THEOPHIL HANSEN 1813 - 2013
A Star Architect and His Residential Buildings on the Vienna Ringstrasse
Mo-Fr 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays, bank holidays closed
Fronleichnam, May 30th, 2013
Mariä Himmelfahrt, August 15th, 2013
May 14 to August 17, 2013
Wolfgang Förster, Institut für Wohnbauforschung/ MA50,
Monika Wenzl-Bachmayer, WAGNER:WERK Museum
Exhibition catalogue "Theophil Hansen. A star architect and his tenement palaces on the Viennese Ringstrasse".
Edited by Monika Wenzl-Bachmayer, with essays by Wolfgang Förster, Peter Haiko, Eva B. Ottillinger, Ulrike Scholda and Georg Töpfer.
212 pages, 220 photographs, German-English, ISBN 978-3-200-02646-9, € 35,00
Ringstrasse with the Outer Hofburg Castle Gate ("Heroes' Gate") and Palais Epstein still under construction, 1870
For the 200th anniversary of the birthday of the Danish-Austrian Ringstrasse architect Theophil Hansen, WAGNER:WERK Museum Postsparkasse presents, from May 14 to August 17, 2013, an exhibition entitled "THEOPHIL HANSEN 1813–2013. A Star Architect and His Residential Buildings on the Vienna Ringstrasse." On display in the exhibition will be sketches and design drawings, plans, photos, furniture, and arts-and-crafts objects from numerous Austrian and international lenders.
Born 1813 in Copenhagen, Theophil Hansen was one of the architects who had a lasting formative influence on the Vienna cityscape in the second half of the nineteenth century. The removal of the old city fortifications and the building of the Ringstrasse—signaling Vienna's development into a modern metropolis and of the rise of the bourgeoisie—provided opportunity for Hansen to design and plan some of the most prominent prestige buildings of the imperial capital and residence city. The show also unfolds a wider perspective of the Ringstrasse as a European project.
The goal was to create a gesamtkunstwerk to give visible expression to the new social conditions—this being a parallel to Otto Wagner's later work, and even to Wagner's pupils and the housing projects of Red Vienna. The exhibition thus focuses on Hansen's residential buildings, including his public buildings only in so far as they contribute to an understanding of the cultural-historical—and immanently political—significance of these buildings.
THE VIENNA RINGSTRASSE - A EUROPEAN PROJECT
In an imperial rescript of December 20, 1857, addressed to the Minister of the Interior, Baron von Bach, Emperor Francis Joseph I decreed the demolition of the city fortifications against protests from army leaders who were in constant fear of revolutionary onslaughts. It was the launch of the largest urban rebuilding project in the history of Vienna. A European-wide architectural competition provided the "master plan" for the urban layout of the grand boulevard on the erstwhile glacis outside the city walls. Even in 1873, the year of the World's Fair, a large part of Vienna still was under construction. At the same time, Vienna's urban growth accelerated, with population numbers rising from 400,000 to two million over the next fifty years.
The Ringstrasse was officially opened on May 1, 1865; only the Schottenring section was completed as late as the 1880s. Theophil Hansen's multi-story block buildings in "Viennese Renaissance" style provided the blueprint for the entire urban expansion project, replicated by the hundreds in the suburbs and urbanized outskirt villages. Socio-politically, the Ringstrasse symbolized an invigorated bourgeoisie's wish to give visible expression to their - primarily economic - power. This applied not only to public buildings; the power demonstration of the grand bourgeoisie and "industrial" aristocracy also, and most importantly, included prestigious residential buildings. It becomes particularly evident in the palatial homes of the banking and industrialist families, the Epstein, Todesco, and Ephrussi, how "classical" shapes and forms were employed also in interior decoration to underscore their wish for stately grandeur.
In the Heinrichhof across the street from the Opera House, acclaimed as "the world's most beautiful apartment building," and the Apartment Building Ensemble on Schottenring, Hansen defined the typology of the bourgeois apartment building, whose perimeter block style and Renaissance façades left a lasting imprint on Vienna's cityscape in the Gründerzeit period.
Theophil Hansen gave the bourgeois classes their own style, and yet insisted on an internationalization of architecture which resulted in a more uniform appearance of big cities in continental Europe. The Ringstrasse may in fact be described as a project of European dimension: not only did the majority of the financiers and clients come from the ranks of the "immigrants," but the architects who built it were mostly "foreign-born" as well, as were Ludwig von Förster, Gottfried Semper, Friedrich von Schmidt, August Sicard von Sicardsburg, and of course Hansen himself.
THEOPHIL HANSEN'S WEALTHY BOURGEOIS CLIENTS AND THEIR PALAIS BUILDINGS
Simon Georg von Sina
The Greek Consul in Vienna had already been a patron of Hansen in the latter's time in Athens. He also had a hand in Hansen's invitation to Vienna by Ludwig von Förster. Sina supported the Greek struggle for freedom and the Greek community in Vienna. Hansen rebuilt the Palais Sina in Vienna and the family Palazzo in Venice and did the extension of the Greek-Orthodox church on Fleischmarkt that was funded by Sina. The banker was considered the second richest man in Austria after Rothschild.
Ignaz von Ephrussi
Hailing from the Jewish community in Odessa, the Ephrussi family had built up large banks and trading firms in Paris and Vienna. In 1869, Ignaz von Ephrussi commissioned Hansen to build the family's "Zinspalais" on Franzensring (today: Universitätsring), which - with its magnificent interior decoration, large library, and eminent art collection - became a center of Vienna's grand-bourgeois "Second Society." The banking house survived the stock crash of 1873 and the economic crisis of the 1930s. In 1938, it was "Aryanized"; Ignaz's daughter-in-law Emmy committed suicide, while his son Victor managed to flee to England. The entire family fortune was looted by the Nazis, with only a small fraction being restituted after 1945.
