Otto Wagner (1841-1918)

He was influential for the city of Vienna

postal savings bank

According to the vision of Otto Wagner, Vienna wouldn’t now have a population of 1.7 million but rather four million. The architect didn’t only have other ideas about urban development, but also other plans for the Hofburg, Karlsplatz and many other important locations in Vienna.

“An impractical thing can never be beautiful!” Otto Wagner (1841-1918) explains his philosophy.

Informed in his early years by the architects of the imperial opera, Otto Wagner’s roots lay in historicism. Later he would leave this tradition behind and refer to it disparagingly as “archaeology which worships everything old”. With his move from the traditional to the modernist camp of the Wiener Secession, he set out on a path which the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) painter Gustav Klimt had wisely foreseen: “You, Otto, won’t be allowed to build the walls on which I won’t be allowed to paint my frescos.” Indeed there are at least as many of his plans that were not realised as there are of Otto Wagner’s completed masterpieces.

However Klimt wasn’t completely right

both pioneers left a permanent mark on Vienna’s cityscape. The Jugendstil architect Wagner is not only immortalised in the magnificent residential buildings on Linke Wienzeile, the Wiener Postsparkasse, the Ankerhaus on Graben and the church at Steinhof, but also in the design of the old Stadtbahn urban railway.

Bridge over the Danube Canal


 Art Nouveau building facade

Two-thirds of the stations which he designed for what is now the Vienna underground are still in operation: for example the stations Alserstraße (U6), Josefstädterstraße (U6), Kettenbrückengasse (U4), Karlsplatz (U1, U2, U4) or Stadtpark (U4).

You can follow Vienna’s architectural history just by taking the underground – on the way from the fantastic Jugendstil buildings of the ambitious architects of the turn of the century to the equally impressive classics of their traditional predecessors.

Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig