"Hundertwasser Wohnen in den Wiesen"
Art, Architecture and Heritage in Bad Soden, Germany. A hypermedia resource
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann

3. The Artist and his work

Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Copyright Bösch 1996)

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser is an Austrian artist and architectural creator, known for his eccentric designs. Born in Vienna (Austria) on December 15th, 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser he attended the Motessori School in 1936. During the persecution of the Third Reich he lost all relatives of his Jewish mother in the Nazi concentration camps. In 1949, as a reaction to the state world around him, he changed his name to Friedrich Hundertwasser, derived from a translation of the Slavic "Sto" ( which means one hundred). In 1968 he changed his given name to Friedensreich ("abundance of peace") , and since then has added the words "Regentag (Riany day) and "Dunkelbunt" ("Dark multi coloured') to his surname.

Hundertwasser attended three months of formal art training, having been successfully accepted to the art academy of Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Wien, Prof. Christian Andersen), but dropped the formal education. He travelled widely to Morocco, Tunis, Paris and the Toscana (1949-1952), which shaped both his art and, later, his architectural forms.

Following exhibitions in 1951 he quickly established a name on the continent, especially after he developed his favour of spiral motifs. In 1959 he was offered a guest lecturing position in Hamburg. Exhibitions in mainstream museums in the 1960s, as well as his revolutionary ecological ideas made him well known (Bösch 1996). Hundertwasser now resides in Vienna and New Zealand.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser, "Arcade House with yellow Tower",1953.
Copyright: Art Shop zum Hundertwasserhaus

Examples of his artwork can be seen at an electronic art shop (Art Shop zum Hundertwasserhaus), and in collections, some of which are accessible on the web, such as the Essl Collection (Bösch 1996). A collection of electronically published images can be accessed here.

Hundertwasser and Bro, 'Der wunderbare Fischfang' (The Fabulous Catch), 1950.
Copyright: Art Shop zum Hundertwasserhaus

Hundertwasser has designed an urban house in Vienna (Austria; 1983-1985), a kindergarten in Frankfurt-Heddernheim (Germany; Deckenbach 1990) as well as a church (see below), a highway restaurant, a rubbish combustion facility ( Fernheizwerk Spittelau 1992 ;Mies 1993) and a fountain on the main square of Zwettl (Waldviertel Tourismus 1996). A thermal spa complex is under development (Blumau, Chibichi 1996), as is a school complex (see below).

Wittenberg, Germany. The existing Martin Luther college preparatory school, a pre fabricated concrete slab structure erected in 1975 shall be extensively remodelled on the exterior via additions as well as new wing sections (Wittenberg 1995a, 1995b).

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna, Austria. The initial buildings designed by Hundertwasser can be found in Vienna. More images of the Vienna Hundertwasser buildings can be found at Viennaslide.

Hundertwasser Church in Bärnbach, Austraia. The Hundertwasser Church in Bärnbach is a project where an existing post-WWII church was modified interally and externally (Harel 1994a). The design began in 1984 and was completed in 1988. A multimedia resource showing image before and after, as well as two morphs of the project have been published by Harel (1994a)

Hundertwasserhaus, Plochingen, Germany. In Plochingen (Germany) Hundertwasser modified the design of a building for residences and professional ofices, as well as a supermarket. Whereas in the other examples he took an existing structure and repackaged the outside, in the Plochingen example (1992-1994) he was able to modify the interior yard space. In addition he built a central tower.

Hundertwasser's philosophy changed over time, becoming more and more pronounced, just as he became more and more outspoken, encompassing first art, the applied and decorative arts and finally buildings and the design of urban space.

In the mid 1980s Hundertwasser argued that flags, coins and stamps are in fact 'calling cards' of nations and that they should be well designed. He argued, for example, that the New Zealand flag should be redesigned and use the Koru design.
Hundertwassers artwork has been reproduced on United Nations' Stamps and he has been asked to design stamps by the Luxembourg Postal Service. A set of three stamps was created especially for the European City of Culture event (Little 1996).

Above: Luxembourg stamp set, 1995. The three designs are "the King of the Antipodes", "the House with the Arcades and the Yellow Tower", and "the Small Path".

The following Hundertwasser quote sums up many of his views:

The Paradise Destroyed by the Straight Line

An ecologist without a conscience is doomed to failure, and the same is true of an artist who does not bow to the laws of nature.

