Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Austria 2016 - Otto Wagner's 175th Birthday

ISSUE DATE: 13 July 2016

Whether it be the Postal Savings Bank building, the Kirche am Steinhof church, the pavilion on the Karlsplatz or the buildings he designed for the Viennese light urban railway, Otto Wagner’s presence can still be discerned in the Viennese urban landscape. He is considered one of the most important exponents of the Jugendstil in Austria and as the forefather of New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit). 2016 sees the 175th anniversary of his birth, and Austrian Post is celebrating this jubilee by issuing a commemorative stamp. 

The design for the stamp shows one of Otto Wagner’s most famous works: the Austro-Hungarian Post Office Savings Bank building, which was built between 1904 and 1912 and is one of the most important Jugendstil buildings in the city. Otto Wagner, who became one of the most outstanding pioneers of the early modernist movement and one of the most influential architects of his time, came from a wealthy family. Born on 13th July 1841, it was always intended that he should pursue a career in law, but at the age of 16 he began studying architecture at the Polytechnikum in Vienna, the modern day Technical University, and in Berlin, later also studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. He also learned his craft working as a foreman for prominent ring road architects, such as Theophil Hansen and Ludwig Förster, at the same time being able to execute some of his own projects. During the 1870s and 1880s Wagner built a number of villas and apartment buildings, and competed in the tender process for major projects. His conclusive breakthrough came thanks to his plan for the general regulation of Vienna, an example of comprehensive urban planning. From this point on he played a key role in developing the city’s infrastructure. He was appointed to the Commission for the Development of the Vienna Urban Light Railway and for Regulating the Danube, and many of the archways in the city’s urban railway and some underground and tram stations remind us of his work. The lock in the Vienna district of Nussdorf is also one of his works. In 1898/99 he built three houses on the Linke Wienzeile which are richly ornamented in the Jugendstil style. 

With its gold-coloured dome, which can be seen from far and wide, the Kirche zum Heligen Leopold, better known as the Kirche am Steinhof, is another of his famous works. Wagner’s premise was to combine functionality and aesthetics. His aim was to extend the professional profile of the architect. So, for example, he also designed the interior of the Post Office Savings Bank building: whether it be the carpets, the lights, the door handles or the desks, they all came from the same source. Even though Wagner had achieved a certain distinction through his prominent buildings, his theoretical writings, his teaching and his urban planning, conservative circles continued to make his life difficult and put paid to many of his large-scale projects. Wagner was able to provide designs for the new Academy of Fine Arts, for the War Office, the Technical Museum, an Emperor Franz Joseph City Museum and much more, but these plans were thwarted. Otto Wagner died in 1918, the same year as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Koloman Moser.

Stamp images and description thanks to Austrian Post - Österreichische Post
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