose nude for the sculptor, she replied that it was no problem because the room was heated.
This reproduction, perched on the railing of a slightly scruffy apartment balcony, tells me that an interesting person lives inside. The free-thinking spirit of Friedensreich Hundertwasser lives on in the building he designed, too.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!