Ich bin ein Wiener: 1. In Search of Otto Wagner

http://thinkvisual.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/karlsplatz.jpgThe Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station as it was (above, top), the same station reassembled, which is a now a museum (above, bottom).

The original 1898 Stadtbahn train line was more today’s Green line stations. The train was below ground level, but not yet a subway (see directly below). In the old days, you went into the station building and then on the left side went down to the train. This was not like the color shot of the Stadtpark station (color shot below), where the platforms face each other. As you can see in the shot (black and white, directly below), only one platform is visible. What was the reason for two separate stations and two platforms. Did it reduce noise, or to have fewer people coming out of one set of doors?

The station was housed over below ground tracks like the color shot of today’s Stadtpark station (above right), not yet a true subway line.

So these pavilions were two station entrance buildings, one for each different directions. In 1960 there was reconstruction to form an underground transfer to another line. The Wagner stations were not part of the plan. They were to be demolished. But there was a public outcry. The buildings were moved from the original Akademiestrasse area and reassembled at the new subway site in 1977. That is an irony, that because Wagner used steel construction, with marble facing, the building could be disassembled and reconstructed. Today, you exit out of part of museum one, but the buildings no longer serve as stations. One is a museum, the other a private cafe.

I was able to see an original floor plan blueprint (directly below) in what is now the Wien Musuem Otto Wagner Pavillion Franzplatz. The original station had one third areas devoted to toilets. The men’s had 5 urinals and 2 stall toilets. The women’s, as expected had 2 stall toilets. There was also a separate toilet for the ticket people who worked in the bureau area. But as I look at the blueprint, I cannot find a sink. You can click on the blueprint to see detail, you really don’t need to know any German.

An original blueprint showing the floor plan of the station.

I tried to piece photos together, to get a sense of what it the station looked like.

When I visited the station, pavillion as they like to call it, there was a beautiful display of black and white photographs of the stations in original use. I shot them as best I could and corrected the parallex warp to see them better. Comparing my color photos to the black and white,  I realized the interior I experienced, is not exactly the interior that people riding the train were experiencing. In my hope to see something put together as authentically as was possible, I began to realize, certain things were gone (the windows where tickets were once sold (see color shot with clock below), now are two open spaces.

The golden embellishments, perhaps that Wagner might have wanted are not to be seen in these early shots of the interior. I may also be wrong as the nature of the old orthochromatic films, less sensitive to blues and green, from the later panchromatic film which are what you see the silent movies of the 20s on up today.  But I might wager that only the clock area actually had that gold leaf embellishement, as it is obvious in the exterior top shot. The wood does not appear to be painted green, again it may be the film, but might be highly varnished darker chestnut like wood. While the buildings are intact, the floors must have been destroyed or lost. Those must have been mosaic design of porcelain and glazed tile.

You are seeing an original (above) and a composite I have put together to show what it might have looked like, or what Wagner may have planned, but did not quite happen. The ruglike mosaic was very common during the turn of the 20th century and is reproduced from the MAK (Museum für angewandte Kunst) only to show style. What color and design Wagner may have planned I do not know, but presume it might have been greens and gray.

When I look at Wagner, I think more of Sullivan. My mother always says, Calvin Klein was a coat designer and Sonia Rykiel was an excellent sweater designer before they set up shop big time. From that I would say Wagner could have been a door designer, alone. Don’t be fooled, by the shot directly above. The white paint is an undercoat in the shot. But it is not the color, but the rhythm that the wrought iron creates across the doors (above, top shot). Very different from I believe from the cafe building (above, lower shot), in which each set of curves of the wrought iron lines are separate for each door. It reminds me of the rhythms that Beardsley sometimes set up, and similar proportions (Peacock Skirt, Salome illustration, left). History is cohesive, our own examination of it is select and fractured.

For a while, I thought about these exteriors. We are looking at glass, wrought iron, steel, rusticated stone (I think) and marble slabs, and then the applied designs. But overall, the apple green paint outside was probably to unify these materials. As I remember hearing from my early years, there was not a large variety of colors in commercial paints, and some pigments are always more expensive.

The embellished plaster is a trademark of Europe, and Vienna has tons of it. I believe the station used it, but the gold leaf may not have been available to Wagner in terms of cost. I could be wrong. Plaster wall embellishment can still be found in many mundane buildings in Vienna (left).

I have been in several Green line stations, not designed by, but somewhat influenced in style after Wagner. Our world is an interesting place. Most of the public moves through public spaces they think very little about, yet are totally affected by. I’m sure our ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman ancestors did much of the same. Architects and urban planners have tremendous power in shaping our reactions to the spaces we experience and live in. Wagner was one of them in Vienna.

Kettenbrückengasse Station, near the Naschmarkt, part of the Green line. (The name literally chain bridge lane.)

But I believe that the gold leaf, as we saw it in the photo really was on the outside. It is interesting to note the sun/cornflower motif on the outside front and then a totally different motif with flowers, in the shot with white coated door and the shot of a back wall a few shots above. I am sorry this is such a hodge podge of stuff, but it was more interesting when I tried to piece it together.

If you look at the first black and white shot on top, you will notice, two large bronze cast plaques, which added a certain design element to the whole front. I wondered what they were, and what became of them? Remember this system was devised under the Austrian monarchy.

The other Wagner station, now a cafe. I’ll drink to that, I guess.


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4 Responses to “Ich bin ein Wiener: 1. In Search of Otto Wagner”

  1. black white photography Says:

    Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  2. Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station - Vienna, Austria | One million doors around the world Says:

    […] photo source – think Visual’2 blog […]

  3. archipicture Says:

    i like this building – nice images!

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