VIENNA: MORE THAN JUST CLASSICS
Vienna should thank its past rulers, musicians, painters, architects who have made the city rich in history, culture, and art. Schönbrunn Palace marks the glory of Habsburg Kingdom and the birthplace of Marie Antoinette. St. Stephen’s Church or Stephansdom is a prominent Gothic church in Austria. Mozarthaus is the apartment where Mozart wrote many of his masterpiece compositions.
The story behind those beautiful places fascinates millions of tourist worldwide that popularizes the Austria’s capital.
Nonetheless, the classics are not the only things to embrace in Vienna. At Kegelgasse, it treasures modern art in the form of unconventional architecture works by Friedensreich Hundertwasser: Hundertwasserhaus and Hundertwasser Village.
Hundertwasser (1928-2000) was an Austrian artist who at first gained popularity from his paintings. However, his architecture works he started in the early 50’s actually made him more well-known and become one of the most prominent artists in the 20th century, performed in particular way as seen on his paintings, using vibrant colours, rejection of straight lines and nature-oriented style.
It was my third time to visit Vienna, but my feet had not touched the ground of Hundertwasser’s property for some reason I cannot remember. Thus, I had to make it happen no matter what.
HURRY UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
It was 5.10 pm. To catch the tram 1 to Hetzgasse, where the famous Kegelgasse is located, the tourist map redirected me to walk until the end of main shopping street, where I found all restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours looked so tantalizing, most probably because my hunger was on its peak. Moreover, the pinkish cafe I passed by sold wiener schnitzel as their main menu. Yummy!
But thank God, the tram station was situated across the street from that pinkish cafe. The LED digital board mentioned that it would arrive within 2 minutes and it kept its promise. I hope I would be there before 6.
THE CUTTING-EDGE WORLD OF HUNDERTWASSER
Seeing a tall building painted with graphic patterns of uneven squares in multiple colours, the vines on the wall façade, trees and bushes on rooftops, with the dome on top resembling a Russian Orthodox Church, there’s no way that I could be in the wrong place. Even if I didn’t hear the preliminary announcement inside the tram.
That unusual apartment building was so-called Hundertwasserhaus, situated on Kegelgasse 34-38, designed and constructed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, together with Joseph Krawina and Peter Pelikan, from 1983 to 1985.
Although Hundertwasserhaus succeeds to reveal originality and peculiar beauty that draws attention to many visitors worldwide, the discrepancy of the unique landmark remains: the inside of the apartment is not accessible for public viewing.
Then, he refurbished a car tire factory on Kegelgasse 37-39 to let visitors enjoy his interior design, situated in the opposite side of Hundertwasserhaus, under the approval of its owner Klaus Kalke, into Hundertwasser Village from 1990 to 1991. He placed the “Kalke Village” sign next to the main entrance to honor the factory owner.
Hundertwasser Village is not purely a village with inhabitants living permanently. It actually incorporates cafes, fast food parlours, souvenir, art and museum shops under one roof. I was lucky enough to manage to get in at 5.45 pm, a quarter minutes before closing time, when most crowds already left the site. Some stores had their rolling door pulled down to mark the end of the operational hours on that day.
At a glance, the modern art village is heavily-targeted for tourists and art lovers who want to chill out and do some (souvenir) shopping, while feeling the “presence” of Hundertwasser through the cutting-edge ambiance he created.
Though I failed to have a dining experience at the café, I guess I didn’t miss much since they do not serve signature dishes. There’s nothing particular at the souvenir shops either as I can get key chains, fridge magnets, postcards, tote bags with “Vienna” inscription elsewhere (may be for less). At the museum shops, however, they have more than just Hundertwasser related merchandise. The options of Klimt, Schiele, Mozart and Sisi are also available.
Regardless what they sell, I think they have done a pretty good job at combining cheapo and artsy goods simultaneously in attractive visual merchandising.
No two people (artists) are the same, yet Hundertwasser’s interior somehow reminds me of Spain’s Gaudí. Cobblestone, squared tiles (some are irregularly cut), mosaic and bricks mingle harmoniously on the surface of the bar table, pathways, staircases and certain parts of the wall, combined with monochromatic colours as a balancing element of vivid colours presented in the design.
Vines, trees and bushes appearance in certain spots, including on the balcony above the main entrance sign, confirm that nature is part of the fundamental design of Hundertwasser. Some trees located on the higher level even touch the ceiling and turn sideways to adjust the space they live in.
The stair-shaped natural stone fountain is not something to overlook as well, I personally love the soft shades of pastel colour lighting coming out of it.
TOILET OF MODERN ART
Most of the time, I avoid prepaid toilets in Europe whenever possible. However, I was glad I wasn’t too thrifty to insert €0.60 into the machine for the Toilet of Modern Art entrance fee. Hundertwasser is the master of surprises – It’s a mosaic-domination toilet and the most quirky and coolest place for “nature calls” design I’ve ever seen in my life!
In a nutshell, the existence of both Hundertwasserhaus and Hundertwasser Village (also Kunst Haus Wien, not far from Kegelgasse, another Hunderwasser’s architectural work that houses his painting collections) is like a modern oasis in a big city surrounded by the renaissances, the rococos, the baroques, the gothics and many more old-fashioned eras. His works are indeed refreshing and awakening my senses, suggesting that differences are beautiful and there’s nothing to be a shame of.
Never mind the banality of food, drink and souvenir varieties, it’s not really the purpose of the visit. I was happy enough to get a €1 iPad-sized postcard of Hundertwasserhaus, after all.
As soon as I left the unconventional art village at 6 pm, I did what I desperately needed to do: eat! And the signature Viennese dish, wiener schnitzel, at the pinkish café would be my choice for the evening.