Radical Austria, A little world in which the big one holds its tryouts
This year, both Architecturaltheory 2 and Architecturaltheory M will be dedicated to the Austrian avantgardes of the twentieth century – with the unavoidable emphasis on Vienna.
This is due to the research we’ve been doing over the last 15 years in our Institute and related a large exhibition on the Austrian Avant Garde of the nineteen sixties and early seventies we’re curating at the Dutch Design Museum in Den Bosch, which will open on Februari 20th 2021. One can see this lecture series as offering a background to that exhibition and put it in historical perspective.
We will discuss 3 different Austrian Avant Gardes:
-The Fin de Siecle, when Vienna was the fifth largest city in the world; the period of the Ringstraße, but also of Freud and Wittgenstein, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos.
-The nineteen twenties, the period of Austromarxism and the particular Logical Empiricism of the Vienna Circle; also, the period of the enormous housing programs of the Settlement Movement and Red Vienna.
-The nineteen sixties and early seventies, defined by Aktionism, Cybernetics and a meriad of international influences: the period of the radical architecture of Hans Hollein, Walter Pichler, Coop Himmelblau, Haus Rucker Co, Zünd-Up and Salz der Erde.
We will also discuss some continuities of these avant gardes abroad, outside Austria, through Austrians in exile.
Many developments that started in Austria, had a global influence.
This is due to the many Austrian scientists and artists that went into exile.
Therefore, Carl Schorske called it:
“A little world in which the big one holds its try-outs”
What is striking is the incredible continuity in Austrian culture up to the nineteen sixties.
This is related to the special position of Vienna: it’s size as the fifth largest city in the world before WW I, capital of the Habsburg Empire and its connectivity in a period in which the world was going through radical changes, and the later isolation as capital of the First and second Austrian Republic.
Thus, during the Fin de Siècle, Vienna not only attracted scientists and artists from the Habsburg empire, but also from abroad.
In the nineteen thirties, many intellectuals were prosectuted and went into exile.
With the Austrian State Treaty being sealed very late in 1955, Austria, surrounded by the Iron Curtain, appeared almost as an appendix to Europe, cut off from it’s traditional hinterland.
It remained quite isolated until mainly young intellectuals and artists and architects in particular started to reach out actively – often through former exilants, who reconnected them to their own avantgardes.