Friday, 7 December 2012

On the Wagner School

The Wagner School was an important studio based architecture program, in the heart of Vienna. It was taught by Otto Wagner and produced some of the twentieth century's greatest architects. Schindler was lucky enough to study as one of the twelve incoming students a year, in one of the most rigorous architectural programs of the time. 

What Schindler was taught by Wagner:

"Whenever you give a task to complete, ask yourself whether the solution put forward is suitable for the time in which we live, the client, the local spirit, the climate, (and) the materials... Our buildings must express fully the conditions of life of our time if we do not want architecture to sink to the level of caricature." - Wagner

Assignments at the Wagner School for the three year course:
                 1st year: A simple Viennese apartment house, to give a taste for what it is like to work in the field and understand the principles involved. Also, work on a single family home adapting to the changing housing patterns at the time.

                2nd year: Public building - both inner and outer design. A model was used as a reference was the chamber of commerce building.

                3rd year: A project that the students may never encounter in their working career. The intended purpose of these projects is to keep the imagination alive. An architect must always have a "a luminous" flame within. This assignment is based on the exotic assignment given every year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Significant Principles in Wagner's Teachings:
  • Strong relationship between master and student

Wagner didn't make it a mystery at all that he controlled admissions to his school though rigorous screening. "Other art schools may boast when they have seventy or more students in a year, while Wagner sifts continually until there remain only five or ten students a year. But with five such students he feels that he has an army at his disposal." - Vienna 1900
In total only 190 students were admitted to study at the Wagner school in the 20 years that he taught there; and a third of them did not complete the three year program.
The screening process was remarkably similar to the one at Waterloo Architecture.
"Descisions about admissions were made ultimately by the master himself, who judged candidates on the basis of drawings submitted by them and an interview designed to assess their cultural background and the reasons for their interest in architecture." -Vienna 1900

  • Wagner wished for a school to have great competition

His school stimulated competition by incorporating academic awards. Between 1895 and 1914, the school won 24 Romreisestipendium (the equivalent to the Prix de Rome of the Academie de Beaux- Arts) while the other special Vienna school only got nine. The school achieved cultural prominence within the Viennese community.

  • Sense of Style

The school was known for its neo-baroque and neo-renaissance leaning.
By 1897 the students of the Wagner school are already creating models that incorporated the secessionist and Art Nouveau styles. The dependence on Wagner himself was greatly reduced.
By 1900 the school dabbled in the abandonment of classical orders in favour of simplicity.

The role of the Wagner school in European Architecture:
The Wagner School stood as an experimental laboratory for the European avant-garde. Even Wagner himself made triumphant declarations that the school made fundamental contributions to architecture.

Source: Vienna 1900 By: Franco Borsi Ezio Godoli

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