Architecture and the Spirit of Reform: The School of Architecture at the Angewandte
The Angewandte is the colloquial name for the present-day University of Applied Arts Vienna and refers here also to the historical predecessors of that institution. Since its founding in 1867, the Angewandte has contributed crucial innovations to modern architectural training and practice. To this day, the school is considered one of Europe’s most innovative institutions in research and teaching, with superbly qualified teachers and students from all corners of the globe. Many central figures in the global discourse have taught or currently teach here, among them, Josef Frank, Zaha Hadid, Zvi Hecker, Josef Hoffmann, Hans Hollein, Wilhelm Holzbauer, Greg Lynn, Wolf D. Prix, Hani Rashid, Kazuyo Sejima, Johannes Spalt, Oskar Strnad and Heinrich Tessenow. Moreover, the Angewandte has always shaped regional building and design practices in decisive ways, led by luminaries such as Franz Schuster, Max Fellerer, Oswald Haerdtl, Otto Niedermoser and Otto Prutscher. Fritz Janeba also taught here, making him one of the few artists brought back out of exile after the Second World War.
As one of the first truly modern art schools, the Angewandte had a profound impact on many other reform-minded art schools such as the Bauhaus in Germany or the Vkhutemas in Russia. And as Austria’s first school of architecture, it was already training female architects prior to 1900 in the form of female students in specialized classes devoted to interior design. The alumni have stimulated and continue to stimulate events in architecture up to the present day at various places across the globe. With its credo of creatively reflecting new planning technologies in the context of global developments, the school is more capable than ever of substantially contributing to positive change.
How did this long history of innovation begin? What founding ideas is it based upon? The need for specialized training for designers arose with industrialization in the 19th century, as demand reached a fever pitch for new forms of expression and lifestyles to satisfy the newly emerged social classes and the construction boom in the early modern metropolises. The School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule, the original name of the Angewandte) was set up to serve as a model institution for the many specialist trade schools throughout the Hapsburg Monarchy and to play a major part in the economically and politically motivated quality campaign for (the) Austrian (art) industry. A paradoxical problem had to be dealt with in the process: Despite the innovative task, a kind of aesthetic continuity with the past was also expected, and the target groups, the strata of society moving their way up the social ladder, were oriented toward the traditional lifestyles of the leading aristocratic classes. Architects, artisans and manufacturers were therefore not yet able to provide a truly “industrial” (life) style that would have clearly reflected the production conditions of the times.
As a result, the founders of this new industrial age (Gründer) first had to live through historicism as a necessary prerequisite to modernism and lent this period its name: Gründerzeit. The Museum of Art and Industry in Vienna (today’s MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna) was established in 1863 as the first state-run arts and crafts museum on the European continent, and the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts was founded within it shortly thereafter in 1867. Intent on establishing norms, the museum conducted systematic studies of historical styles based on old originals. It then documented them meticulously and made them available to all interior designers in printed volumes of easily reproducible designs. Drawing on this treasure trove of forms, the students had tools for their own designs for artisanal and industrial production. In Vienna alone, demand was already great due to the building boom along the Ringstrasse and the explosive growth of the suburbs; demand was also high in all other growing cities of the Hapsburg Monarchy. This academic standardization of historical styles for everyday objects assured the quality of the rapidly expanding industrial output and the international competitiveness of Austrian industry. The needs of industry determined the curricula and the choice of the first teachers for the Fachschulen für Architektur (referred to below as “schools of architecture”), who were not trained or practicing architects.
The Historicist Schools of Architecture 1867 – 1898
In their studios, Ringstrasse architects Eduard van der Nüll, Karl Hasenauer and others employed specialized ornament drafters for the furnishing and decoration of buildings. These specialists were now to be tasked with training the new commercial and industrial artists. On July 7, 1868, Josef Storck, an ornamental art teacher at the Polytechnic (today’s Vienna Technical University, TU Wien) was named the first director of the School of Arts and Crafts and the head of one of the three schools of architecture there. Storck was the prototypical historicist designer. As was observed at the time, he “picked out [from history] the things that are viable and that can be adapted to modern needs.” His profile ideally met the requirements for training the new generation of interior decorators and designers, and he would go on to put his stamp on the School of Arts and Crafts as a teacher and director until the turning point brought on by the Vienna Secession. Trained as an engraver, painter and ornamental artist at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, the talented Storck had found favor with Ringstrasse architect Eduard van der Nüll, who took him into his master class and into his studio, where Storck helped with the interior design of the court opera. Storck published influential volumes of designs such as Blätter für Kunstgewerbe (drawings for arts and crafts) and Einfache Möbel (simple furniture). He remained strictly confined to product design and left the architectural debate to his colleague, as Ludwig Hevesi, the later chronicler of the Secession, recounted: “Everyone involved knew that he was not fond of ‘butting into architectural matters’ but rather had Herdtle advise him in this regard.”
