THE ARTIST WHO MADE VIENNA FUN

In a nondescript back street, one facade springs out is unmissable.

In a nondescript back street, one facade catches the eye.

At first I found Vienna and the Viennese a little intimidating. Too grand, too well-dressed, and possibly too expensive. The ATM dispensed 100 euro banknotes – it was the first time I’d seen them.

That Habsburg architecture is impressive of course, though isn’t it also overblown and pompous? Fine for a palace or opera house but would you really want to live under all those cherubs in the cornices?

So it was welcome light relief to discover Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who revamped a Viennese city incinerator and later the public toilet block in Kawakawa, New Zealand, making them surely the world’s most enjoyable garbage disposal units.

The Kunst Haus Wien is a small museum displaying Hundertwasser’s colourful paintings. You may already be familiar with them. They look great on posters, coffee cups and fridge magnets. Whether or not they are great art doesn’t matter to me.

This woman is already on the right path.

This woman is already on the right path.

‘Where are you coming from?’ asked the girl at the ticket office.

I watched as she entered ‘Australia’ in the category ‘Amerika – Nord’. This in a country which sells t-shirts reading ‘No kangaroos in Austria’.

The Kunst Haus, Wien, dedicated to the work of Hundertwasser.

The Kunst Haus, Wien, dedicated to the work of Hundertwasser.

Hundertwasser began as a painter, before his travels around the world led him towards environmental campaigning and political action. On display are his designs for new flags for New Zealand (a curled fern) and Australia (an inverted Uluru). There’s also his offering of a combined Israeli/Palestinian flag featuring the Star of David over a crescent moon. Sadly wishful thinking. They’d still fight over which should be on top.

Photography of the works is understandably politely forbidden (they have those posters to sell), though there’s no such ban on shooting the building itself.

In the cafe-restaurant you may have a little trouble keeping your table from rocking on the rickety tiled floor. The kaffee gets my tick, however.

In the cafe-restaurant you may have a little trouble keeping your table from rocking on the rickety tiled floor. The kaffee gets my tick, however.

Toilets this way, ladies and gentlemen.

Toilets this way, ladies and gentlemen.

The courtyard alone with worth ducking into.

The courtyard alone with worth ducking into.

Five minutes walk down the street I came to Hundertwasser’s meisterwerk in Vienna, a dull public housing complex transformed into a piece of art.

Some of the gloss seems to have come off the colours...

Some of the gloss seems to have come off the colours…

...though Herr Hundertwasser would have enjoyed seeing the plants now extending over his creation.

…though Herr Hundertwasser would have enjoyed seeing the plants now extending over his creation.

It would make me smile every day to walk out through this arch, as the residents do.

It would make me smile every day to walk out through this arch, as the residents do.

Across the road is the Hundertwasser Village, dedicated to selling ‘I Love Vienna’ baseball caps to visitors.

Hundertwasser Village. Though the shops may sell the predictable tourist tat, at least it's fun.

Hundertwasser Village. Though the shops may sell the predictable tourist tat, at least it’s fun in the building.

Oh, and about that Hundertwasser toilet block in New Zealand…Mevrouw T and I were happy to spend a few minutes and a penny there some years ago…

Hundertwasser's contribution to brightening life in Kawakawa.

Hundertwasser’s contribution to brightening life in Kawakawa.

8 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Art, Austria

8 responses to “THE ARTIST WHO MADE VIENNA FUN

  1. Great photos…….something almost Gaudi-esque about the design…..

  2. By chance have you seen this – http://www.inspiringtravellers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Chris-45.jpg I think this building has something to do with recycling or energy but I may be wrong. I do know that it stands out in the area it’s in!

  3. That’s the one! I keep going past it on the U-bahn. At first I thought it stuck out far too much but now I see the same grey buildings each day I appreciate it a great deal more.

  4. I loved this when I was in Vienna.

  5. Oh, I totally LOVE these colourful and peculiar buildings of Hundertwasser… we happened to visit one in Germany, a town called Darmstadt. There was a restaurant/cafe, where we had coffee. I *loved* it… though the uneven floors, oddly sloping walls and reflective surfaces were a bit disorienting, and left me wondering whether my coffee had been improved with something alcoholic! But an unforgettable experience.

  6. These are great, Richard. I’ll check them out in a few weeks. Did you see the Otto Wagner buildings – I like them a lot.

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