Hans Hollein

Überbauung Salzburg, 1962

Between 1956 and 1969 Hans Hollein imagined “sculpture cities” in the form of drawings and photomontages which acted as a manifesto against modern functionalism. These “shock images” were contemporary with Pop Art and illustrated his semantic and communicational approach to architectural space. The architect increased the megalithic motifs and the “superstructure” forms which he monumentalized and incorporated in rural and urban landscapes. In 1963, he presented these works alongside work by the sculptor Walter Pichler in the exhibition Architektur at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna. For that show, they delivered their vision of architecture in the text titled Absolute Architekur: “Architecture is a spiritual order, materialized by construction. All construction is religious. Architecture is elementary, sensitive, primitive, brutal frightening, violent, and dominating. But it is also the incarnation of the most subtle emotions, and the recording of the most delicate excitements.” Somewhere between Primitivism and Expressionist imagination, these city projects deliberately rejected all manner of readability and functionality, and were presented in the opaqueness and compactness of their old-fashioned and disquieting forms: “The building must not reveal its use, it is not the expression of the structure and the construction, nor is it an envelope, or a shelter. A building is a building. Architecture does not have this goal. What we build will find a use. Function does not create form.” Whether a cloudy mass or a rock in midair, the superstructures which Hollein sketched above existing cities (Manhattan, Vienna or Salzburg) conjure up, in a critical mode, the mega-structural proposals being devised at the time, at the same time as they railed against the monotony of these cityscapes.

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