Hermann Herdtle, head of the second school of architecture at the Angewandte, hailed from a Stuttgart dynasty of painters. He had come to Vienna with his teacher, Wilhelm Bäumer, who went on to build the Northwest Station there in Renaissance style. Herdtle taught at the School of Arts and Crafts from 1877 to 1913, in other words, well into the Secessionist era. The third teacher for training in interior decoration and product design was Oskar Beyer (professor 1878 – 1909, director 1905-09). Other professors included Adolf Ginzel (stylistics and theory of forms), Alois Hauser (stylistics) and Julius Kajetan (technical drawing). Teaching was centered in the studios. Parallel to that, students attended courses on stylistics, technical drawing, and theory. The aim of the training was to enable students to create “designs for the complete arrangement of the rooms of a residential building.” This is more than just a reaction to the new task of supplying complete interiors for bourgeois residential buildings. It was the Secessionist ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) in nucleus form. The concept was able to develop from that nucleus as artists substituted styles and claimed further design fields for themselves.
The practice of drawing exact likenesses of old decorative objects and using them as the basis for new work was criticized as early as the 1880s. Contact with real production processes in the enterprises appeared in need of expansion, and the intended stimulation of industry was insufficient. In 1882, the ministerial competence for the museum and the school was transferred from the trade ministry to the education ministry, which was also responsible for art funding. This step enabled a unified governmental art policy, which was strongly influenced for a brief time by the Secession, founded in 1897.
The Secessionist Turning Point: Emergence of the Avant-Garde School 1897 – 99
Under Arthur von Scala, companion to the Secessionist awakening and director since 1897, the Museum of Art and Industry followed the British model in displaying complete interiors for the first time instead of isolated individual pieces — this underscored the all-encompassing approach taken in modern arts and crafts in line with the Lebensreform (life reform) movement. The Secessionists’ intensive media production and presence also did much to foster the spread of the new artistic ideas. Modern arts and crafts were able to build on the total design aspiration of the preceding historicist generation, i.e., on the infusion of all everyday objects and furnishings with a unified artistic idea, a homogeneous style. Backed by new Lebensreform goals and their presentation in new types of abstract formal language, the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal flourished in fertile soil. Moderate liberal politicians and policymakers such as the education ministers Paul Gautsch and Wilhelm Hartel shaped Austrian artistic and educational practices in crucial ways at times. They now took up the youth rhetoric of the Secession because it also represented progress, internationalism and a bourgeois emancipation movement of the recently emerged social classes. After the founding of the Museum of Art and Industry, a further reform of arts and crafts seemed necessary in the economy to respond to the growing numbers of consumers and their needs for identification. The historicist products taught at the School of Arts and Crafts alone were unable to satisfy these needs.
On April 3, 1897, the Vienna Secession was founded by Klimt, Moser, Hoffmann, Olbrich and others. The renowned illustrator Felician Freiherr von Myrbach-Rheinfeld, who lived in Paris at the time, also became a founding member. In June 1897, he was appointed professor for decorative painting and graphic arts at the school by Scala, the new museum director. Scala’s experience abroad and great enthusiasm for England would have a major impact on museum policy. Less than two years later, on January 27, 1899, Myrbach-Rheinfeld was named director of the School of Arts and Crafts. At a curatorial board meeting on February 15, 1899, Otto Wagner suggested that four artists be appointed to the school to bring it up to speed with the times — the four were presumably Olbrich, Hoffmann, Moser and Roller. On April 25, 1899, 29-year-old Josef Hoffmann, a pupil of Wagner and a co-founder of the Secession, was in fact appointed to lead an architecture class (Fachklasse). This step was followed on October 1, 1899, by the appointment of Kolo Moser to head up a painting class and on December 2, 1899, by the appointment of Arthur Strasser to direct the sculpture class. On April 7, 1900, Alfred Roller was named professor for figurative drawing in the general studies department. Under the pro-Secessionist education minister Wilhelm von Hartel, the museum and the School of Arts and Crafts received their own separate administration on March 12, 1900. The reformative project for the art school was completed in 1906 with the appointment of Franz Cizek as head of the supplementary course for ornamental composition, which later gave rise to a movement called Viennese Kineticism.
