Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Hundertwasser house in vienna austriaCatching a glimpse of this picture on Pinterest, I was immediately inspired to learn more about the building and artist who created it.  What a find to learn about architect -artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and the Hundertwasser House in Vienna, Austria.

As a child Hundertwasser and his mother (who was Jewish) posed as Christians to avoid persecution in the time leading up to WW2.   As a result he later developed an anti-totalitarian position and art historians postulate that an early fear of square marching battalions may have led him to oppose any “geometrization” of people and their architecture.

I find this kind of influence on an artist fascinating.

underground highway
Some of his designs (like this one for an underground highway that’s aesthetically pleasing in addition to being quiet, maximizing land use, and providing trees to filter out noxious chemicals) are remarkably thoughtful and inventive in a modern context.

hundertwasser house plan

But what inspires me most about him is his environmental activism and creative conviction. His Mould Manifesto laid out two things:  “Your window right — your tree duty.”  He believed that planting trees in an urban environment was to become obligatory: “If man walks in nature’s midst, then he is nature’s guest and must learn to behave as a well-brought-up guest.”   The Window Right stated that : ‘A person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm’s reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm’s reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.'”  (he is man after my own HOA-hatin heart)

I also find it both heartening and dis-heartening to realize that greener buildings, vertical gardens and vegitecture, and the ideas behind them are not all that new or trendy.  I sometimes have such optimism that as designers we are beginning to address environmental challenges, but then when I realize that colleagues from 40 or 50 years ago were also doing the same (in this case, planting trees in buildings!) I wonder if we are making actual progress or if it just feels like it?  What do you think?

- Rochelle

Images from wikipedia, Tinas blog, and exchange connect.




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