There is no better way to describe the nature of his designs than eclectic, intricate yet frank, and often thought-provoking. Hollein had a witty charm, expressed satire, and contested the questions of nature in both form and function. His works drew along the contours of the brief and his pedantry to preach dignity and meaning, seeking architectural dialectics. Prioritized meaning than function and theatrics. 

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It was this willingness and respect for traditions of the new and old that made him the Pritzker Prize laureate in 1985, 20 years after his first commission of the Retti Candle shop in Vienna that his influence is now notable.

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Hans Hollein was born on March 30th, 1934, in Vienna, a country that was devastated by war. To which was most likely an impetus to his, non-conforming, pragmatic yet poetic and expressive works. He had written a manifesto in 1968 for Bau, a Viennese architecture magazine, with the title, “Alles Ist Architektur” – “Everything is Architecture”.

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Vienna: The Capital City of Austria, How Hollein Came About

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Vienna_©Shutterstock-Nok Lek

Vienna is synonymous with the waltz, wine, and flirtatious merriment, the evocation of music and artistic triumphant brandishing the city. Though these did not entirely define Vienna, for there was more to life than a pleasantry. It must be acknowledged that Vienna today was not to be if it weren’t for its myriad of misfortunes.

With each passing century, the sum of a series of errors and blunders have attested, to which have rebounded Vienna with a lifting exuberance, now known as a pleasant city to live and visit. It should not be overlooked that this capital was notorious for its history and underlying corruption dating back to the absolvement of the Napoleonic world. Viennese events fueled energy, resuscitated artists, authors, poets, and composers to create art. Following the revelation after the World War, in the late 1950s revealed Hans Hollein. An exceptional architect that psychologically liberated Vienna and its people with the interchanging of ideas following the footsteps of Schindler and Neutra.

Philosophy

“Form does not follow function. Form does not arise out of its own accord –we are building what we want, making an architecture that is not determined by technique, but that uses a technique – that is pure absolute architecture.” An excerpt of Hans Hollein’s scripture in 1963.

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Long before Hollein embarked in architecture, he was an Austrian commissioner for the arts. Which explains his debonair, sly, and satirical nature. He looked at architecture through an artistic lens, palpating that art is an element to life, bridging one era to the next. His traits could be split and expressed as two sides of reverence. One was reverent of detail and the other was irreverence of total functionalism.

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His works were a glimpse into wonder and had a playful riff, embracing modern technology and incorporating it with traditional architectural elements. The association of a multitude of elements invited an evocation to a shared human experience. He was the seeker of truth, Hollein was not fixated on traditional curricula, he liberated his ideas by traveling, observing, and taking up city-building and architectural interventions. Which cultivated his well-roundedness to understanding every project he approached for it was the rigorous thought process of the architect that defined space, not the space itself.

Rauchstrasse Apartments – Tiergarten Robert Krier Plan 1987

With a group of second-generation architects, including Hans Hollein the project was led by Robert Krier to design building complexes (social housing) in the Southern Tiergarten neighborhood, Berlin as part of the International Building Exhibition 1984/87 (IBA). The objective was to regenerate an urbanscape after the fall of the Berlin Wall in WWII. Krier aimed to restore the structure of the nineteenth-century urban plan. 

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Given the Stadtvillen an der Rauchstrasse – Housing in Rauchstrasse, there was a uniform sequence of a clear alternation between built volumes and defined voids, a series of internal streets and courtyards that mimic qualities of the said nineteenth-century predecessor. It was an array of densely arranged living areas grouped in communal spaces encouraging social association and collective activities.

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Stadtvillen an der Rauchstrasse_©NorthernArchitecture

Six buildings were strict to a rigid cubical form, with undeviating geometric forms, this was to achieve unity of the designs, keeping it in line with the tradition of the neighborhood’s design. The style of which was a peculiar marriage between (European) late modernism and the Nazi era. 

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A center core with near symmetry of its apartment layouts. Though Krier allowed considerable freedom for the architects’ aesthetics to ornament the cube forms. Hollein contravened the brief and his façade had prominent variation, breaking the strictly cubical form. Wall openings were slightly curved revealing angular balconies. 

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Observing the rest of the apartments in similitude, there were several slim vertically rectangular windows. He tackled the dim nature of the style by incorporating convex windows protruding out of the corner walls and top floor. It seemed as if the “cubical framework” could not contain Hollein’s nature of the design.

Alles Ist Architektur (Everything is Architecture)

The reintroduction of pathos, symbolism, sensual and emotional moments with Hollein’s sagacity and wit, the complexities and lightness of life was breathed into his design. This ignited a pathway to postmodernism, a mindfulness of the past, present, and progressivity. With eyes that witnessed devastating and fleeting change, Hollein had no one way of describing architecture, it is all-encompassing, that was his truth. Indeed, “Everything is Architecture.”

References

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Samanian, S. and Hollein, H. (2009). Hans Hollein Reflects on His Career and How the Pritzker Changed His Architecture. Retrieved from:

Fox, Margalit. (2014). Hans Hollein, Inventive Architect Who Designed With Wit, Dies at 80. The Weekly New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/arts/design/hans-hollein-architect-of-witty-designs-dies-at-80.html [Accessed 18 September 2021].

Winston, A. (2014, April 29). Hans Hollein: a life in projects. Dezeen. Retrieved from: https://www.dezeen.com/2014/04/29/hans-hollein-a-life-in-projects/

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Rauchstrasse Apartments – Hidden Architecture (2017). Retrieved from: http://hiddenarchitecture.net/rauchstrasse-apartments/ [Accessed: 19 September 2021].

Systems, e. (2021) 135_Rauchstraße Berlin / Germany / Nations / Architecture / Home – HANS HOLLEIN.COM, Hollein.com. Retrieved from: https://www.hollein.com/index.php/eng/Architecture/Nations/Germany/Rauchstrasse-Berlin (Accessed: 19 September 2021).

Josef, P (1987). Stadtvillen an der Rauchstrasse. In Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin 1987: Projektübersicht. Berlin: IBA, 30-3. Rauchstrasse, Berlin (1980-5). Masterplan, selected buildings Retrieved from: www.krierkohl.de/projects/rauchstrasse.html

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Borsi, K, Porter, N., Nottingham, M. (1996). The Typology of the Berlin Block: History, Continuity and Spatial Performance. Athens Journal of Architecture, Volume 2 (1), pp. 45-4.

Wright, F. 2014. 1910: Organische Architektur: . Programme und Manifeste zur Architektur des 20. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, Boston: Birkhäuser, pp. 22-22. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783035602784.22

Author

Aliyah or more often, Ally. Stuck in a perpetuating daydream, always hungry, and stretching her arms like a router looking for a connection in the broadband. Incessantly monologuing arguments about the world with her own perceptions. Hence, reading to step back, loosen her fingers and relax. Striving to be savvier.

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