Pioneers of Modern Architectural Training 1899 – 1913
At this juncture, a creative tension between modernism and traditionalism arose at the school between Josef Hoffmann and Hermann Herdtle. Modernism would ultimately win out in 1913 with the appointment of Heinrich Tessenow to be Herdtle’s successor. As a former pupil of Karl Hasenauer and Otto Wagner but in particular as a co-founder of the Secession, Hoffmann had a profoundly different understanding of his task than his two colleagues Beyer and Herdtle, both of whom were more than 20 years his senior. They continued to cultivate the founding idea of training specialized, commercially viable furniture drafters and interior designers based on a historicist understanding of style, whereas Josef Hoffmann radically opposed any limitation of artistic energies. The image of the artist in the Lebensreform movement allowed no lines to be drawn between architecture, interior design and the applied arts and not just with regard to style. Going far beyond the issue of form, the modernist movement sought to interconnect all design tasks in modern life organically in the artist’s subjectivity (and not in objective stylistic norms such as the neo-Renaissance). This interdisciplinary, individualistic Gesamtkunstwerk ideal led to a situation in which modern artists with training as painters, for instance, now designed houses, as Peter Behrens did in Darmstadt. The radical primacy of the subjective artist’s individualism was now supposed to create, for the first time, the kind of opportunities for identification for members of the modern (upper) middle class that could no longer be found in the rationalistic inventory of historicism, especially for younger consumers.
So, every student in Josef Hoffmann’s architecture class focused from the outset on the full range of design tasks in modern life. Liberated from all burdens of historical forms and solely following their own design inspiration, they now designed fabric patterns, embroidery, interiors, country houses, workers’ apartments, theater sets, costumes, posters, printed matter, packaging, and much more. For the first time anywhere in Austria, women now also worked here till graduation on all design tasks involved in architectural training. In this sense, the Angewandte was decades ahead of the other two architectural schools that existed in Vienna at the time. In the above list from the academic year 1907/08, country houses and workers’ apartments are particularly striking items. These design tasks had special potential in terms of the aims of the Lebensreform movement because addressing the vital needs of the lower classes in society was revolutionary. The task of designing workers’ apartments therefore also stood for the social aspiration of aestheticism. Although Hoffmann was unable to build any social housing prior to 1918, these school projects do clearly show a whole-of-society aspect of his aestheticism. Hoffmann also consistently availed himself of new media possibilities. He had many student designs published in trade journals, got students involved in helping with exhibitions of the Klimt Group at the Kunstschau art shows in Vienna in 1908 and 1909, and presented their drawings and models in separate school exhibitions. So, already in 1903, the first complete residential building designs from the School of Arts and Crafts were on display in the museum next door. The teaching in Hermann Herdtle’s architecture class during those years focused on more modest goals: “All students were trained as furniture designers or drafters for interior decoration.”
In the Laboratory of Modernism 1913 – 1937
The first generation of modernism had reached its zenith with the last big public appearances of the Klimt Group at the two Kunstschau art shows in Vienna in 1908 and 1909 and with the Austrian pavilion planned by Hoffmann for the International Art Exhibition in Rome in 1911 and the completion of his epochal Palais Stoclet in Brussels that same year. Ludwig Baumann’s extension to the Vienna Museum of Art and Industry opened in 1909. The enlarged exhibition spaces could now accommodate contemporary facilities on a 1:1 scale and allow initial shows by the second generation, who followed new ideals. Leading this generation were Oskar Strnad and Josef Frank, intellectual pupils of Carl König. They already had experience with Hoffmann’s Gesamtkunstwerk ideal through their work at the Wiener Werkstätte but were also influenced by the tolerant view of tradition and established culture that Adolf Loos espoused. Their liberal, non-dogmatic standpoint that everything could be combined with everything else was a lasting contribution to the well-being of modern consumers in their own homes. After Hoffmann and Loos, they now laid down a synthetic third path for Viennese modernism in the era of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and Einstein’s relativity theory.
The contractual engagement of Oskar Strnad as a professor in the general studies department of the School of Arts and Crafts in 1909 was a prelude to the profound influence he would have on architectural training as head of an architecture class from 1914 to 1935. Heinrich Tessenow, a German architect who had made a name for himself with social-reform housing projects such as Dresden-Hellerau, became Hermann Herdtle’s successor in 1913. His appointment meant there would again be three architecture classes for the next five years until Tessenow left to take a position at the Dresden Art Academy in 1919. These men diverged dramatically from each other in terms of the positions they represented and the content they covered in their classes. While Josef Hoffmann’s pan-aesthetic infusion strategy was already routine, Strnad now brought a psychologically based “harmony sensibility” into play that arose in the subtle relational network of a “rich chaos,” also with historical and even personal and nostalgic elements. By contrast, Tessenow’s central role in the garden city movement brought in a classicist purism and established an aesthetic tradition that his pupils Franz Schuster and Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky carried forward into the 1960s. Initial results of this socially oriented theory could be seen in 1916 under the influence of the First World War in the exhibition Einfacher Hausrat (simple household goods) in the museum next door, where Tessenow’s students presented contemporary furniture designs. All three architecture classes also contributed designs for the publication Soldier Graves and War Monuments.
