As a son of the city, an architect, a professor, a proponent of Viennese modernism, and an urban planner, Otto Wagner (1841 – 1918) had a major impact both literally and figuratively on the landscape of Vienna.
Wagner certainly helped drag Viennese architecture and design away from historical styles and into Jugendstil and beyond, combining aesthetics with usefulness in his many building projects. As he said himself:
Something impractical cannot be beautiful
The map below highlights the main places in Vienna relevant to Wagner’s life and work. Below it, you’ll find a list of these sites with notes and addresses, plus photos of houses, stations, bridges, and other structures he built and/or designed.
I can’t promise that every one of the buildings is in its original condition, but they certainly all look like it to my (admittedly untrained and uninformed) eye.
Life and landmarks
First, a few locations related to Wagner’s own life and cultural legacy…
Döblergasse 4: Wagner died of erysipelas (a bacterial infection) in this house, which he also designed, on April 11, 1918 (the same year that Klimt and Schiele passed away). A commemorative plaque hangs on the wall outside.
Seilergasse 12: Main home of the Wagner family during his childhood.
(Grave in Hietzing cemetery)
Hietzinger cemetery (Maxingstraße 15): Here you’ll find Otto Wagner’s grave (Number 131 in Group 13), just a few yards from Gustav Klimt’s last resting place.
Otto Wagner monument (Markartgasse): An inscribed stone column first erected in 1930, but located alongside the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna since 1954. It was hidden behind scaffolding when I visited, so no photos.
Otto Wagner Platz: A fairly unobtrusive square and park. One rather important building does line the north side: the Austrian National Bank.
Otto Wagner Hospital (Baumgartner Höhe 1): Wagner was the leading planner behind the original facilities on this site (a centre for psychiatric care and treatment), built 1904 to 1907. The hospital carrying his name is part of a wider group of medical institutions located here.
This is also where you’ll find the famous Kirche am Steinhof church (see below).
(The villa on Hüttelbergstraße)
(The newer villa)
Otto Wagner Villa (II) (Hüttelbergstraße 28): Quasi the first villa’s successor, built in 1912.
The house was intended as a home for his second wife, Louise Stiffel, after Wagner’s death, but she passed away before him in 1915.
As you can see from the photos, the difference in design between the first and second villas seems almost like a statement of Wagner’s own architectural journey (I’m pretending to know what I’m talking about here).
Wagner’s design work on fittings and furniture gets coverage in several museums that deal with turn-of-the century art and design. For example:
- The Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art (the MAK) has a Vienna 1900 section where I’ve seen, for example, a 1902 stool designed by Wagner.
- The Leopold Museum has a permanent exhibition with Wagner-designed items.
- The Möbelmuseum Wien (Vienna Furniture Museum) also features several chairs, stools and desks from Wagner’s own apartments and the Postsparkassenamt.
This is a list of selected Wagner-designed buildings (I believe), with occasional commentary, and the estimated date of construction in brackets. All feature in the map above:
Postsparkassenamt (Georg-Coch-Platz 2) (1906+): One of the most famous examples of the Viennese modernist movement, with its marble and metal facade. Wagner also designed the furniture and fittings inside the Postsparkassenamt to ensure a common design approach.
Kirche am Steinhof (Baumgartner Höhe 1) (1907): A Jugendstil masterpiece located at the top of the grounds of a psychiatric medical institution (which features in the TV series, Vienna Blood).
The building’s golden dome quite took my breath away when I first saw it peeking between the trees. Also known as the Leopoldskirche or Otto Wagner church.
Reach it via the hospital entrance (turn left and follow the signs up the – quite steep – hill) or from above via the large Steinhofgründe park. Bus routes 47A and 48A take you to the edge of the hospital (the stop is Otto Wagner Spital).
Linke Wienziele 40 (1898): Better known as the Majolika House with its stunning polychrome tiled facade. Linke Wienzeile 38 is also a beauty (with ornamentation by Kolomon Moser). And the house at Köstlergasse 3 completes the Wagner triumvirate at this location.
(Be sure to visit the Naschmarkt opposite: Vienna’s best food market and a gastronomic delight.)
- St Johannes Nepomuk Chapel (Währinger Gürtel / Klammergasse) (1897)
- Lupuspavillon (1913): A standalone hospital building initially intended for Lupus patients. Still a working part of the Klinik Ottakring state hospital (Pavilion 24 specialising in, for example, endocrinology, rheumatism and acute geriatric conditions).
