Everybody needs a splash of colour in their lives, literally and figuratively. The world would be a dull place without it, and nobody knew this more than Hundertwasser, an Austrian artist and architect who created incredible buildings brimming with glorious technicolour.
Just like many artists who dare to be different, opinions about Hundertwasser’s work are polarising, while some say it’s too kitschy and commercial others say it’s wonderfully imaginative and original.
Being in Vienna, I was excited to see Hundertwasserhaus, a housing complex made up of 52 apartments and 16 private terraces, which the architect built between 1983 – 1985. Located in Landstraße, I enjoyed the scenic walk along the canal from my hotel near St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
The building attracts its share of tourists so you’re likely to spot crowds snapping away before you get a full view of the apartment block. Unlike the rest of Vienna which focuses on straight lines and a traditional sense of architecture, Hundertwasserhaus does everything but conform to this standard.
The first thing you notice is the patchwork of colours – bright, bold and varied. Then you notice the quirky design, surprisingly there are no straight lines, no right angles, every window has a different shape and vines and greenery wind around the building’s façade to create a beautiful suggestion that it’s been reclaimed by nature.
The idea of living more harmoniously with nature was an integral part of Hundertwasser’s vision, he said, ‘Among trees you are at home’. Through his work he created rooftop gardens and loved to include shapes naturally found in nature, with a special affinity with spirals as he believed they were a symbol of endless nature and beauty.
The building has a very fairy-tale quality to it, and you can’t help but smile at its playful rebellion, especially in a city that, although diverse, has a homogeneous aesthetic. In some areas the painting seems shredded, revealing the original façade which serves to highlight how ordinary the building would otherwise appear. Fearing this, Hundertwasser took no payment for designing the complex saying it was to prevent something ugly being erected in its place. Though some haters said he did exactly that (haters gonna hate!).
As the building is a residential complex, you cannot go inside which is disappointing but wholly understandable, due to this you shouldn’t expect to stay here long. However, next to the house is located the ‘Hundertwasser Village’, a kind of shopping mall where you can purchase souvenirs, and grab a bite to eat.
Less than 10 minute’s walk away you’ll also find KunstHausWien, a museum dedicated to the architect as well as exhibiting work from artists around the world. Sadly, I didn’t have time to go but it would be the perfect activity to do in combination with visiting Hundertwasserhaus as it certainly adds more meaning to his work and your appreciation for it.