With these forward-looking appointments, the School of Arts and Crafts was poised for the profound break that came with the end of the First World War in 1918. Compared to Clemens Holzmeister’s and Peter Behrens’s architecture schools at the Academy of Fine Arts, the Angewandte was in a better position to overcome and shape the challenges of the interbellum years, especially in social housing and housing development construction and in simple furniture and spatially optimized minimum dwellings. In Hoffmann’s cosmopolitan assistant Oswald Haerdtl and the structural design teacher Josef Frank, the school also had figures on its faculty who were at the forefront of the international avant-garde and who provided vital inspiration and networking, also in terms of the media. The architectural journal Profil was edited from 1932 to 1936 by Hans Adolf Vetter, an assistant to Hoffmann and a short-time professor from 1936 to 1937.
In this last period prior to the Angewandte being elevated to the status of a higher education institution (Hochschule) in 1941, Hoffmann, Strnad and Tessenow steadily expanded the scope of training from interior design to the entire field of architecture and beyond to urban planning and (especially Strnad) to theater and film. Even so, a School of Arts and Crafts degree was not always recognized as a state license for practicing as a professional architect. With passage of the Civil Engineers Act of 1936, it lost all such recognition. That meant that during those five years until 1941, graduates could only launch an independent planning practice by finishing a second course of studies, for instance, Peter Behrens’s school at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Students from many European and some non-European countries worked in the Hoffmann or Strnad architecture classes on single-family dwellings and country houses, public housing developments, garden cities, sports and recreational facilities, hotels, townhouses, office buildings, interiors, and furniture design. Three hallmarks of this work were solid craftsmanship, a clear formal language reduced in a manner typical of the times, and a striving for maximum spatial economy. These years saw the reception of the latest avant-garde movements such as Le Corbusier’s position and Neues Bauen (new building) in Germany. However, the new ideas were always visibly interwoven with the subtle formal tradition of the School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule) and the psychological route symbolism of Frank and Strnad and their philosophy of lightweight furniture in the mobile and delicate interiors of Neues Wiener Wohnen (new style of Viennese living).
One of the most important practical outcomes of this training was the participation of nearly three dozen (!) graduates in planning the Wiener Werkbundsiedlung from 1929 to 1932, a social housing project initiated by Josef Frank, the structural design professor at the school and former Strnad partner. Also meriting special attention are the exhibitions of the architecture department in the neighboring museum in May 1924 and at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in the summer of 1925. The school exhibition in 1924 featured designs from the Hoffmann and the Strnad architecture classes in a strictly geometric, De Stijl inspired installation by Oswald Haerdtl. Together with the avantgarde display designs of Friedrich Kiesler’s theater exhibitions, they were high points of constructivism in Austria. In keeping with the times, everything revolved around the housing issue, which was tackled with fervor in plans and models of housing developments, multi-story residential buildings and single-family houses. In the Parisian Grand Palais, the school presented itself in a planar art installation by Haerdtl, which was displayed in the room next to Kiesler’s famous Raumstadt/City in Space. Whereas Raumstadt/City in Space served both as a visionary urban planning model and as a display system for designs and models of new theatrical art (several members of the School of Arts and Crafts were also involved), the architectural installation featured works by the professors, including a model of Hoffmann’s Palais Stoclet, and student projects in highly innovative building typologies, from cubic and atrium-style to terraced designs.
A series of crises soon ensued in artistic operations. The Wiener Werkstätte had to shut down in 1932 and a split occurred in the Austrian Werkbund in 1934; both organizations had been co-founded by Hoffmann, in 1903 and 1912 respectively. Oskar Strnad died in 1935 and Josef Hoffmann retired in 1937 after 38 years of service (!) at the school, years in which he had shaped Austrian modernism in decisive ways.
