Wagner, Otto

(1841–1918)
   Equally accomplished in art, architecture, and city planning, Wagner was also a significant polemicist and theoretician. Trained at the Vienna Technical University, the highly selective and traditionalist Academy of the Fine Arts, and briefly in Berlin, he plunged into the speculative development of the city’s Ringstrasse in the 1860s. There he worked for the most important architects in the capital in the monumental neo-Renaissance building style that dominated much of the new construction along the thoroughfare. He also had important commissions in Germany and Budapest. In 1894, he was made a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, an influential position he held until 1912.
   During the 1890s, Wagner immersed himself in municipal development projects. These led him to a thoroughgoing reassessment of his creative principles. Like members of the contemporary Secession, with whom he was in close contact, he renounced the eclectic classicism from which he himself had profited. Wagner argued (Modern Architecture, 1895) for the renewal of art and urban design by harmonizing aesthetic considerations with actual purpose. The useful could be beautiful, he contended, if its form was kept simple. Equally important, the useless could never be beautiful. The symbolic and the functional carried equal weight in his thinking and that of his many students. His most important buildings reflect this philosophy. These are the grounds and station buildings of the Vienna urban railway (Stadtbahn, 1895–1902), the church Am Steinhof (1902–1907), and the Postal Savings’ Bank office (1904–1906).
   See also Wiener Werkstätte.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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