The world has not improved. The dangers felt have turned into reality.

Nevertheless, today, although nothing has been done, my longstanding warnings are at last being taken seriously.

Yet there are still no lawns on the roofs, no tree-tenants, no plant-driven water purification plants, no humus toilets, no rights to windows, no duties to the trees. The essential reafforestation of the town has not come about.

What we lack is a peace treaty with nature.

We must restore to nature the territories we have unlawfully taken from it. Everything horizontal under the sky belongs to nature. Everything touched by the rays of the sun, everywhere where the rain falls is nature's sacred and inviolable property. We men are merely nature's guests.

In 1952 I spoke of the civilization of make-believe, the one we must shake off, myself, the the first of all! I spoke of columns of gray men on the march toward sterility and self-destruction.

The same year I used the term "transautomation" to show the way beyond the rationalism of technocrats toward a new creation in harmony with the laws of nature.

In 1953 I realized that the straight line leads to the downfall of mankind.

But the straight line has become an absolute tyranny.

The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling; it is a line which does not exist in nature.

And that the line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilization.

Even if there are certain places where it is recognized that this line is rapidly leading to perdition, its course continues to be plotted.

The straight line is the only sterile line, the only line which does not suit man as the image of God.

The straight line is the forbidden fruit.

The straight line is the curse of our civilization.

Any design undertaken with the straight line will be stillborn. Today we are witnessing the triumph of rationalist knowhow and yet, at the same time, we find ourselves confronted with emptiness. An aesthetic void, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power.

Even creativity is prefabricated.

We have become impotent. We are no longer able to create. That is our real illiteracy. (Hundertwasser)

On occasion of the laying of the foundation stone for the Bad Soden house in November 1990, but also in previous writings. Hundertwasser outlined some of the philosophy which led to the design as espoused:

"Why should one heartlessly use a ruler since everyone knows that a straight line is a dangerous and convenient mirage that will lead to disaster".
Since only nature can teach creativity the complex should be regarded as a
"voyage into lands of creative architecture ... a melody for feet and eyes." (Kalinowski 1992)
Hundertwasser further argues that there is a need to set a counterpoint to the current architecture, to show that is possible to different, to recover human dignity (Müller 1990b), and that people have become the 'human guinea pigs' of architects (Kalinowski 1990b). Hundertwassers base concept is that:
"nature, art and creation are one and the same, and people have set them apart." (Börchers 1993)
Hundertwasser takes strong issue with the straight and symmetrical, unnatural design of modern architecture and argues that architects, well knowing the sins they commit, continue to develop structures that defy organic design. Further, he argues that the average citizens, planning their own homes cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of designing houses (Interview quoted in Santifaller 1992). His design concepts are 'translated' into the reality of structural design and building code compliance by the architect Peter Pelikan. However, unlike the Bad Soden example discussed here, the house in Vienna follows the standard internal layout of flats as regulated by public housing commission (Kalinoswki 1992).

Hundertwasser argues that everyone should be permitted and encouraged make their own architecture, constructed from whatever he or she likes, whether it be wood, paper, or leaves - even if the building collapses. He believes people should be able to lean out their window, and paint whatever they'd like, to exercise their creativity and individuality.

In a 1992 interview Hundertwasser argued that buildings are organic and that unlike 'normal' buildings that the owners of buildings designed by him were permitted to change the design of the room of buildings (despite his earlier comments of the conceptual inability of average citizens to design their own homes) (Santifaller 1992).
Yet, both the prospectus (Wachendorff 1990) as well as subsequent events showed that these alterations required Hundertwasser's express approval and were it was not always granted. Further, the purchasers of units are bound by contract to abide by the rules that post-construction alterations to the complex are prohibited. This contradicts one of Hundertwasser's own design criteria, the 'Fensterrecht', the rule that owners should be permitted to alter their windows in any fashion desired to reflect their individual outlook onto the world (Huber 1993).

© 1996 Dirk H.R.Spennemann, Albury

This document forms part of :
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1996) Hundertwasser Wohnen in den Wiesen". Art, Architecture and Heritage in Bad Soden, Germany. A hypermedia resource. Johnstone Centre of Parks, Recreation and Heritage, Charles Sturt University, Albury NSW, Australia. URL: http://life.csu.edu.au/~dspennem/Varia/Hundertwasser/100W_Start.html