Four and a Half Decades Striving for Continuity 1937 – 1973
The former Strnad and Tessenow pupil Franz Schuster was named Josef Hoffmann’s successor in 1937, ensuring continuity in the difficult years of Nazi rule and post-war reconstruction to follow. Like his fellow student Margarethe Schütte-Lihotzky, Schuster was an active player in Red Vienna and in Ernst May’s New Frankfurt, contributing large numbers of buildings for social housing developments and interior designs. Although Schuster’s approach tended to align with Social Democracy, his appointment was approved by the government of the Ständestaat (the corporative authoritarian system in Austria from 1934 to 1938) and was also upheld during the Nazi dictatorship. This was thanks to Schuster’s political skills and the fact that the cultural policies of both dictatorial systems were not fundamentally anti-modernist. Oskar Strnad, who died at age 55 in 1935, was succeeded that same year by Oswald Haerdtl, his former student and an assistant to Hoffmann at the time. Haerdtl, too, wanted and was able to help the traditions of Viennese modernism survive beyond the war years and to make them available to the next generation as a point of continuity or a creative point of friction. With his radically modern designs for many official government appearances abroad and Austrian exhibition pavilions, Haerdtl had already gained international renown in Paris in 1925, in Brussels in 1935 and again in Paris in 1937. So, both Schuster’s dry ascetic approach and Haerdtl’s transparent and elegant style were viable paths for mainstream modernism that repeatedly proved their practical suitability under three different political systems.
A third architecture class was not installed again until 1949 with Otto Niedermoser’s class for furniture construction and interior design/class for interior design, industrial and craft design. Until then, the two architecture classes of Haerdtl and Schuster alone defined the position of what was now a higher education institution of applied arts (Hochschule für angewandte Kunst) within the spectrum of modern architecture.
An examination of the design programs reveals many aspects of continuity but also the creation of new tasks corresponding to the institution’s new status as a higher education institution. Haerdtl’s pupils worked initially on interiors in line with the Neues Wohnen (new ways of living) movement of the 1920s, on store designs, on artists’ houses, country homes and tourist buildings typical of Austria. The programs then started undergoing a gradual change from 1941 on. In the remaining years of the Nazi regime, the work in Haerdtl’s class focused mainly on kindergartens, public housing developments, single-family homes and the like, i.e., on increasingly social-oriented tasks and not on the upscale needs served prior to that. The school’s qualifications in social construction tasks came even more clearly to the fore with Schuster. He used to rail, and not just in the Nazi era, against the Academy architects’ “individualistic artistic works” that were in such little demand by society and against the “artistic proletariat” in general, which he said was creating an academicism remote from everyday life. What was needed instead, he declared in 1941, was an “architecture class specializing in housing construction and housing developments within a higher education institution of applied arts (Hochschule für angewandte Künste).” Schuster was undoubtedly to thank for systematizing the design process and bringing it closer to reality. Already in his first years, comparative preliminary studies on building type and building program were required as part of the diploma theses, as were structural analyses of the terrain and the constructional context, cost estimates for master builder works, statics calculations for individual details, material samples for the furnishings and fittings, and almost always a piece of furniture (chair) on a scale of 1:1. The topics dominating the semester and diploma papers up to 1945 were weekend houses, dwellings for social housing developments, hotel foyers, kindergartens, ski lodges, store renovations, etc. Schuster and Carl Witzmann took part in the Deutscher Hausrat (German household goods) exhibition in 1941 with numerous furniture designs. During the Second World War, Haerdtl designed structures for use by the Wehrmacht in occupied Poland.
An explicit striving for continuity and the desire to adhere to the path of modernism chosen decades before by the then School of Arts and Crafts continued to dominate in the decades after 1945. Then came the postmodern turning point ushered in by the appointment of the Holzmeister pupil Johannes Spalt in 1973 as the successor to the interior design professor Otto Niedermoser. During the denazification of the civil service in the first years after 1945, the Angewandte, now called the Academy of Applied Art (Akademie für angewandte Kunst), saw no changes in the faculty of the architecture department — unlike the Academy of Fine Arts. As a result, the end of the war brought no break with the past in terms of teaching method and content at the Angewandte. In 1952 Director Max Fellerer wrote as follows: “Today the school is tasked not so much with fomenting rebellion as with solidifying and clarifying the ideas of the previous generation.” Schuster and Haerdtl but also their successors Friedrich Janeba and Norbert Schlesinger could undoubtedly identify with this statement.
