Next year will mark thirty years since the construction of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s iconic Hundertwasserhaus in the Kegelgasse district of Vienna, Austria. Hundertwasser’s fantastical artistic vision was inspired by his dream to align architecture with nature in every sense. At its conception, the artist vowed to replace every piece of vegetation lost in the construction of the residential complex. For every square foot of structure built, an equal area of trees and shrubs was added, resulting in the abundant majestic greenery that cloaks its facade today.
Although he had no formal training in architecture, the visionary and dedicated artist Hundertwasser built this unique architectural masterpiece in collaboration with the architect Joseph Krawina, and to this day it has remained structurally sound with little retrofitting required—even more impressive when one considers how many trees there are growing on the roof, on terraces, and out of apartment windows! The Hundertwasserhaus features the original custom windows, natural stone and brick foundation, and beautiful mosaic details—a living, breathing example of the long lifespan proven by sustainable architecture. Hundertwasserhaus’ organic foundation includes protruding balconies, pergolas, and loggias; some publicly accessible, some designated to individual apartments, and others reserved for spontaneous revegetation. The uneven curvatures in its flooring are structured just like a forest floor, representing the artist’s belief that true beauty is in the curve, and that urban development has removed human dignity by forcing inhabitants to walk on flat surfaces. Even the tiles in the kitchens and bathrooms were laid irregularly to avoid “the grid system.”
Aside from its organic shapes, forested roofs, and ample vegetation, the facade of Hundertwasserhaus is majestic in its own right. Its original Neuffer wooden bespoke windows were insulated for energy efficiency and purposefully scattered in all different sizes in no coherent order. It was Hundertwasser’s wish that every tenant have his or her own “window right” to embellish the facade around their own windows, contributing to the building’s natural fluidity, varied color blocking, and individualized aesthetic. The same bespoke window technology supplied by Neuffer, one of the world’s first energy efficient window manufacturers, was also used in the construction of another Hundertwasserhaus in Bad Soden, Germany, and has held up in both buildings for over three decades with no retrofits.
Hundertwasser and Krawina designed and built Hundertwasserhaus without any special permits, within a standard construction time, and within the small budget of a public project. Since its construction, millions of tourists have visited from all around the world. Anyone who lives in Hundertwasserhaus still has the right to decorate outside of their own windows in any way they choose.