Otto Wagner, ‘A Salon in a Residence of the Duke of Leuchtenberg’, 1850, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

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About Otto Wagner

In the preface of his book, Modern Architecture (1895), Otto Wagner emphatically declared: “THE BASIS OF TODAY’S PREDOMINANT VIEWS ON ARCHITECTURE MUST BE SHIFTED, AND WE MUST BECOME FULLY AWARE THAT THE SOLE DEPARTURE POINT FOR OUR ARTISTIC WORK CAN ONLY BE MODERN LIFE.” Following this cri de coeur, Wagner abandoned the historicism of his early career and embarked on the project that would bring him widespread acclaim and earn him a place in the pantheon of great modern architects. The Postal Office Savings Bank (1904–12) in Vienna is an iconic example of early modernism. It features a facade of white marble square panels affixed to the building with aluminum-capped steel bolts. The austerity of the facade is tempered by the shifting patterns of the bolts across the surface, combining the industrial with the decorative, and attesting to the architect’s ingenuity.

Austrian, 1803-1861