The school administration, the education ministry and the older professors were all convinced of the relevance of classic modernist methods, also in rebuilding the country, and resisted the initial effects of the ever-more affluent, consumer-oriented society that emerged from the 1960s onward. Despite all this, the Angewandte, especially those around Friedrich Janeba and his assistant Heiner Fürst, slowly turned in the direction of the protesters of 1968 and ultimately to “the revision of modernism,” which was carried out by Johannes Spalt, Wilhelm Holzbauer and Hans Hollein in the 1980s and 1990s. The status as a higher education institution also entailed changes in the technical and theoretical subjects in the architecture department that had previously been covered mostly by external lecturers. They were now expanded into full chairs complete with professors and assistants. The first generation of these theory and technology professors was represented by figures such as Fritz Weber (instructor 1947 – 71, professor for building construction 1971 – 88), Robert Krapfenbauer (lecturer 1956 – 65, professor for structural design 1965 – 94) and Günter Zeman (lecturer 1963 – 65, professor for technical building services 1965 – 97).
The unfolding of this process can be traced in the everyday design work in the architecture classes at the Angewandte at the time. Until 1966 classic reconstruction and infrastructure tasks predominated, such as the Haas House on St. Stephen’s Square, a department store in the Mariahilfer Strasse, an airport and an art gallery (Haerdtl class), or an elementary school in a garden city, a project to expand a rural town, row houses, dwellings for public housing developments, and large multi-story residential complexes (Schuster class). Soon thereafter, the first modular concepts came into play, such as steel towers with cantilevers and inserted plastic room cells, entertainment projects such as concert halls, the first participative housing projects and unusual programs such as a monastic complex to cultivate church music (Schlesinger class, until 1978). The most innovative and free-spirited approach in this late modernist phase was undoubtedly taken by Friedrich Janeba, a pupil of Strnad, who returned in 1967 from exile in Australia. His students carried out creative programs such as a bridge in the jungle, an art collector’s house, the UN Center for Vienna, a lodge for mountain climbers, a large windowless department store, a library for an art university, and office high rises.
Internationalization and Post Modernism: Three Master Classes 1973 – 1990
In 1973, the Holzmeister pupil, co-founder of the Arbeitsgruppe 4 and designer Johannes Spalt was named to head up the master class for architecture specializing in interior design. His appointment marked the beginning of a reappraisal of early modernism (Wagner, Loos, Hoffmann, Frank, Tessenow), a return to the universal concept of architecture, and ultimately the steady opening up of the school internationally. Alongside Spalt, two other former Holzmeister pupils worked intensively on this project in the other two master classes in architecture. The first, from 1977 on, was Wilhelm Holzbauer, also a former member of the Arbeitsgruppe 4; the second, from 1979 on, was Hans Hollein, who had earlier led a master class in industrial design. This trio made up the first generation of professors in the school of architecture at the Angewandte who had had a childhood overshadowed by dictatorships and then been trained during the reconstruction era. Early in their careers they had experienced Austria’s transition to a Western consumer society faced with completely new issues. Up to the turn of the millennium, events in the architecture department were shaped by an expansion in all cultural directions in response to these issues. There is hardly another school of architecture that practiced the ideals of postmodern thought with such intensity. For the first time, this movement offered architecture all technological and literary cultural forms, past and future, as ingeniously combinable “building materials.”
These architects no longer confined themselves to classic building and object designs alone. Hans Hollein even went as far as to say: “Everything is architecture.” For instance, it also included the media design that Hollein provided as editor of the journal of the ZV (central association of architects of Austria), as successor to Hans Adolf Vetter, who had held the post in the 1930s. The journal entitled Bau (building) was published from 1965 – 70 under Hollein and several comrades in arms. Two of them, Oswald Oberhuber and Walter Pichler, also had ties to the Angewandte, as a later rector and as a graduate, respectively. With his standing as an international pioneer of postmodernism, Hollein was able to lead the school of architecture back into the circle of international trend-setters for the first time since around 1900 thanks to extensive international networking and the help of Holzbauer. Beyond that, Hollein and Holzbauer represented the first generation of architects at the Angewandte with experience outside Europe (both had completed postgraduate studies in the United States). Holzbauer had been in the international spotlight since 1968 with his city hall and opera complex in Amsterdam, as had Hollein since 1966 with his Retti candle shop in Vienna, winner of the R. S. Reynolds Memorial Award, and his Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, Germany.
Prior to his master class professorship, Johannes Spalt had taught contemporary architectural history, and in parallel with the research of Friedrich Kurrent and Friedrich Achleitner, helped to make early modernism relevant once again. In his architecture class, this manifested itself in the reception of Josef Frank in light, perfectly crafted furnishings combined with colored textiles and in an equally light architecture with an emphasis on structural design, often in wood, pavilion types, and baldachins with Eastern influences in bay-window seating areas. Otto Kapfinger and Michael Holzer were largely responsible for carrying out this program of instruction in the master class.
