Otto Wagner Villen, Penzing:
Jugendstil Gems in the Outskirts of Vienna

Otto Wagner is the most famous architect of Art Nouveau or Jugenstil in Austria, and many of his designs are text-book examples of modern architecture and popular attractions with visitors of Vienna. Two buildings that are widely neglected by people that don′t happen to have a specialist interest in architecture are his private villas - the "Otto Wagner Villa I" and "Otto Wagner Villa II". The two houses neighbour each other and can be found in the outskirts of Vienna, in the 14th district of Penzing.

The Otto Wagner Villa I is sometimes also called the "Ben-Tiber-Villa" or the "Fuchs-Villa" and was built between 1886 and 1888. Otto Wagner himself originally designed it as a summer retreat for his family, but since 1895, the Wagners lived there permanently. In that year, the southern wing (originally a greenhouse) was adapted into a living room. By 1911, the children of Otto Wagner had grown up and moved out. Wagner decided to build a smaller villa on the neighbouring piece of land and sold the Otto Wagner Villa I to Ben Tiber, the manager of a cabaret theatre - for more on Mr Tiber and his cabaret, see my article on the Apollo Kino.

After WWII, the Ben Tiber Villa nee Otto Wagner Villa fell into disrepair. By 1963, it was in such a bad state that the owner decided to demolish it. This was prevented, and in 1972, the Phantastic Realist painter Ernst Fuchs bought the building and refurbished it thoughtfully. Originally, Ernst Fuchs had his workshop there and lived in the Otto Wagner Villa I. Later, he moved out and in 1988 (the 100th anniversary of the villa), it was made a private museum for Ernst Fuchs′ work ("Privatmuseum Ernst Fuchs").

Otto Wagner Villa I & II: Transformation of an Architect

The Otto Wagner Villa I is considered to be a late-historicist building with a few, tame Jugendstil references; looking at the house and its next-door sibling, one can estimate the transformation that Otto Wagner made towards the end of the 19th century - the Otto Wagner Villa II is a proper Jugenstil or Art Nouveau building. It was - just like the Postsparkasse, by the way - built with foundations made of steel and concrete, back in 1912 a revolutionary, modern way of construction.

The plans for the Otto Wagner Villa II had already been made in 1905 - Otto Wagner meant it to become the home to his wife, who was 20 years younger than him, after his death. There is a nice German word for this sort of building: "Witwensitz" or "Widow′s Seat".

Tragically, Otto Wagner′s wife died in 1915, three years before him - so Otto Wagner continued living in the Otto Wagner Villa II by himself until 1918. Art historians classify the building as "late secessionist with cubic elements". It has an asymmetric fašade; many narrow, but high windows; and a famous glass mosaic above the entrance area, designed by Kolo Moser. There are no attractions in the immediate vicinity, which certainly adds to the lack of interest among international tourists.

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Further Reading

Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information

Over-exposed images of the Otto Wagner Villas, Vienna

AEIOU on Otto Wagner

Vienna Tourist Information on the Ernst Fuchs Privatmuseum

Official Website of Ernst Fuch (& Otto Wagner Villa I)