Austrian Postal Savings Bank
Otto Wagner’s Postal Savings Bank ranks among the key works of European Modernity and Viennese art around 1900. The building realized from 1904 to 1912 is Wagner’s (1841-1918) most modern and important work. His rule that “what is impractical can never be beautiful” was the result of decades of architectural analyses and superior skills. The functionality of each constructive detail and interior decoration feature and the usability of each piece of furniture designed by Wagner guaranteed intelligent, convincing, and highly aesthetical solutions.
The façade’s aluminum-covered metal bolts, for example, are both a technical requirement and a programmatic exhibition of Modernity, but also convey an important symbolic message: the iron-clad treasure chest stands as an archetype of safekeeping money.
Wagner’s designs for the entire decoration and furnishings of the building reveal a similar programmatic-symbolic understanding: floor coverings, wall paneling, carpets and rugs, radiators, lamps, clocks, door handles, standing desks, counters, stools, seats, chairs, desks, wardrobes, wall racks, and safes – everything is based on this principle of design. The feet of the seating furniture in the Postal Savings Bank were covered with sleeves, the armrests with bands, thus not only protecting the furniture against wear, but also emphasizing its value and character as art. The hot air blowers in the Main Banking Hall transcend their mere utilitarian function and, with their practical value being aestheticized, turn into objects of art in their own right.
The uncompromising modern, practical, and unsentimental attitude, which the gesamtkunstwerk of the Postal Savings Bank was to articulate in its architecture and interiors, has lost nothing of its validity to this day: “Every modern creation has to visualize our own better, democratic, self-confident, our keenly thinking nature” (Otto Wagner, 1913).