After initial limbering-up exercises involving house designs for unusual to eccentric personalities, Holzbauer’s master class generally focused on larger programs corresponding to real building projects and set mostly in densely built-up urban settings. The broad range of tasks between 1977 and 1998 spanned from extensions to the Angewandte and designs for the Vienna Expo 1995 project, a concert hall for Linz, residential buildings for Vienna, museums for several cities, a parliament for Luxembourg, parish centers, a hospice in Jerusalem and extensive urban renewal projects, all the way to urban planning projects for the Gürtel, a major city street in Vienna, and for the historical center of Beijing (with a study tour). The programs were carried out in a decidedly pragmatic way; the formal language varied from playfully postmodern initially to functionally neo-modern at the end of the era. Dimitris Manikas, Ernst Mayr, Jan Tabor and Boulin Hu were also involved in these programs in the master class.
With Hollein, the course of studies in the master class began with a profound analysis of real and conceived/described/painted historical squares and structures represented in a detailed model. This approach was designed to sharpen the students’ senses for the interplay of material and immaterial factors, all the way to psychology. Hollein’s further design programs covered both individual tasks as well as topics assigned to all students in the master class. Among the latter were semester programs such as Wolkenkratzer für Wien (skyscrapers for Vienna) in 1985/86 or Sakralräume (sacred spaces). Several projects pertained to actual current issues such as the building of the new government quarter in the Lower Austrian capital city, the Vienna-Budapest Expo 1995 project or the North Station site in Vienna. Successful practicing architects were also involved in Hollein’s master class, among them Franziska Ullmann and Anton Falkeis.
The technology and theory chairs underwent a generational change and expansion as well: Ernst Maczek-Mateovics succeeded Fritz Weber as professor for building construction in 1989 (until 2009) and Klaus Bollinger followed Robert Krapfenbauer as professor for structural design in 1994 (until 2021). Influential contributors associated with these chairs included, among others, Wolf Mayer, Werner Graschopf and Wilfried Braumüller. In 1983 a new chair for the history and theory of architecture was set up under Fritz Achleitner (1983-1998; successors, among others, Sylvia Lavin, Liane Lefaivre and Sanford Kwinter). A model workshop under Franz Hnizdo and Peter Strasser provided added support to the teaching activities.
In the Global Age 1990 – 2019
The autonomous, global and digital age of the Institute of Architecture (I oA) began with a series of four events: Wolf D. Prix being appointed in 1990, Gerald Bast becoming rector in 2000, the Austrian universities finally gaining independence from the federal bureaucracy in 2002 and the first generation of mostly non-Austrian-born architecture professors being hired. These steps were a logical continuation along the path taken by the preceding postmodern generation. In 2011 the curriculum was also internationalized when the degree program in architecture was changed to a master’s program in line with the Bologna Process. The I oA was the only Austrian school of architecture forced to dispense with the baccalaureate, and therefore no longer admitted young secondary level II graduates. Instead it began admitting professionally pretrained holders of bachelor’s degrees from the widest variety of architectural schools in the world for three years of focused design training.
An Urban Strategies master’s program was offered for several years as an added postgraduate course of studies. Scholarly and artistic research is being steadily stepped up in the doctorate curricula.
A central goal of the studies programs is to integrate technical and theoretical subjects in the design work. Aspects of structural design, building construction, and architectural history and theory are now also covered in greater depth under the rubric of “Integration” instead of being largely unconnected to the studio work as was the case earlier and elsewhere.
I oA Director Prix guided this transformation from 2003 jointly with Rector Bast and with Klaus Bollinger’s support. Bollinger was hired in 1994 and succeeded Prix as director in 2012. As a creative structural engineer, he takes a high-tech approach that is supportive of design. Since the 1960s, Prix’s architectural firm COOP HIMMELB(L)AU had already been playing a pioneering role in Pop Art inspired and deconstructivist architecture. In 1988 the firm was featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as one of the seven founding studios of this movement. In the master class, renamed Studio Prix – Architekturentwurf 3 in 1993, a radical change occurred not only in the dominant formal language but also in the style of teaching and learning. Having taught since 1972 at places such as the Architectural Association in London, Harvard University and SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, Prix introduced, for the first time, open discussions of students’ projects with invited experts and international guests based on US practices, thereby replacing what had been a “correction” process with a “review” process. The interplay of ambitious design topics, study tours, studio exhibitions and a tightly knit international network created a highly dynamic atmosphere for 20 years. Students were coached by Reiner Zettl and Franz Sam, among others.
