Art nouveau and modernism in architecture
The Secession building, completed in 1898 by Joseph Maria Olbrich, is one of the best known examples of Viennese art nouveau. This pioneering building near the Naschmarkt was the first exhibition hall in Central Europe to be dedicated exclusively to modern art, and is widely credited as being one of Europe's most original art nouveau constructions. Gustav Klimt submitted two designs for the building in 1897, which was commissioned as an alternative to the Künstlerhaus.
Other than the Secession building, which provided exhibition premises for Klimt and his younger contemporaries, Vienna is packed with thought-provoking architecture that bears witness to the progressive spirit of Klimt's day. Architects Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann shaped the Austrian capital like no others, accounting for a large slice of the city's art nouveau building stock. The stations, viaducts and decoration of the former Stadtbahn (urban railway), the Majolikahaus and Musenhaus on the Wienzeile, Europe's first modernist church (St. Leopold am Steinhof) and the Postsparkasse Savings Bank on the Ringstrasse were all designed by Otto Wagner. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to Wagner's oeuvre at the Postsparkasse (www.ottowagner.com).
Josef Hoffmann's villas in the 19th district are well worth a look. Two more of Wagner's students, Josef Plečnik and Max Fabiani, came up with the design for the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Artaria House and the Urania building. One landmark building in the history of modern architecture in Vienna has lost none of its appeal to this day - but when it first appeared the Adolf Loos building on Michaelerplatz was reviled by Emperor Franz Joseph and a population more at home with historicist architecture.
All of these buildings, and countless more art nouveau gems throughout the city, have a timeless appeal.
Visitors can discover them under their own steam or on one of the countless art nouveau tours, conducted by government-approved tour guides.