“Alles ist Architektur” or “everything is architecture.” — Hans hollein
Crossing over from art and design to architecture and urban planning, from the smallest design’s scale to the most iconic large-scale projects in the world, Hans Hollein’s profound impact extended the scope of the profession and marked the second half of the 20th century’s architecture’s history. Dropping his buildings everywhere, he had left significant marks in many cities, and while his desire for signs and monumentality and his fascination for technology can be seen through his radical and iconic interventions, the particularity of his museum designs reveals his magical potential.
A Glance at The History of The Albertina Museum In Vienna
Located on one of the last remnant pieces of the former fortifications of the old city, and housed in a baroque palace complex between the Vienna State Opera and the Hofburg imperial palaces, the Albertina Museum is nowadays home to the most important collections of Austrian art and design from the second half of the 20th century, and other interesting exhibitions of contemporary Art and Digital Technologies.
The Künstlerhaus was built between 1865 and 1868 as part of a prestigious project that also included Hotel Imperial and the Musikverein Building. It has a long history, and today’s result is just the succession of interesting events and transformations in time. First, a seventeenth-century administrative building, a palace, then later in the nineteenth century a residence and home of the graphic arts collection established by Duke Albert and his heirs, and finally, it was destined for the exhibition of the artworks of the country’s oldest artists of that time as a gift from Emperor Franz Joseph.
After disappearing for 20 years behind construction scaffolding, the “Künstlerhaus, Association of Austrian Artists” or the actual Albertina Museum was reborn out of the generous patronage of Hans Peter Haselsteiner, who set up the project of renovation and expansion of this last, that was embellished by Hollein’s distinctive addiction to the exterior sequence between 2001 and 2003.
The Rebirth of The Building
After being dramatically damaged by the Allied bomb attacks in 1945 the museum was rebuilt, then the major process of its rebirth comprised three facets: renovation, expansion, and modernization, and lasted from 1998 to 2003.
Right after the war, this magnificent historicist structure was first restored to its original appearance from the inside to the outside. The restoration phase covered the exhibition and administrative sequences of the original palace, including the recreation of the original wall’s paintings and decorations, and the initial terrazzo flooring. This was completed in 2000 by the conservation of one of the most important rooms of the Palace called “Hall of Muses”, where the floors and surfaces were fixed, cleaned, and repaired, and all the panels required repainting to bring them back to their initial appearance, dating from 1822, with special treatments for the most damaged ones.
More than that, different coloured rooms have been completely restored to transport the visitors to the past with their beautiful paint colours such as turquoise, ochre, and vermillion, and their rich and original decorations.
The renovation phase consisted of establishing a new extension between the front of the Buggarten and the glasshouses, that was destined for the collecting and research activities, including a large hall for temporary exhibitions, the underground storage facility, and the adaptation with today’s standards for public buildings. This entailed few changes in the respect of the initial form and the addition of two new fire escape stairwells.
Finally, the modernization of this 150-year-old historical building generated the enlargements of the lower and upper level to adapt to the museological requirements of the Albertina Museum, by producing adequate lighting, climate control, and security. And while the new space called “Factory” has been designed for exhibitions and performances, and is destined for the organization, the upper level continues to serve as a home for the Künstlerhaus.
In 2003, the central courtyard was subject to a significant restoration to bring it back to its 19th-century appearance, where the façades were rebuilt according to Joseph Kornhäusel’s drawings. During the same year, the exterior entrance of the Museum was completed by Hans Hollein’s intervention called the “Soravia Wing” project.
The “Soravia Wing” Touch by Hans Hollein
The main entrance of the Albertina Museum is distinct by an elegant long metal flying parasol, in full contrast with the main building. It is a 64-meters wing-shaped cantilevered roof, made of titanium to cover the main access, where escalators and elevators were added inside the old walls to facilitate the circulation between the foyer level and the square. The intervention also included clearing a large vacuum of the damaged parts to make the old foundations brick walls of the Palace visible, generating a 7,50 meters height space, used for a café/bar.
This original masterpiece called “Soravia Wing” acquired the status of a landmark and was with no doubt one of Hans Hollein’s radical yet appealing touches.
Albertina Museum Today!
Albertina Building is one of the most beautiful neoclassical European palaces that keeps impressing its visitors not only by its magnificent architectural features, but also because it houses the most incredible and famous art collections in the world. Including 1 million prints, over 70,000 drawings, and watercolors by 5,000 artists and masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
In addition to that, the museum is home to a very appealing collection of architecture, with more than 50,000 plans and models by renowned architects like Mies Van der Rohe, Borromini, and Otto Wagner.
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modern, A., 2021. Modern, postmodern, Albertina modern. [online] VIENNA – Now. Forever. Available at: <https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/museums-exhibitions/albertina-modern-338784> [Accessed 6 June 2021].
World Monuments Fund. 2021. Albertina. [online] Available at: <https://www.wmf.org/project/albertina> [Accessed 6 June 2021].
Albertina.at. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.albertina.at/site/assets/files/10183/pressrelease_albertina_modern.pdf> [Accessed 6 June 2021].