Palais Ferstel at the Freyung:
Heart of Vienna′s Historicist Culture - Part II
The shopping mall in Palais Ferstel was covered in glass, a well in its centre symbolises the Danube - another reference to a uniting feature of the Empire. The costs for the construction of the Palais Ferstel were astronomical - almost two million "Gulden". I have no idea what that would be in any modern currency, but it quite shocked the Viennese back then. It became a palace of the Imperial entrepreneurs, of economic progress - accompanied with anti-progressive ideologies in the political sense. Little did they know of the economic crisis that followed a crash at the stock exchange in 1871.
Strangely enough, despite of the reactionary spirit among the landlords, the Café Central in the Palais Ferstel soon became a popular meeting place for Vienna′s Bohemians and liberal intellectuals. Peter Altenberg was a regular at the Central, and so were many other writers and journalists. Adolf Loos was a frequent visitor, despite of the over-loaded pomposity of the building.
Modernism moved in with these visitors, just like it moved into the rest of the Empire - until this very Empire finally disintegrated as a result of WWI. The second World War was even worse for the building: Palais Ferstel′s façade was seriously damaged and the crisis in Vienna′s café culture after the war gave it a hard time.
Palais Ferstel as a luxury Shopping Mall
In 1975, however, the entire Palais Ferstel was refurbished and the Café Central opened in all its Imperial glory. Today, it is once again popular with its original target group - Viennese that would still salute to the Emperor if he ever returned. In addition, it is popular with tourists in quest for "real" Viennese traditions. The rest of the Palais Ferstel is now used as an up-market shopping mall, and as an event and exhibition venue.
Attractions nearby include the BA-CA Kunstforum, the Minoritenkirche Church, the Am Hof Square, the Ballhaus, Hofburg and Burgtheater, as well as the Pasqualatihaus (with a former flat of Beethoven) and the Main University. For another example of historicist architecture funded by the Imperial business world, see the Stock Exchange by Theophil Hansen (another important historicist architect) by the Ringstraße.
Return to "Palais Ferstel - Part I"
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