Gustav von Epstein
The Epstein family came from the well-off Jewish middle class of Prague. In 1857, Gustav Epstein took over the Vienna branch of the trading house and turned it into a private bank. He also was a director of the National Bank, a member of the Stock Exchange Chamber, and on the Board of the Vienna Jewish Community. Epstein also promoted social and cultural projects, such as the Musikfreunde Society. He lost his Palais, one of the first and most magnificent on the Ringstrasse, which Hansen had built for him (with the young Otto Wagner as site manager) in the 1873 stock crash. When Epstein died in 1879, only fifty-one years old, almost nothing was left of the once enormous wealth of the bank and trading house.
Eduard von Todesco
Originally based in Romania, the Jewish Todesco (Todescu) family relocated to Vienna in the early nineteenth century. In 1858, Eduard Todesco took over the textile factory at Marienthal. He transformed the still small trading house into a private bank and became a financer of important infrastructure projects. In the splendid ambience of the family Palais, built by Ludwig von Förster and Theophil Hansen across the street from the Court Opera, Eduard's wife, Sophie, née Gomperz, entertained one of Vienna's most prominent salons, frequented later by, a.o., Johann Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Through his daughters' marriages, Eduard von Todesco also had family ties with the Lieben and Oppenheim families, the latter of which also resided at the Todesco Palais.
Heinrich von Drasche
Born in Brno in 1811, Heinrich Drasche took over the brickworks of his uncle Alois Miesbach on Wienerberg and expanded them into Europe's largest factory of bricks. He also bought up numerous building lots all over town and had almost 400 apartment houses and tenements built—including the Heinrichhof across the street from the Court Opera which was designed by Theophil Hansen. Transformed into a joint-stock company in 1869, Drasche's brickworks employed some 8,000 people around the turn of the century. The infamous working conditions there were publicly denounced by Victor Adler in a series of articles about the "slaves from Wienerberg." Drasche was raised to nobility in 1870. After his death in 1880, the business was taken over by his son.
THEOPHIL HANSEN—THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK
During his years as an architect in Vienna, Theophil Hansen also dedicated himself to designing complete interiors, which might encompass the entire furnishings of a building, window grilles, railings and banisters, lamps, wallpapers, and furniture. After his studies in Copenhagen and having spent several years in Athens, Hansen was clearly qualified for such projects. For his furniture designs he relied on his personal language of forms which was characterized by subtle details, a consistent tectonic overall structure, and the inclusion of individual elements such as acanthus tendrils, dolphins, sphinges, or putti sculpted in the round.
Hansen developed all his furniture designs for specific clients and directly relating to rooms he designed. Apart from the banking families already mentioned, artisans and industrialists actively involved in the Viennese arts-and-crafts reform as manufacturers of high-quality objects were also among his clients. They entrusted artists not just with the design of their products, but with furnishing their homes and shops. Hansen's collaboration with Lobmeyr was particularly close: besides numerous glass objects, Hansen also designed the furnishings for the home of Ludwig Lobmeyr, the owner of the company.
All in all, the clients played a prominent role. Simon Georg von Sina trusted Hansen's taste as much as Archduke Ludwig did, in whose Hernstein Castle the architect was also responsible for a variety of movables from the altar furniture to a desk set. Hansen had to reconcile his design ideas with his clients' personal wishes. He was also concerned with developing constructive compositions, referring to models, and making stylistic references in his arts-and-crafts works.
Beyond that, Hansen designed table utensils, cutlery, glass services, dishes, tablecloths, but also jewels and special testimonials such as cups and elaborately decorated covers. He was in contact with the most important manufacturers of the Ringstrasse period: the bronzeware factory Hollenbach's Nephews, the mentioned glassware company J. & L. Lobmeyr, the jeweler A. E. Köchert, the silversmiths Mayerhofer & Klinkosch, a.o.
The exhibition presents furniture and objects from the Palais Epstein, from the Lobmeyr home, and from Hernstein Castle, Lower Austria.
A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP: THEOPHIL HANSEN AND OTTO WAGNER
Otto Wagnerʼs early works clearly testify to his familiarity with Neoclassicism and Theophil Hansen's achievements; some of them even quote the latter's solutions. This comes as no surprise, of course: from 1868 on, Wagner worked as site manager in the construction of the Palais Epstein, in which Hansen paradigmatically articulated his design principles for the Vienna "Zinspalais" (grand apartment building) on the Ringstrasse Boulevard. This was the first time Wagner found himself confronted with the issue of an upper-bourgeois apartment building. He not only learnt how to perfectly organize the layout of the owner's stately piano nobile apartment and create a façade that would fulfill the owner's claim to giving visible expression to his role in society, but also how a complex functional and prestigious whole could be made a gesamtkunstwerk without ignoring the economic aspects that were always essential when building a "Zinspalais."
Theophil Hansen realized his concept of a gesamtkunstwerk in the Historicist Parliament Building on Vienna's Ringstrasse Boulevard in a both monumental and uncompromising manner. It was only shortly after 1900 that Otto Wagner would succeed in carrying out such a project with the Postal Savings Bank. Presenting all of its planner's ideas of Modernism architectonically and stylistically to the viewer both inside and outside the building, the Postal Savings Bank reaffirms Theophil Hansen's important influence despite its complete renunciation of Historicism. Like Hansen's Parliament Building, it is suffused with the idea of the gesamtkunstwerk: Otto Wagner designed each piece of furniture himself; all interior furnishings from the door handles to the carpets were executed according to his designs. It was the discourse with Theophil Hansen's design principles that gave birth to Wagner's "modern architecture."