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Otto Wagner (1841-1918)

“A new era arrived, the MODERN. Architecture

became ‘Baukunst.’ Otto Wagner had ushered in this new
era. His word caught fire, it became fact and went into the
world…. He created an atmosphere in which the seeds of
future greatness could live and grow.” -Lux

“We must become fully aware that the sole

departure point for our artistic work can only be MODERN
LIFE.” -Wagner

•Born in July of 1841 on the outskirts of Vienna

•Attended Technical University in Vienna then Architectural Academy in Berlin, moving quickly
back to Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, completing his schooling in 1863
•Heavily influenced by Gottfried Semper and Karl Friedrich Schinkel
•“Moderne Architektur,” a guidebook for his students, was published in 1895
•Was the first modern writing to make a definitive break with the past
•Later re-published as “Die Buakunst unserer Ziet”
Moderne Architektur
•Otto Wagner wrote Modern Architecture to create a new STYLE
•Three principle themes of Modernism:
•A plea for simplicity in the accommodation of modern needs
•The artistic and ethical ruin of eclecticism
•The demand for a new style based on present technologies and methods
of construction
Table of Contents “Almost everywhere the
MODERN movement has marched in
victorious. Its opponents thronged into camp
as deserters; the opposition’s best warriors
•Chapter 1: The Architect faltered when they saw that the shield of
eclecticism and ‘intimacy’ that they were
holding up to the onslaught of the MODERN
movement was only made of pasteboard. ”
•Chapter 2: Style

•Chapter 3: Composition

•Chapter 4: Construction

•Chapter 5: The Practice of Art

•Chapter 6: Concluding Remark

The Architect
“Among the fine arts architecture alone is truly creative and productive; in fact, it alone is able
to make forms that have no model in nature yet appear beautiful to man.”

•The education of the architect:

•Technically trained, 22 to 26 years of age, imagination, taste, keen thinking

•Qualifications for a professional:

•Must have the ability to perceive needs

•The title “Architect”

•Misused by those who have no claim to it

“The artist has been content to dissect the dead with a magnifying glass and lancet, instead of
listening to the pulse of those who are alive and relieving their pains.”

• The modern style is a response to the needs of modern man

•He argues that the logical consequence of catering to these needs is that art, and artist,
are then forced to represent their epoch and to conform to modern appearances and
ideas, even to the point of staying in step with fashion.

•Architecture’s basis was no longer to be symbolic form, but construction and technology.

•Not only a building style; modernism affected all aspects of the aesthetics.

“The ‘modern eye’ has lost it’s sense for a small and intimate scale and become accustomed
to less varied images, to longer straight lines, to more expansive surfaces, and to plainer

•Emphasizes the human need for a visual resting point; otherwise a painful
uncertainty or aesthetic uneasiness occurs.

•The image to be perceived, whether from single or multiple viewing points, was
very important to Wagner.
•Viewing points: locations where the building can be seen most frequently, most
easily and most naturally

•Wagner stressed a need for symmetry, as it provided self-containment,

completeness and balance

“The role of the architect is to is to acknowledge new technical means arising from needs and
interpret them in a way suited to modern sensibility.”

•Wagner felt there was a break with the past because of the changes in modern
construction methods; new technical and material means needed new formal

•Need, purpose, material and construction are conveyed as the primitive “germs” of
architectural production

•Therefore, new purposes and materials lead to new methods of construction

•Construction gradually acquires artistic value, leading to art-forms

•The introduction of IRON was the main reason for this change of vision
The Practice of Art

“There are two conditions demanded by modern man that can be considered to be criteria: the
greatest possible convenience and the greatest possible cleanliness.”

The Practice of Art, according to Wagner, Includes:

•Representation through drawing

•City Planning:
Streets, Squares, Urban Gardens, Fountains, Bridges
•Art in Industry and Production:
Furniture, Illumination, Decoration, Clothing/ Fashion,
Geretsegger, Heinz. Otto Wagner 1841-1918 : the expanding city, the beginning of modern
architecture / by Heinz Geretsegger and Max Peintner ; associate author Walter Pichler ;
introd. by Richard Neutra ; translated by Gerald Onn. New York : Rizzoli, 1979.

Kruft, Hanno-Walter. A history of architectural theory : from Vitruvius to the

present/ Hanno-Walter Kruft ; translated by Ronald Taylor, Elsie Callander, and Antony
Wood. London : Zwemmer ; New York : Princeton Architectural Press, c1994.

Wagner, Otto, 1841-1918. Modern architecture : a guidebook for his students to this field
of art / Otto Wagner ; introduction and translation by Harry Francis Mallgrave. Santa
Monica, Calif. : Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1988.

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