Linke Wienzeile 40 seems like a fairly bland street address. Just another late 19th-century apartment house. Yawn. And then you see the glorious facade of the Majolikahaus, one of Otto Wagner’s most famous buildings….
- Erected in 1898
- Famous for its colourful tiled floral motifs
- Be sure to look at number 38 on the same street, too
- See also: Otto Wagner in Vienna
The Majolika House
(A view of the front of the house)
The Wienzeile road follows the underground part of the River Wien that slips quietly through Vienna and lures innocent visitors into thinking it’s actually the (rather disappointing) Danube.
House number 40 went up in the late 1890s, around about the time extensive engineering works messed about with the river and opened up a boulevard for urban renewal.
(The cornice decoration viewed from below)
Otto Wagner’s building marks one of those important moments in architectural history. Until then, he’d largely followed the historicism approach that so dominates the older Viennese cityscape.
The Majolika House represents the transition to something new…a more utilitarian approach, but not completely lacking in decoration thanks to its Art Nouveau paraphernalia and, particularly, the striking facade, which one newspaper awaiting the removal of the construction scaffolding in 1899 described as (my translation):
…a remarkably striking innovation
Just a few weeks later, another newspaper spoke of the building as (again, my translation):
..one of new Vienna’s most beautiful buildings
As such, experts consider it a unique example of Jugendstil architecture.
(The Majolikahaus’s coloured tiles)
That notable facade gives the house its trademark look, with colourful floral motifs designed by Alois Ludwig and implemented using tiles made by the local Wienerberger factory. Once the largest tile factory in the world, today’s Wienerberger is a major construction company with its own North American division.
The house takes its name from these “Majolika” tiles; Majolika historically refers to decorated tin-glazed pottery from Renaissance Italy.
(Linke Wienzeile 38)
Wagner also built the house at Wienzeile 38, which adjoins the Majolika House, as well as the next building at Köstlergasse 3.
Kolomon Moser, another famous name in the Vienna Modernism movement, designed the gold ornamentation that grabs the most attention at No. 38, which is also famous for its decorated corner construction.
The Köstlergasse house is far more low key. Consider it the blander cheese and biscuits to the patisserie of creativity on the Wienzeile.
Art and vegetables
The area around the Majolikahaus chips away at the conventional image of Vienna as a city of genteel, palatial surrounds.
The Naschmarkt open-air market dominates the other side of the street, with its small stores, bars, restaurants, and stalls selling food from around the world.
The hubbub of conversation and raucous calls of the market sellers create a more lively atmosphere than you might find in the more traditional old town.
And just a little further up the Wienzeile is the Secession building, original home of the Secession artists who shook up Viennese art around the time Wagner built the Majolika House. Today, the building houses Gustav Klimt’s Beethovenfries and contemporary art exhibitions.
How to get to the Majolika House
Subway: the Kettenbrückengasse station on the U4 line is practically outside.
You can also walk up from Karlsplatz station (U4, U1 and U2 lines) and enjoy some of the Naschmarkt before you reach the Majolika House. This route also takes you past the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, premiered.
Address: Linke Wienzeile 40, 1030 Vienna