If you’re uncomfortable tramping through the hospital to find it, you can see it from the rear via Steinlegasse. There’s not a lot to see, mind.
- Bellariastraße 4 (1869)
- Graben 14-15 (1876): Wagner and fellow architect, Otto Thienemann, designed the building, better known as the Grabenhof.
- Schottenring 23 (1877)
- Rathausstraße 3 (1881)
- Stadiongasse 6-8 (1883): Currently the Columbian embassy.
- Hohenstaufengasse 3 (1884)
- Lobkowitzplatz 1 (1884)
- Graben 10 / Spiegelgasse 2 (1895): Known as the Ankerhaus.
(Rennweg 3, the Croatian Embassy)
- Rennweg 3 (1890): The Hoyos Palace, currently home to the Croatian embassy.
- Rennweg 5 / Auenbruggergasse 2 (1891)
- Neustiftgasse 40 (1910)
- Garnisongasse 1 / Universitätsstraße 12 (1888): Known as the “Hosenträgerhaus” (“braces” house) because of the decorative patterns on the south-facing facade.
Wagner took the position of chief artistic director for the Stadtbahn, a collection of urban railway lines planned and constructed at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The project, intended to serve a growing and flourishing city, eventually foundered on multiple rocks, notably WWI, the subsequent break up of Austria-Hungary, and the economic problems that followed.
The Stadtbahn routes find their modern expression within what are now the U6 subway line, the U4 subway line, and the S45 city train line.
Wagner designed the new Jugendstil station buildings, bridges, etc. along the Stadtbahn. You can still see many in more or less their original condition.
The “Vorortelinie” connected the Hütteldorf railway station in the west and the new Heiligenstadt railway station in the north (it still does, though the trains are a little different now).
Some of the stations already existed before the Stadtbahn, others fell into such disrepair after WWI that new buildings replaced them, and two were added post-Wagner.
These three stations, however, were successfully restored to more or less their original Otto Wagner-designed glory:
- Hernals (my local station!)
Aerial bombardment in WWII destroyed some of the Wagner legacy among the stations along today’s U4 subway route. Inconsiderate city planners did a similar job in later years.
Nevertheless, many of the entrance buildings retain their original Wagner design, including (I think) those at Margaretengürtel, Pilgramgasse, Kettenbrückengasse, Roßauer Lände, Friedensbrücke, and Schönbrunn.
The following locations, in particular, serve as stand-out examples of his rail architecture, glowing in white, green, and gold:
- Stadtpark at the edge of the same-named city park in the centre of town
- The Otto Wagner Pavilion at Karlsplatz (a thing of beauty and home to a permanent Otto Wagner exhibition)
- The Otto Wagner Hofpavillon at Hietzing (built just for Emperor Franz Joseph and friends, with easy access to the Habsburg summer palace at Schönbrunn)
Bombs and planners were a little kinder to the historic stations on the U6. You’ll still find many examples of well-kept Otto Wagner buildings and facilities at:
- Gumpendorfer Straße
- Josefstädter Straße
- Alser Straße
- Währinger Straße / Volksoper
- Nußdorfer Straße
Incidentally, the coal-driven trains that travelled along the original Stadtbahn have long entered retirement. But the Remise transport museum has the last surviving original Stadtbahn carriage on permanent display.
Bridges and water facilities
And so we reach the end of our architectural location guide with three particular locations. I’ve done my best to collate all the existing examples of Otto Wagner’s grandiose works in Vienna, but if you find more, do let me know!
- Stadtbahn viaduct (1898?): A major railway bridge along the Stadtbahn (U6) route. Ride the U6 to Gumpendorferstraße station and then walk south for a couple of minutes. It’s long and obvious.
- Schemerlbrücke (1898): A bridge and weir system where the Donuakanal channel splits off from the Danube as the latter enters Vienna. It’s a little out the way, but you can take the D tram to Nussdorf, then go through the tunnel under the railway station and a short walk along the riverbank brings you to the Schemerlbrücke.
- The Otto Wagner Schützenhaus (early 1900s): A water regulation facility that never made it into operation. Now a riverside restaurant and erstwhile Before Sunrise movie location