Friedensreich Hundertwasser thought straight lines were souless, boring; he hated how they were the accepted thoughtlessly as the standard for architecture, confining human beings within inhuman boundaries.
Above image: The Rogner Bad Blumau spa, Austria, by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
There’s two readings one can take from his stance: one was that Hundertwasser, born in 1928 in Vienna, was a proto-hippie. His full name, Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (meaning, “Multi-Talented Peace-Filled Rainy Day Dark-Colored Hundred Waters” in German) would be evidence of that. His feverish manifestos, among which he argued for people to be comfortable with mold growing in their homes, would be more evidence.
But his personal background casts his anti-straight line stance in a different light. Hundertwasser and his mother were Jews living during the Second World War. He avoided notice by being baptized into the Catholic Church and he later joined the Hitler Youth.
So of course he was disgusted with all things that resembled totalitarianism. Lines and rigid geometry were an uncomfortable reminder of the stultifying order he was subjected to as a child, a reminder of the brainless fascists goosestepping through Europe. When he made the jump from painting to architecture, his buildings took on the look of his psychedelic paintings and not a damn one of them used a straight line. Further, he believed that the occupant of apartment or a space in one of his buildings had the right to draw or paint anything they wanted on the exterior of a building that was within arm’s reach of a window.
When the curving buildings were paired with the ceramic cladding he favored, they became wholly unique. The bright colors and soft forms look as though Hundertwasser didn’t construct the building as much as he picked up a brush and painted it into the skyline. For being rigid structures, they suggest motion; some of his buildings look like they’d quiver like a cube of Jell-O if you poked them.
It deserves note that Hundertwasser was also an early advocate of environmentalism in architecture. The idea of mold being a part of someone’s daily living situation is a bit much, but several of the buildings pictured here use vegetation in pleasing ways. It’s a shame that Hundertwasser, who died in 2000, isn’t around to play with some of the newer ceramic tiles that clean pollutants from the atmosphere or encourage plants to grow vertically up the facade of a building.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
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