Otto Wagner (1841 – 1918), Austrian architect and designer

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Otto Wagner, Postal Savings Bank, Vienna, 1904-06 and 1910-12
Otto Wagner, Postal Savings Bank, Vienna, 1904-06 and 1910-12

Architect Otto Wagner was one of the leading figures in the Vienna Secession.

Education

After studying architecture at the Vienna Technical High School (1857–1860) and the Vienna Academy (1861–183), he worked in various historical styles for many years until he joined the Secession. The latter was founded in 1898 as a focal point for opposing the prevalent academicism of the establishment of fine arts, which also believed in painting and sculpture’s superiority over the applied arts.

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Biography

Wagner’s work took on a more functional appearance by supporting the idea of the unity of the arts familiar to many avant-garde designers, architects and artists at the turn of the century. This mainly showed in the Post Office Savings Bank (Thonet-designed). In his book Modern Architektur (1896), which emphasised the need for functionality, practical construction, and new material, he strengthened his role as an influential figure in modern architecture and design development.

Armchair, from the Post Office Savings Bank, Vienna designed by Otto Wagner
Armchair, from the Post Office Savings Bank, Vienna, designed by Otto Wagner

His position as Head of Architecture at the Vienna Academy in 1894 was also crucial, having taught Josef Hoffmann and other young avant-garde figures. Hoffmann and Joseph Olbrich also worked at Wagner’s architectural office in the mid-1890s.

Sources

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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