Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Other Modern: Church Architecture of the Wagnerschule

Oscar Barta, design for church, 1902/1903-1903/1904

Otto Wagner, one of the great masters of the Viennese Jugendstil, the German-speaking world's equivalent of Art Nouveau, tended to approach church architecture from a purely mechanistic and functional angle, but in spite of this, and a number of other protomodernist opinions in his philosophy, he and his disciples produced some truly remarkable design work in turn-of-the-century Austria. (Wagner-style ecclesiastical design reached its full promise with the work of his student Jože Plečnik in Slovenia, a serious, rather mystically-minded Catholic, whose work deserves treatment in a separate post). but he is the The following are taken from Otto Wagner und seine Schule, a beautifully-illustrated presentation of dozens of watercolored renderings of unrealized or hypothetical projects by Wagner and his students, and are a fairly representative cross-section of the movement's work, as well as a few extraordinary flights of fancy, including a utopian design for a papal palace near Jerusalem [!]. They are all quite striking, if perhaps too dependent on the relatively small number of precedents available--specifically Wagner's church at the Steinhof mental hospital in Vienna, and Olbrich's Sezession building, the infamous "gilded cabbage." It is one of life's little ironies that the self-consciously iconoclastic members of the Vienna "secession" have, in retrospect, far much more in common with the hated historicists (indeed, it is one reason their work is so successful aesthetically) than anything to come out of the post-Corbusian sausage factory.

Otto Schönthal, design for funeral chapel, 1902

Josef Heinisch, ideal scheme for a papal palace in the Holy Land, 1912

Josef Heinisch, ideal scheme for a papal palace in the Holy Land, 1912

Karl von Keler, scheme for a church interior, 1902-1903/1903-1904

Hubert Gessner, proposal for a Catholic church, 1896

Anton Schania, proposal for a Catholic church, 1896

Otto Wagner, design for a parish church

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