When I was 19 I visited Vienna, Austria, on a last minute trip with 3 Swiss cousins and a friend. We slept all night on the train as we travelled from Switzerland to Vienna and arrived a little worse for wear, but as vigorous people in our late teens we shook it off pretty quickly!
On one occasion we went to see the ‘Kunsthaus’ (Art house) designed by the artist Hundertwasser. To be honest, I didn’t have huge expectations but as soon as I saw the exterior of the building I was hooked! Hundertwasser was a real character. For starters he changed his name to ‘Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser’, which translates to ‘Peace-kingdom Rainyday Darklycolourful Hundredwater’! He started off painting pictures but then moved into architecture, hence the Kunsthaus. He believed every person should be able to reach out of the windows of their rented accommodation and paint as far as they could reach with a long brush so as to show the world that he or she was unique to the ‘imprisoned, enslaved and standardised man next door’.
His main principle seems to have been a return to the more natural and a sort of blending of the human with the environment (although his colours were definitely not especially natural!). He found many modern buildings bland and hideous and called straight lines ‘the Devil’s tools’! Instead he preferred spirals, which you see in so many of his designs (spirals seem to be an ever-present part of my own doodles!)
I remember that the Kunsthaus floors were uneven and wavy because Hundertwasser thought that flattening and paving over floors sanitised nature and distanced humans from it. He liked to walk bare foot over his floor-sea and feel it. He called uneven ground a ‘melody to the feet’. His rooms often had trees growing within them branching out of the windows and his rooves were regularly overgrown with grass and plants. Again, the idea was to belnd in with nature and even provide natural sound-proofing and insulation. When you live amongst so much grey-ness in the environment like I do (be that grey skies or buildings!) it is a joy to walk around a living, breathing building which soars into the sky like a rainbow!
Besides all this I just find his work often (not always!) attractive to look at, especially because of the bright colours he was unafraid to use (including gold), the bold forms, the tightly packed lines, the great detail and the use of black edges to really bring out the colours.
Oh, and one other lasting memory of Austria was the best, most hilariously serious TV dating programme I have ever seen!