WAGNER, Otto
(b. 1841, Penzing, d. 1918, Wien)

Österreichische Postsparkasse: general view

1904-06
Photo
Georg-Coch-Platz 2, Vienna

Wagner's late projects from 1903 radically continued the transformation of the work of Schinkel, Van der Nüll and Semper, as seen in his two master buildings: the sanatorium church of Kirche am Steinhof (also called Leopoldskirche), the church of the Steinhof Asylum in Penzing outside Vienna, and the Österreichische Postsparkasse (1903-12), also in Vienna. These buildings are considered his most revolutionary work; both utilized new materials - steel, glass, aluminium - and innovative modes of construction in a highly successful fusion of functional building and aesthetic vision.

The design for the Österreichische Postsparkasse (Austrian Postal Savings Bank), one of his best-known works, won a competition (1903) and is based on a logical trapezoidal plan with a banking hall at its centre. The six-storey entrance façade, surmounted by a simple Sezessionstil pergola flanked by winged figures, has large windows set in walls faced with white marble with aluminium fixings. The central space of the banking hall (modified 1980s) had a glass vault of stilted elliptical section carried on riveted steel columns and a floor with glass lenses to light the basement below; aluminium ventilation bollards ranged around the wall added to the illusion of an industrial aesthetic. The bank owed its atmospheric effect to the impression of silver light produced by glass, aluminium and marble.

One of the earliest icons of the Modern Movement, it is contemporary with Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building, pre-dates Peter Behrens's Turbinenfabrik in Berlin by several years and marks the achievement of Van der Nüll's concept of a tradition-driven modern architecture of the future.