Missing Link

19 / 04 / - 28 / 06 / 2002
Exhibition / Discussion

Overview and documentation of the work from Vienna-based
Arbeitsgemeinschaft (working group) "Missing Link" (1970-80)

Wiener Studien

Wiener Typen
aus: WIENER STUDIEN MISSING LINK. Museum des 20. Jhdts. Wien 1978

Arbeitsbericht Projekte 1970 – 72
Karl 365 (1971)
16. November: Eine Utopie in neun wirklichen Bildern (1972)
Treffen auf dem Feld (1972)
Via Nostalgia: Straßenarbeit (1972/73)
STtilleben Weltatrappe (1972/73)
Die andere Seite (1973)
Die verstoßene Stadt (1974)
Asyleum – Großes Hutobjekt (1976)
Via Trivialis Fünf Aspekte zur Straße
Wiener Studien
Comments in Architecture (1980)



The "Wiener Studien" both deal with analyses of the existing architecture in Vienna and its specific tradition (Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffmann, Josef Frank a. o.), and further more try to illustrate and transpose the key-words of these analyses by proposing actual projects.


In 1929 - when the constructivists in Russia designed the "Palaces of Work" for the new society, EI Lissitzky pointed to the danger of introducing into life a new, strange, but shallow pathos. "If we want to apply the term 'palace' in our life at all, then it is the furthermost thing to change the factories into palaces." What for those constructivists was a linguistic and theoretical problem on paper in the beginning, had already been fully realized in Vienna in a series of blocks of the community-buildings-program.

The tension that arose through the terms "flat for lower-class people" and "palace" and through the buildings actually built and the rhetorical claim of the political program, that tension had not come into being without any historical ideals and roots.

When Nicolas Leduc designed the salt-pits of Chuan - which represent an architectural as well as an economic unity of working places and dwellings - he did not fulfill the baroque ideal (a compact construction with wings) but he did realize the ideal of the free pavilion system.

1832 - four decades after the French Revolution - Charles Fourier went back to the formal entity of baroque representation architecture (Versailles, Palais Royal) when he planned the living palaces called "Phalanstere". Godin developed these ideas further when he built the "Familistere" in 1859. Fourier and Godin used the traditional large feudal forms which, however, were altered into large-scale dwelling-units, according to the progressive utilitarian principles prevailing all those times. So they used traditional forms as architectural vessel to carry their utopian Socialism. Quite similar motives were the basis for the vast outline of the Viennese blocks.

The pupils of Otto Wagner (Josef Hoffmann, Karl Ehn, Hubert Gessner, Ernst Lichtblau a. o.) oriented themselves formally about his concepts, but not so much importance was given to the "Modern City" of 1910 as was given to his "Artibus" project of 1880, which itself was influenced by Gottfried Semper's "Kaiserforum".

The description of this theme can only be shown in rough outlines and incomplete as well as exemplary: the fact that in the field of architecture in historically progressive phases quite often the phraseology of these conditions, which people tried to surmount, have been used, this fact falls into the broad spectrum of problems of linguistic laws to which any architectural communication is submitted. This is a problem that always arises when one wants to show the importance architecture as a means of communication.


This study deals with a peculiar type of building as it was developed in the Vienna of the 1920s. The so-called "Wohnhöfe" are large tenement houses built in the form of ramparts around large green spaces inside. They became known as "red fortresses" on account of their "military" configuration and because they had been the hot-spots of political struggles which culminated in the Civil War of February 1934. Attacked by the artillery, many of those "Wohnhöfe" had suffered heavy damage. The critics of the time would have liked to get rid of them altogether; but after more than four decades a shift in importance has taken place - importance in regard to the history architecture seen at the same time as the history of environments. Now those Viennese tenement houses have become the center of interest again as they have proved - to one's greatest astonishment and against all forecasts - to be still in good repair. They are informative as they mirror Vienna's history as well as exemplary urban dwellings.

This study does not claim to be totally exhaustive in that theme. lt is a drawn report about the necessity to understand the situation today: just as to enter into an abandoned workshop - that was once Viennese social architecture - through the back door in order to search for the forgotten future among the things of the past.

Furthermore it is an attempt to find the meaning and the position of the present by analysing the problems and by making clear and carrying on traditional thoughts which had been repressed for a long time.

The "Wohnhöfe" building type came into being to comply with the Social Democratic Party's building policy and overcame the grave shortage of housing conveniences. Even as late as 1919 about 90 per cent of Vienna's houses were still without running water, electricity and built-in water closets. Looked upon as a social product to which working-class is entitled, this form of housing was also seen as a means to fulfill the economic interests of the bourgeoisie: low wage levels could be satisfied thanks to low rents and to tenants' protection laws; and thus prices of export goods could be kept low as well.

Similarly ambivalent was the position of the party - on the one hand very powerful just in Vienna - on the other hand constantly threatened by the rising Fascist Movement. A similar analogy again could be seen in the outward appearance of these blocks; they were designed to be massive and hermetic. Yet in the inside - only to be reached through a few giant gates – they enclosed a differentiated "city within the city", large green courtyards, day-nurseries, electric laundries, first-aid clinics, libraries, gymnasiums, entertainment halls etc. - revolutionary ideas indeed - for those times.

