Otto Wagner (1841-1918) is one of the most significant architects of the turn of the twentieth century. His building projects—among them the City Railway (Wiener Stadtbahn), the Postal Savings Bank (Postsparkasse), and the Church at Steinhof—are regarded as milestones on the path from historicism to modernism.
Wagner was a visionary. He recognized that a historicist architecture fixated on the past stood in contradiction to the political, economic, and social dynamics of his time. As a response, he designed a radiant and rational architecture of the future, one that rested on the relationship between function, structure, and novel building materials. Wagner’s radical designs represented a clear break from the past for advocates of modernism but were viewed by defenders of tradition as sheer provocation. For this reason, many of Wagner’s projects remained unrealized, including his plan for the City Museum on Karlsplatz. The current Wien Museum building was later erected on the same site.
The Wien Museum’s comprehensive jubilee exhibition in 2018 coincides with the one-hundredth anniversary of Wagner’s death, and is the first major exhibition dedicated to this titan of urban architecture in over fifty years. The exhibition locates Wagner’s oeuvre in relation to his companions and opponents, illuminates his artistic, cultural and political environment, and conveys a sense of his international appeal. Exquisite drawings, models, furniture, paintings, and personal belongings vividly relate the story of Wagner’s prodigious career. Most of these objects are from Wagner’s estate, one of the treasures of the Wien Museum’s collection. Several objects will be on view to the public for the first time—an invitation to rediscover this great architect anew.