Published Categorised as Art & Design, Austria, Popular Posts, Travel 3 Comments on Hunder­t­wasser

Every so often I like to write on here about things I like, and why I like them. I’ve (finally) been finish­ing my zine about Vienna, and there’s a section about Hunder­t­wasser in there, but I didn’t really have enough space to say everything that I wanted to say, and in a b&w zine obvi­ously you totally miss out on the colours, which are a major part of his work, so here is a longer thing about him and his work. I’ve visited the Kunsthaus/​Hunder­t­wasser­haus in Vienna quite a few times, and I wrote about one of my visits here. I first came across his work in 2001, when I was 16/​17, and bought a £3 book from a discount shop because it looked inter­est­ing from a quick flick through. I’m glad I did! All the pictures in this entry are either taken by me, or come from I don’t feel like I’ve really caught  my exact favour­ites here, but collect­ing images from lots of differ­ent sources and making sure they were all cred­ited prop­erly would have taken a long, long time. Here’s an over­view of some things.

Friedens­reich Hunder­t­wasser was an Austri­an artist, archi­tect, fash­ion design­er and envir­on­ment­al­ist. He was born Friedrich Stowasser in 1928 and died in 2000, very famous in Austria, Germany and NZ, but not really a house­hold name in the UK. Sto means hundred in vari­ous Slavic languages, so he star­ted using the pen name Hunder­t­wasser, and his first name gradu­ally mutated into Friedens­reich, which means “peace­ful coun­try” in German. His family were Jewish, but managed to spend the war hiding out by pretend­ing to be Cath­ol­ics. He joined the famous Akademie des bildenden Künste in Vienna, but found it stifling, and left to travel the world. Origin­ally he was a paint­er, but he also became an archi­tect and graph­ic design­er, design­ing a lot of build­ings and stamps in Austria and New Zeal­and (where he even­tu­ally was also given citizen­ship). Strangely he was also a support­er of the Chris­ti­an Demo­crat party.

Both his paint­ings and archi­tec­tur­al work are based on concent­ric flow­ing organ­ic lines and spir­als, with bold colours

Hundertwasser’s build­ings looked a lot like his paint­ings. Here’s his mani­festo against straight lines and uniform­ity in resid­en­tial build­ings.

Block of flats for a hous­ing asso­ci­ation in Darm­stadt.

Heat­ing plant in Vienna. The brief was to create a less boring facade for the build­ing.

Hotel, Blumau

The build­ings weren’t just decor­at­ive on the outside, they are designed to be comfort­able inside, extremely energy-effi­cient, and use trees and plants worked into the design, which he called “tree tenants”, espe­cially insu­lat­ing and water-proof­ing the roof with turf and gardens. He worked with other archi­tects to create the build­ings, he would do the design, and they would help with the prac­tic­al details that would make it work in real life.


The Hunder­t­wasser­haus in Vienna is the first block of flats he designed and actu­ally had built- tree tenants in full view. There’s a cafe on one side on a terrace, and the flats are designed so each one is a decor­ated a little differ­ently, with paint and mosa­ics. The origin­al idea was that the (human, non-tree) tenants should be free to custom­ise the outside as they liked, but I don’t know how well that is held to these days 30 years down the line.



He also designed his own museum, around the corner, the Kunsthaus Wien.



Hunder­t­wasser liked his floors as undu­lat­ing as his lines. Every­where is lined with these mosa­ics, and there are windows and plants every­where, with the museum arranged around a cent­ral court­yard with an indoor garden and foun­tain, to give it as natur­al and relaxed a feel as possible. It’s a very peace­ful feel­ing place inside.


(Picture saying “The line I trace with my feet walk­ing to the museum is more import­ant and more beau­ti­ful than the lines I find there hung up on the walls- Paris 1953”)

Right after I took this in the museum, an offi­cious gallery assist­ant dressed in expens­ive black came over and told me off for taking photos, and then went and told a little boy off for essen­tially being inter­ested and happy. I don’t think Mr Peace­ful­coun­try Darklymul­ti­col­oured Rainyday Hundred­wa­ters would be happy about that, cantan­ker­ous old hippy that he was. I have issues with the way the museum is run. The exhib­i­tions are all about Hunder­t­wasser going off on adven­tures on his boat the Regentag (rainy day), being insist­ent about doing everything in his own idio­syn­crat­ic way (down to only wear­ing self-designed clothes), and design­ing build­ings to make them friendly and warm and indi­vidu­al, and just gener­ally being free-spir­ited and icon­o­clast­ic yet the museum is run in the most conven­tion­al, cold and off-putting way.

Some of the staff act like they really wish the visit­ors wouldn’t clut­ter up the place so, the gift shop is full of very expens­ive things, and photo­graphy seems to be myster­i­ously allowed in some parts of the build­ing, but not in others, and chil­dren are defin­itely considered a nuis­ance  It’s also quite expens­ive to get in. I suppose Hunder­t­wasser himself is dead, so can’t say anything about it. Despite that, I’ve been there multiple times every time I’ve been in Vienna.

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