And the architectural design of the community living there was likewise ambivalent. Those buildings were created by architects (Peter Behrens and Adolf Loos among them), who had been trained to observe the rules of imperial grandeur dictated by Otto Wagner. Those architects applied the bourgeois-aristocratic architectural dimension to social buildings,

The military moment of those buildings is in no case less legal and immanent as is the military moment in the planning and the design of Vienna's Ringstraße, Vienna's Stadtbahn and other measures concerning town planning, a conception the present design of Vienna owes something to.


Wiener Werkbundsiedlung, 1929 - 32, Vienna, 13th District.
from: WIENER STUDIEN MISSING LINK. Museum des 20. Jhdts. Wien 1978

Between 1929 and 1932 a model settlement was built in Vienna, exemplary in respect to small living units. That colony was a late consequence of the City Planning Congress held in Vienna in 1926, but hardly had any importance for the Council of Vienna (which was the body having given the building order) as that Council had clearly decided for social houses in the form of many-storied buildings ("Wohnhöfe") in the years before.

All the buildings of that settlement have to be called terrace houses or typical ones, although there was a certain variety possible, through opposing opinions of the architects involved (Lurcat, Rietveld, Hoffmann, Loos, Neutra, Plischke, Frank a. o.) and certainly some deliberate variation, too.

The common formal and typical qualities are first of all flat roofs (which can be walked upon), smallness in area, garden rooms, standardization in construction and building elements, uniform treatment of facades, enclosures and roofs. The most striking common features were high value in use and relatively low maintenance costs.

Different attitudes can be seen in variations as concerns number of storeys, designs of cellars, position and form of stairs, layout of the kitchens (there were kitchenettes, kitchen-living rooms and kitchen-dining rooms) and the arrangement of the rooms on the whole.

Josef Frank points to the possibilities concerning enlargements or alterations, which must be read quite individually today. The village has become an important architectural factor in the meantime, a pedagogical concept of functionalism. Its historical and didactic importance is still underestimated today.


Wiener Typen
from: WIENER STUDIEN MISSING LINK. Museum des 20. Jhdts. Wien 1978

The idea of the typus is not so much related to a metaphor of something to be copied or strictly imitated. Using a typus in construction (design) does not mean necessarily equal or even similar results. These studies show a sequence of several types of houses designed in steps of addition and combination. The single steps of the sequence can also be starting-points for new sequences. This method offers an open system of variations to a common basic-sequence.


In the "Butzengraben", a steep riverbed in a market-town near Salzburg, two new parts (one for offices, one for living space) tower the original building. Because of the figuration of the plot a long body has been built. The plan was made that way because of the already existing extension parallel to the river and because of the public footway that has to be crossed to reach the bridge which is under the house.


In the house "Weidling" in Rotgrabental near Vienna, the proposed geometrical body forms a contradiction to the existing typical wooden house. Joining element is the path from the garden through the new part to the roof of the old part along a wall that runs along. The facades of the cube show a different face to each side, so to say "specific faces". The layout plan shows equally large rooms, which make changes easy, changes for a different usage just through partition, opening or just different arrangement of the rooms.


How many pieces of furniture do we need to live comfortably? Pieces of furniture we can need as useful things and containers; pieces which create atmosphere and coziness and which offer opportunities to activities, which even gain individual existence themselves. Do we need hand-made furniture which show originality but also certain flaws, or do we need machine-made furniture, which are interchangeable?

Sometimes furniture occupies our rare spaces in our personal realization and form the face of our environment.

In the best case the different pieces of furniture are independent things, exchangeable and easy to supplement, without being penetrant. They silently play the game of imaginary distances: the height of the bed in relation to the height of the chairs and the label and the ceiling ... Furniture mean something different at different times and in different places: it all depends if one is on one's heels, on one's knees ... how about furniture in Vienna? Living in Vienna? "As late as 1920, the Viennese did not know what real home should be like", Josef Frank wrote in an essay. "It consisted largely of a corridor which was separated through walls and thus made into different rooms. The normal flat of Vienna consisted only of a small kitchen and one bigger room."

The cause of this situation was - as Josef Frank put it - that the Austrians have always been a nation, which was allowed to enjoy the luxury of their regents, but which itself had to remain in flats of the lowest kind.

However, there were coffeehouses (17., 18.), the psychohygienic ambulances of comfortable timelessness, the public, communicative corners of the street all over the city-plan. "The Viennese lives in his coffeehouse", was Frank's opinion and thus he described one way of life of Vienna's general public, To say it in a subtilized way: as long as there are coffeehouses, one can live here,

In 1976 the statistics of Vienna's Chamber of Commerce showed an increase in the number of coffeehouses and public houses - after long years of stagnation.

In reality, however, banks, supermarkets and car saloons swallow up the prestige-bearing corners, those where the coffeehouses were which recently got into trouble because of the high maintenance costs and the rising salaries and wages. lf in such cases those banks - gradually under the pressure of an articulate public opinion -serve you a cup of coffee- as sort of consolation and compensation - they act in a deep and cynical misunderstanding.

Even in the smallest branch bank the electronic clock on the wall reminds us of the rule which time possesses in those rooms: time is money, and money, in the units of time, means interests and thus capital ...

In Vienna's coffeehouses, however, there is another unit of time prevalent a glass of fresh water, served with the coffee, another glass after it, and as many as you want and have time to drink ...

From: WIENER STUDIEN MISSING LINK. Museum des 20. Jhdts., Wien 1978.

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