Editorial Feature

Explore The Inventive Architecture of Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Take a tour of the colorful architect's most famous projects

Friedrich Stowasser (1928-2000), better known by his pseudonym Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, was an Austrian-born New Zealand artist and architect. Hundertwasser started to work as an architect at the age of 55, having already built up his reputation as a painter. He was known as an opponent of “the straight line” and his work is recognizable for his use of bright colors, hand-created decoration, distorted lines and his desire to be in touch with nature. He developed an aesthetic that is often likened to Antoni Gaudi, as they both favored irregular forms and organic shapes.

Hundertwasser became known as “the doctor of architecture” as he often “treated” new and old buildings by decorating them to diminish their “visual pollution” on the environment. The architect had very strong views on the purpose of buildings and wrote many manifestos and essays to articulate his thoughts. His main philosophy was that human misery was a result of the rational, sterile, monotonous architecture, built following the tradition of the Austrian architect Adolf Loos, author of the modernist manifesto Ornament and Crime (1908). Hundertwasser called for a boycott of this type of architecture, and demanded creative freedom of buildings, and the right to create individual structures.

Here, with the help of Street View, we explore some of Hundertwasser’s most iconic works.

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna, Austria

Designed in 1983 and completed in 1986, the Hundertwasserhaus is an apartment block in Vienna, Austria. The building has undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass and large trees growing from inside the rooms, like limbs extending out of the building. Located in the Landstraße district, this is one of Hundertwasser’s most well-known works as it’s become a landmark in the area.

Due to its individualistic and surreal aesthetic many people view it as an expressionist building for the way the building's distorted form aims to illicit an emotional response from onlookers. Hundertwasser took no payment for designing the building, declaring that it was worth the investment to “prevent something ugly from going up in its place”.

KunstHausWien, Vienna, Austria

The KunstHausWien is a museum in Vienna and holds the world’s only permanent exhibition of Hundertwasser’s works. The museum was created by renovating a building from 1892, which housed the Thonet furniture factory (creator of the iconic bistro chair), in a style which emulated with Hundertwasser's art.

Completed in 1991, the entire building is designed in typical Hundertwasser style, with wavy, undulating floors and a notable lack of straight lines. Bright, glaring colors are used throughout with foliage everywhere. To keep the rooms flooded with daylight, Hundertwasser, who was said to be fond of sunlight and therefore windows too, had a glass frontage built in front of the facade. The facade is decorated with enamel, checkerboard mosaics. In contrast to Gaudi, who adopted a similar style, Hundertwasser used symmetrical mosaic stones, carefully arranged. Likewise, the size of each stone isn’t accidental, which is rare for building mounted mosaics that are built by hand.

Waldspirale, Darmstadt, Germany

The Waldspirale is a residential building complex in Darmstadt, Germany, built in the 1990s and finally completed in 2000. The name translates into English as “forest spiral”, reflecting both the general plan of the building and the fact that it has a green roof. The U-shaped building doesn’t follow a regular grid and the windows appear, according to Hundertwasser, “au der Reihe tanzen” (dancing out of line). The windows are a key feature of the building, with each of the 1,000 windows being unique.

Similarly there are different handles attached to doors and windows in each apartment, with some entire apartments decorated in the Hundertwasser style. The building has a diagonal roof, which is planted with grass, shrubs, flowers and trees and throughout the facade trees seemingly grow from the windows. Another feature, typical of Hundertwasser's work is the use of gilded onion domes, the predominant form for church domes in Russia, Ukraine and Bavaria, and so called because they are shaped like an onion.

Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant, Vienna, Austria

Following a fire, the Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant was another renovation undertaken by Hundertwasser, but at first he was opposed to the project due to the pollution created by the plant. He was soon convinced by Mayor Helmut Zilk, who promised the plant would be equipped with the most modern emission-purification technology, and that the energy would be used to heat homes efficiently, ultimately making Vienna's air cleaner, so the architect agreed.

Hundertwasser was in charge of changing the functional, gray facade into a work of art and it was completed in 1992. The outside of the building and the chimney were adorned in the architect’s favored style, with gold tiled spheres being added to the chimney, checkerboard decorations and surrounds of windows painted in irregular shapes.

Saint Barbara Church, Bärnbach, Austria

The St. Barbara Church in Bärnbach is a colorful, cheerful and positive place of worship thanks to Hundertwasser’s redesign of the building, which was completed in 1988. The architect was given free reign over the church building and grounds. He started by painting the exterior with symbols and imagery ranging from a heart with spears to green circles on the roof.

The architect also turned the church’s steeple into a huge clock tower, affixing clocks to each side, one of which is without numbers. Surrounding the church, Hundertwasser created 12 gates, which were meant to represent every religion of the world, as a welcoming gesture.

Rogner Bad Blumau, Austria

The hotel complex designed by Hundertwasser at the hot springs of Bad Blumau, Austria was the architect’s largest project. Opened in 1997, the hotel belongs to the chain Rogner International Hotels & Resorts, and has become a landmark in itself.

Designed in Hundertwasser’s sporadic style, the complex is full of wooden roofs, organic shapes, colourful facades, golden domes, over 300 colored columns and more than 2,400 windows, which of course, are all unique.

Kuchlbauer Tower, Abensberg, Germany

The Kuchlbauer Tower in an observation tower on the grounds of the Kuchlbauer brewery in Abensberg in Lower Bavaria, Germany. Conceived and designed by Hundertwasser, the architect died during the planning phase of the tower in 2000.

The 34.19 meter tower was completed under the direction of Leonhard Salleck, owner of the brewer and with architect Peter Pelikan overseeing construction. Inside the tower is a museum that holds a collection of 4,200 Weissbier glasses.

Maishima Incineration Plant, Osaka, Japan

Hundertwasser’s design for the Maishima Incineration Plant in Osaka fuses technology with environment and art. As one of his final designs, it boasts a golden onion dome chimney that stands at 120 meters high, and its walls are decorated with a checkered design, and red and yellow lines. Once again, the architect’s fascination for windows took hold with this design, as the plant has more than 500 windows but only 130 are actually real.

The building was completed in 2001, a year after the architect’s death. Every year thousands of visitors come to the site by mistake, thinking it’s the nearby Universal Studios, rather than to see the 900 tons of garbage it deals with a day.

Credits: All media
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