Austrian architect and Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Hans Hollien designed multiple projects that greatly influenced the style of Modernist Viennese architecture that we are familiar with today. One of his most significant designs is the Haas Haus complex. Located at the heart of St. Stephen’s Square in Vienna, Austria, the Haas Haus is an iconic example of postmodern architecture. This building is well known for various reasons. First and foremost, it’s postmodern design makes it stand out in a location that is commonly known for having historical and traditional buildings. It also uses materials that enhance the tension between the building and its surroundings. Through its unique shapes, materials, and location, the Haas Haus sparked up controversy about modern architecture versus traditional architecture and beautifully and unobtrusively showcased Europe’s ancient roots.
Project name: The Haas Haus
Architect: Hans Hollien
Client: Central Savings Bank
Project Location: St. Stephen’s Square in Vienna, Austria
The Haas Haus currently serves multiple purposes. The five-story atrium in the interior of the building is presently used as a fashion outlet as well as an exclusive hotel in the upper levels. The building also has a rooftop restaurant, cafe, and another restaurant in the sala terrena, a large formal room on the inside of the building. Haas Haus is romanesque in appearance, with a curved facade that further relates to the gothic medieval architecture around. The exterior of the building uses individual glass panels as functional windows that tilt outward to allow ventilation and also mirror the neighboring buildings. It is through this mirroring that the extraordinary details of its surrounding counterparts are fully in the spotlight without directly staring at them. By reflecting the buildings nearby and using similar shapes in the design of the structure, Hollein effectively integrates this postmodern building into St. Stephen’s square.
As previously mentioned, the Haas Haus resides at the center of St. Steven’s Square, a plaza with predominantly historical buildings. One of which is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one of Vienna’s oldest and greatest architectural masterpieces. When people found out about the plans to construct such a heavily contrasting building next to one of Vienna’s most prized attractions, there was a large number of critics who opposed the design. These critics argued that the stone and glass structure would not enhance the square and would take away from the experience visitors would feel when walking through the historic plaza. Hollein, on the other hand, believed that modernism structures should be transparent and freed from historical restraints in addition to being fully functional. Hollein stated “We must liberate architecture from building” and demonstrated his point through the Haas Haus. As a result of Hollein’s determination to broaden the scope of architecture, the Haas Haus combines new postmodern architecture with older constructions more fluidly than any other European city has done before.
Besides the obvious design differences between the Haas Haus and the nearby architecture like St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Haas Haus also used very different materials that contrast with the surrounding aesthetic. Hollein manipulates the use of a glass skin by tilting some of the panels outward for ventilation. This creates moments on the glass feature that is different from the otherwise smooth texture. Also, a section of its glass skin is partially covered in a light stone coffered grid of metal squares that create another distinction in the texture of the building. In addition to the skin, the building also has a corner that was designed to cantilever out over a subway station, creating a distinct separation between the two urban spaces. This area of the building uses dark, luring stone, which develops tension between the Haas Haus and the calmer tones that the surrounding buildings used. It is through the combination of materials and use of romanesque curves that the Haas Haus displays that modern architecture can be memorable, while still being subdued to its historical correspondents.
Overall, the Haas Haus is one of the most controversial pieces of architecture in the postmodern world. It boldly stands out in St. Stephens Square and is harshly criticized by people who disagree with the newfound relationship between postmodern buildings and historical landmarks. This multi-use structure enhances the outdoor scenery through its facade, using each individual glass panel to reflect the elegant buildings around it and showcase them through a different perception. Additionally, the individual glass panels are also used for ventilation through the deliberate use of tilting outward and allowing air to breeze in and out. Hollein also used a romanesque appearance in his design to further relate to the gothic medieval architecture of its neighboring buildings. Besides the thorough thinking of how to relate to St. Stephens Square, Hollein also allowed there to be a clear difference between the building and the past, integrating new design techniques and dark stone materials. Through all these careful considerations, architect Hans Hollien effectively demonstrated how to combine the new style of postmodern architecture with its architectural predecessors without taking away from either beautiful design.