Austria Architecture and Cinema

Architecture. – In the last decade the Austria has shown a remarkable wealth of innovative ferments in the architecture sector, with the presence of some personalities, even of international importance, only partially classifiable in currents. This variegated development draws its origin from some significant experiences of previous periods, starting from the turning point that began in 1950, with the critical rediscovery of the Secession by the Arbeitsgruppe 4 (W. Holzbauer, F. Kurrent, J. Spalt). In the early 1960s, according to smber, H. Hollein and W. Pichler launched an attack against functionalism by presenting proposals aimed at broadening the range of values ​​of the architectural discipline. In the restless climate of that moment, groups with utopian connotations such as Haus-Rucker-Co and Coop Himmelblau, while at the Technische Hochschule in Graz a new season of modern language is starting, especially with G. Domenig and then with K. Kowalski and M. Szyszkowitz. In the seventies the connection with Viennese history deepened – from Austria Loos to J. Frank – in the context, this time, post-modernist: they were thus invited to the Venice Biennale of 1980, an international showcase of this current, H. Czech, H. Tesar and B. Podrecca, representative exponents of a scenographic architecture, full of suggestions and references to local tradition, which is best expressed in small interventions – such as furnishings, villas, exhibition set-ups – through a refined choice of materials and dimensional relationships.

For H. Hollein (Pritzker Prize 1985), who also takes part in the aforementioned Venetian exhibition, the classification among the post-moderns is not exhaustive: his overcoming of orthodox functionalism tends to express what the architect himself defines ” psychoanalytic ”, referring to an Austrian cultural trend centered on the theme of ambiguity. His language, admittedly eclectic, is based on the assembly of fragments, deduced from the variegated heritage of the masters of the modern movement, which express meanings completely different from the original ones in the new relationships.

Among his most recent works, in the Viennese area, the seat of the Austrian Tourist Office (1976-79), the second Schullin jewelery shop (1981-82); the Jewish Museum and a building in the Cathedral square are under construction. Tip of the iceberg of a different ” organicity ”, G. Domenig is the singular protagonist of a renewal of taste and ideas that he has in Austria one of its centers: its headquarters of the Vienna Central Savings Bank (1975-80) is a spectacular neo-expressionist version of a collapsing building; in the atrium a gigantic hand supports the technological tangle of the pipes; his other significant achievements are the school in Graz-Eggenberg and the ” stone house ” in Steindorf. Coop Himmelblau (WD Prix, H. Swiczinski) can be linked to the same creative will, albeit with a differentiated poetics, experimenting unexplored values ​​of the modern through an apparent dismemberment of architectural language (deconstructivism), implemented with complex geometries and technologies d ‘ avant-garde (project for a building of 50 low-cost apartments, 1983, and Bauman studio in Vienna, 1985). Organic morphologies are instead present in the works of K. Kowalski and M. Szyszkowitz (complex of 43 apartments in Graz, 1985).

Among the numerous architects who express the continuity of a qualified modern methodology we can mention G. Peichl, author of the Austrian television headquarters in Eisenstadt (1984) and of an urban planning program for Vienna called The green city (1985), and W. Holzbauer, who led the team of planners of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Salzburg. The same architect, together with H. Marschalek, G. Laustätter and B. Gauter, drew up the plan for the new metro system in Vienna which, among other things, involved the restoration of the old stations built by O. Wagner and a careful rearrangement, with large pedestrian areas, of some central areas of the city. See table ft

Cinema. – Austrian cinema experienced a moderate commercial development from the first post-war period up to the mid-thirties. In fact, from 1918 to 1930 more than 700 feature films were made, of very different genres and subjects. Two production houses are mainly active, the Wiener-Kunstfilm by Austria and L. Kolm, to which we owe the first national feature film (Von Stufe zu Stufe, 1908) and Sascha Film. With the economic crisis there is the first great emigration of talents to Hollywood, already begun in the 1910s (E. von Stroheim and J. von Sternberg), destined to repeat itself with the advent of Nazism (B. Wilder, EG Ulmer, F. Zinnemann) and even later, to constitute a permanent feature of Austrian history.

During the decade preceding the German invasion, the so-called Wiener film dominated, a musical genre in which director W. Forst, author of Maskerade (1934), excels. From 1938 to 1943 Austrian cinema practically disappeared, absorbed by the German one: Wien Film, a production company founded in 1938 by the Third Reich, represents a clear tool of indirect propaganda of the regime with the promotion of a consoling cinema, made of dreams and petty-bourgeois illusions.

With the postwar period and the advent of the Second Republic, the cinematographic dependence on Germany continues and the production recovery is not accompanied by a real cultural renewal. Despite some films of great political commitment such as Die letzte Brücke (1954) by H. Käutner, or the works on Jews and Hitler made by GW Pabst on his return to Austria, the market is dominated by the remakes of the Wiener film (in which F. Antel), which reaches its peak with the Sissi trilogy (1955-57).

While Wien Film remained German-owned until 1955, the government proved unable to implement any film planning and development policy. Thus, with the end of the favorable post-war situation, Austrian cinema enters a profound crisis which from the end of the 1950s will last for over a decade, even risking extinction. While the paralysis of industry did not allow young filmmakers space, a practice of experimental cinema flourished in the early 1950s in which P. Kubelka and K. Kren stand out. However, the start of a new course will only take place in the second half of the 1970s, with the recovery, albeit weak, of state assistance to production. In 1981 the long-awaited film law finally came into force, which defines in particular the system of government subsidies. State funds and television, moreover, constitute the only productive possibilities in a country characterized by the absence of a private film industry and by the endemic gap between creative resources and their economic use. In addition to these structural difficulties, the new Austrian filmmakers have to contend with the lack of an effective cinematographic tradition and a precise national identity.

Some of the more recent films try to respond to these shortcomings by revisiting old chapters of Austrian history (Wien Retour, 1983, by J. Aichholzer and R. Beckerman; Heindenlöcher, 1986, by W. Paulus; Welcome in Vienna, 1986, by Austria Corti) or recounting contemporaneity and its contradictions (Kassbach, 1979, by P. Patzak; Die Augesperrten, 1982, by F. Novotny; Kopfstand, 1981, by EJ Lauscher). Another privileged terrain is the revival and parody of genre cinema, as shown by the works of P. Patzak (Den tüchtigen gehört die Welt, 1981, and Strawanzer, 1983), by N. List (Muller Büro, 1986) and X. Schwarzenberger (Donau-waltz, 1984).

Among the new authors who have distinguished themselves internationally since the mid-1970s, we can also mention W. Bannert, Austria Lepeniotos, R. Dornhelm, K. Kino, T. Leber.

Austria Architecture and Cinema