A visit to Vienna would be incomplete without exploring the kaleidoscopic world of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. An illustrious painter, sculptor, architect, and ecologist, Hundertwasser’s avant-garde approach has left an indelible impression on the city’s landscape. With an emphasis on vibrant colors, organic forms, and harmony with nature, Hundertwasser’s works serve as a delightful respite from Vienna’s classical architecture.
This post guides you through Vienna’s most enchanting Hundertwasser locations, offering you a unique blend of art, architecture, and ecology. Immerse yourself in the whimsical world of this modernist maestro, a journey that promises to be both visually rewarding and spiritually uplifting.
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Who Was Hundertwasser?
Born Friedrich Stowasser in 1928, the artist later adopted the name Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a moniker reflecting his philosophy of peace and hundred waters. A holocaust survivor, his works often reflected his concerns about authoritarianism and conformity.
Hundertwasser championed “The right to a window”, asserting the individual’s freedom to shape his or her environment. His innovative architectural designs are distinguished by undulating floors, forested rooftops, and bold, vibrant colors.
A common Latin-German dictionary was first published in 1894 by Joseph Maria Stowasser, an ancestor of Hundertwasser. In 1994, the dictionary got a revamp, complete with a cover in a Hundertwasser design. You can buy this dictionary at any bigger bookshop in Austria and it is still used by students today.
Hundertwasser Locations in Vienna
Hundertwasser first made his mark in Vienna in the early 1950s as a painter, but it was his architectural works that truly transformed the city’s landscape. Here are the must-see Hundertwasser spots to explore when you visit Vienna:
Your Hundertwasser tour should begin with Hundertwasserhaus, a public housing complex located at Kegelgasse 36-38 in the Landstraße district. This iconic building was designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser with the help of architect Joseph Krawina as a co-author.
What sets the Hundertwasserhaus apart is its quirky, colorful facade and its rejection of straight lines and regularities. Hundertwasser believed that straight lines were “godless and immoral,” a principle reflected in the building’s design.
The exterior of the building deserves its spot as one of the most popular Vienna Instagram locations. It is adorned with a colorful mix of tiles, mosaics, and irregularly shaped windows. Trees and shrubs grow out of windows and on the terraces, rooftops, and courtyards, integrating nature into the living space.
The Hundertwasserhaus was built between 1983 and 1985 by the city of Vienna with the aim of improving the quality of public housing. Today, it is a private residence with 52 apartments, 4 offices, 16 private terraces, and 3 communal terraces, and it is home to around 200 people.
N.B. Visitors cannot tour the interior of the apartments of the Hundertwasserhaus.
2. Kunst Haus Wien
Just a few blocks from Hundertwasserhaus is Kunst Haus Wien, a unique museum dedicated to the work of Hundertwasser, who was not only a painter but also worked in the fields of architecture and environmental protection.
The building itself is a work of art, with its uneven floors, vibrant colors, and tree tenants – trees growing out from inside the building to the outside. The facade is decorated with colorful tiles and irregular shapes, reflecting Hundertwasser’s distinctive style and his rejection of straight lines and conventional architecture.
Inside the Kunst Haus Wien, visitors can explore a comprehensive collection of Hundertwasser’s works, ranging from his early paintings to later architectural designs.
The museum houses the only permanent exhibition of Hundertwasser’s works, including paintings, graphics, and designs. Temporary exhibitions of other artists are also held at the museum.
3. Hundertwasser Village
Opposite the Hundertwasserhaus is the Hundertwasser Village, a delightful shopping center boasting various small boutiques, cafes, and shops.
The design of the Hundertwasser Village reflects the artist’s unique style and philosophy. It features uneven floors, a colorful facade, and a variety of irregularly shaped windows.
Hundertwasser believed in the integration of nature into architecture, and this is evident in the design of the village, which includes trees and shrubs growing both inside and outside the building. The roof is covered with grass and trees, creating a green oasis in the middle of the city.
The interior walls of the Hundertwasser Village are adorned with a mix of colorful tiles and mosaics, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The tiles are arranged in irregular patterns and include a variety of shapes and colors.
Inside the village, visitors will find a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants. There is also an exhibition space that displays a collection of Hundertwasser’s works.
4. Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant
Perhaps one of the most unexpected places to witness Hundertwasser’s magic is at the Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant. After a fire in the late 1980s, the city of Vienna invited Hundertwasser to redesign the plant’s exterior.
The artist transformed the functional incinerator into a work of art by adding colorful tiles, irregularly shaped windows, and undulating lines. He also integrated plant life into the design by adding trees and shrubs on the roof and the facade, in line with his philosophy of harmonizing architecture with nature.
The Spittelau Incinerator’s design is a stark contrast to the grey, functional industrial buildings that typically house such facilities. The colorful facade features a mix of blue, red, and gold tiles, arranged in irregular patterns.
The chimney, which is often an eyesore in incinerators, was transformed into a colorful tower with a golden dome, making it a distinctive feature of the Vienna skyline.
The Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant is my favorite Hundertwasser building in Vienna. It stands as a testament to Hundertwasser’s creativity, and his ability to transform mundane industrial buildings into architectural masterpieces. Go and seek it out!
5. Landing Stage
This lesser-known creation is located along the Danube Canal in Vienna’s 3rd district, a popular area for locals and visitors to relax and enjoy the city’s waterfront. Hundertwasser was commissioned to design a number of market stalls and a landing stage for ships in 1993.
The market stalls feature his trademark vibrant colors and irregular shapes. Unfortunately, the original market stalls were demolished in 2011 due to their condition and replaced with replicas.
The landing stage, a point for river boats to dock, showcases Hundertwasser’s iconic style. It provides a distinctive contrast to the traditional architecture of the surrounding city, incorporating a unique blend of color, form, and material that is undeniably Hundertwasser.
Hundertwasser’s Life in Vienna
Understanding Hundertwasser’s life and background can enrich the experience of exploring his works in Vienna. Here are several key locations that played significant roles in his life.
While these places might not offer the visual extravagance of his architectural masterpieces, they are soaked in history and are integral to understanding Hundertwasser’s life and works.
Hundertwasser spent his early years in Vienna’s 3rd district at a flat in Löwengasse 41-43, where he lived with his mother, Elsa Stowasser.
Although the building is not open to the public, it’s an essential location for understanding Hundertwasser’s beginnings. This was where he developed his early interest in art, and where he and his mother hid during World War II as they were of Jewish heritage.
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Located at Schillerplatz 3 in Vienna’s 1st District, this is where Hundertwasser studied for three months in 1948 before leaving to travel and paint.
The traditional methods and techniques taught at the academy did not resonate with his style, which was far more unconventional and abstract.
Hundertwasser was deeply influenced by Art Nouveau, and his work reflected a sense of fluidity, color, and a deep connection with nature, characteristics not typically emphasized in the traditional training provided by the academy.
However, Hundertwasser did indeed return to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna later in his career, but in a different capacity.
In 1981, he took on a guest professorship at the Academy, teaching a course titled “Aesthetics of Organic Architecture” in the Master School of Architecture. This was a significant event as it marked his official entry into the academic world.
Another key location is Ankerhaus, situated in the heart of Vienna’s 1st district at Absberggasse 27.
Hundertwasser lived and worked in this building from 1959 to 1975. It’s where he painted some of his most notable works and developed many of his architectural concepts.
Although not designed by Hundertwasser, the building is steeped in history and culture, with its façade featuring a clock adorned with statues of historical figures, including Hercules, created by sculptor Franz Metzner in 1895.
In 1981, Hundertwasser installed a tree tenant at Alserbachstraße 11, in Vienna, as part of his global effort to increase nature’s presence in urban environments and create architecture more attuned to human and nature’s needs.
Tree tenants are a fundamental aspect of his architectural projects. He argued for their benefits, such as improved city climates, reduced noise and dust pollution, and visual appeal.
These tree tenants, visibly growing from windows, not only support the residents’ well-being but also offer a sense of seclusion. With their limited size due to small soil volume, they still allow sunlight to reach the windows, especially in winter.
The original “tenant” died during renovation efforts but was replaced with the hornbeam tree you see today.
Architectural Collaborations and Contemporaries of Hundertwasser in Vienna
As you delve deeper into the captivating world of Hundertwasser, it’s essential to appreciate the significant contributions of his collaborators and contemporaries.
Peter Pelikan, the architect who helped Hundertwasser translate his imaginative visions into concrete structures, and Arik Brauer, a fellow artist whose work also left a lasting impact on Vienna, both played pivotal roles in shaping Hundertwasser’s legacy.
Their influence can be seen in various landmarks across the city, enriching the vibrant artistic tapestry of Vienna.
A key collaborator and ally of Hundertwasser, architect Peter Pelikan, played a crucial role in bringing Hundertwasser’s architectural vision to life. Without a formal background in architecture, Hundertwasser relied on Pelikan to transform his abstract ideas into reality.
Their partnership was marked by projects such as Hundertwasserhaus, Kunst Haus Wien, and the redesign of the Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant. Pelikan’s technical expertise complemented Hundertwasser’s artistic vision, resulting in some of Vienna’s most iconic architectural landmarks.
A stand-alone work by Peter Pelikan can be found at Gumpendorfer Straße 142 (Social housing).
Arik Brauer, another prominent figure in Vienna’s art scene, was a close contemporary of Hundertwasser. Part of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Brauer’s work often shares themes of individuality and surrealism with Hundertwasser’s own.
While Brauer didn’t directly collaborate with Hundertwasser, his influence is evident in Vienna’s cultural landscape. An excellent example of his architectural contribution is Das Brauer House at Gumpendorfer Straße 134-138 in Vienna’s 6th district.
The façade of this residential building, adorned with mosaics and sculptures, reflects Brauer’s artistic ethos and adds to the array of unique architecture that Vienna boasts.
Now, what do you think? What is your favorite Hundertwasser Vienna location? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!