Wolf Prix’s systematic efforts to implement and enhance Anglo-American standards of architectural theory were further stepped up with the successful appointment in 2000 of Zaha Hadid as successor to Wilhelm Holzbauer. This followed a two-year intermezzo under Zvi Hecker, with Hans Hollein still serving as I oA dean. Patrik Schumacher’s intensive involvement in teaching activities under Hadid resulted in a transition of the formal language at her Vienna studio (and her London office) from angular deconstructivist to organic but also led to the systematic expansion of digital planning methods and the construction of a theory of parametric design. Fully in keeping with the spirit of a distant predecessor, Josef Hoffmann, the studio also viewed itself as an institute for conducting comprehensive design research on diverse topics ranging from everyday objects and interiors to buildings and urban planning, as a “dynamic object/field of interacting forces.” (Joseph Giovannini). For each academic year, Hadid, Schumacher and Johann Traupmann set an urban architectural theme, which was often related to actual places.
Since the turn of the millennium, the globalization of the I oA has also manifested itself in programmatic appointments. Greg Lynn has been teaching there since 2002, as the successor to Hans Hollein. He studied architecture and philosophy in Ohio and at Princeton University and has been developing pioneering concepts in digital design and robotics since the 1980s. He continues to pursue these conceptual priorities to date in his studios at the Angewandte, UCLA and Yale. Hani Rashid succeeded Wolf Prix as the head of the second of the three architectural studios at the Angewandte. He grew up in Great Britain and Canada and graduated from Cranbrook Academy. In 1989 he joined with Lise Anne Couture in establishing Asymptote, an international architectural firm in New York, which caused an international sensation with its innovative, digitally generated design concepts. As the successor to Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima has led the third studio at the Angewandte since 2015. In her trailblazing structures in Japan and projects developed worldwide, she and her business partner Ryue Nishizawa cultivate a de-materialized minimalism, which connects the Japanese tradition with Western modernism.
The Institute of Architecture already set off on a new course under Dean Klaus Bollinger (2012−2021) and is still on that same course under Baerbel Mueller (2021-). The I oA has gained global awareness in recent decades with its long-term appointments of international figures to design professorships and its numerous temporary guest professorships for nearly all subject areas. In addition, the I oA is now much more strongly focused on ecological, social and technological transformation processes occurring in response to climate change, resource and migration crises, and new conflicts, also in Europe. This new aspect manifests itself in part in the sharp rise in artistic-scholarly research at the I oA, which is made possible, inter alia, by projects of the PEEK Program for Arts-based Research of the Austrian Science Fund.
In terms of design professorships, another step was taken in this same direction in 2019 with the appointment of the Spanish architectural duo Cristina Diaz Moreno and Efrén Garcia Grinda (amid.cero9) as successors to Kazuyo Sejima. Cristina and Efrén posit that “structural urban deficits, migration flows, technological changes, risky housing situations and spatial segregation necessitate a paradigm shift in architectural practices to counter the detachment of our discipline and bring us closer again to social problems and realities.” In doing so, they form a definite link to the social tradition of the institute that was represented there from the First World War till after the Second World War by renowned figures such as Heinrich Tessenow, Oskar Strnad, Franz Schuster and Fritz Weber.
The recent expansion in the range of courses brought about by new departments and appointments to existing chairs is also aimed at diversification and a renewed anchoring of the educational program in the real life of most people. [applied] Foreign Affairs, with Baerbel Mueller as department head, “views itself as a trans-disciplinary, experimental lab investigating spatial, infrastructural, environmental and cultural phenomena in rural and urban Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.” Realization projects are also carried out there. In Urban Strategies, with Andrea Boerner as department head, the focus is on urban design issues. In Special Topics in Architecture, Anton Falkeis covers socio-technological aspects of overcoming the climate crisis among other issues. In 2016, the History and Theory of Architecture was divided as a department into a Theory of Architecture professorship (Mario Carpo since 2020) and a History of Architecture chair (Matthias Boeckl). The former technical subjects are now consolidated in Integrated Technology and taught by Wolf Mangelsdorf (Structural Design), Karin Raith (Building Construction) and Brian Cody (Energy Design) in concert with the studios’ design programs. Digital Design and Production Lab delivers the technical skills involved.
With its innovations and tight-knit international network, the I oA is continuing its tradition of more than 150 years as a top-notch, internationally recognized school for architectural innovation. Graduates acquire the skills to rise to today’s major challenges of responsible and comprehensive environmental design based on solid knowledge, artistic inspiration and social responsibility.
Matthias Boeckl„Baukunst aus Reformgeist: Die Architekturschule der Angewandten“, in:“150 Jahre Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien. Ästhetik der Veränderung“, Edition Angewandte, De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 2017
The text was adapted by M. Boeckl in 2022. Translation by Mark Wilch.