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Wagner, Otto (1841-1918)

Postsparkasse Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Kneidinger
Postsparkasse Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Kneidinger
Otto Wagner Church at Steinhof © Österreich Werbung/Popp-Hackner
Otto Wagner Church at Steinhof © Österreich Werbung/Popp-Hackner

Only in the early 20th century, in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) period, did architecture in Vienna become self-confident and distinctive. Otto Wagner is considered the most important architect of this age.

A leader of modern architecture
Born in 1841 in the Viennese suburb of Penzing, Wagner became professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna at the age of 53. His style of architectural design also found itself in the way he taught his students: a radical opposition to the prevailing currents of historicist architecture. Otto Wagner warned of venerating the old, and his projects speak for themselves.

Architecture on the move
His projects were largely public-works structures, such as the Vienna “Stadtbahn” – the metropolitan railway, which is today part of the U6 line. For this transport system he designed the Stadtbahn pavilions, the stations, several bridges and the railings, all of which are still preserved in their original state by the City of Vienna. A ride on this line from the Gumpendorferstrasse station to Währinger Strasse station is highly recommended in order to gain a sense of this artistry.

Wagner’s traces in Vienna
Equally impressive is Otto Wagner’s Postsparkasse (Austrian Post Office Savings Bank), in the 1st district, an important early work of modern architecture. Wagner’s Kirche am Steinhof (Church of St. Leopold), located close to the architect’s birthplace in Penzing, is one of the most famous Art Nouveau churches in the world.

Becoming a Secessionist
In 1897 Otto Wagner joined the Vienna Secession Group of Artists, founded by Gustav Klimt among others. Otto Wagner died in 1918, at the age of 77, leaving indelible marks in the city of Vienna.