My Architectural Love Affair With Hundertwasser and Gaudi

6 Jul

In the summer of 1999, my husband and I took our children on a tour of Austria and Hungary, primarily to see these countries and to view the total eclipse of the sun that would be visible that summer. We were heading to Hervis, Hungary, for the best viewing.

Before the trip up to the mountains, we stayed for several days in Vienna. It was an informative trip as we went to the Jewish Museum, Judenplatz, other museums and visited the home of the white stallions. (See below for links to another blog about this trip.)

But along the way I was introduced to the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian architect who was born in 1928, the same year as my father, and who had survived the Shoah with his Jewish mother by passing as Catholic, the religion of his father. In Vienna we saw the most unusual apartment building designed by him, The Hundretwasserhaus. This crazy looking building was multicolored, unusually shaped and had trees growing everywhere.


But the most wonderful part of our visit that year, was our accommodations at what my then 8-year-old son called the ‘Wacky Hotel.’ But whom others call Hundretwasser’s Rogner Bad Blumau, a hotel that includes thermal baths and pools. The hotel has no rhyme or reason that an adult can see. But it has sparks of imagination that enchant a child. I was enthralled.   I became a Hundertwasser lover. Even though I have no background in architecture.

Our stay there was delightful, from the curving paths to the unusual windows to the wonderful pools and colorful design. I bought books about Hundretwasser. I was intrigued by his desire to help nature and bring all things natural to his architecture. Yes, I think he went a little far at times, but I so enjoyed his work.

I was also intrigued by his personal history and his survival. Born Friedrick Stowasser, he changed his name after the war to focus on his desire for peace and harmony with nature. I think I was also aware of another connection, my maternal grandfather was also from a part of Austria. He had moved to the USA in the 1920s, but like Hundretwasser, my grandfather lost almost 100 members of his family during the Shoah. Hundretwasser’s mother lost many of her family members as well. Our connection was that both of our families had been decimated by the Shoah.

I would love to see all the buildings Hundretwasser designed, but I realize this would be impossible. However, there is a winery in California, The Quixote Winery that I have to see! I love how he uses the natural contours of the ground and a need to protect the environment in his designs. I would love to see this winery in person.

My profound interest in Hundertwasser’s works lead to my interest in another European architect, Antoni Gaudi, from Spain.   Although he died three years before Hundretwasser was born, I see his influence in the work of my Austrian artist. For Gaudi, his Catholic religion was an important part of his designs. Not so for Hundretwasser, even though he was baptized to survive. But the form of their buildings and their interest in natural design fit so well together.

The towers on their buildings, the use of stone and color, the curves and contours reflect each other. Although Gaudi used religion to influence his art, and Hundretwasser used nature.

Church of Sagrada Familia

So, of course, on our recent trip to Europe and Barcelona, I had to go to see some of Guadi’s designs. The amazing church, the Sagrada Familia, which has been in progress for over 120 years! Wow! What a creation! My husband envisioned termite hills reflected in the towers. Our tour guide was not too happy with that comparison. But it is true. The towers do look like termite hills to us!

Casa Batllo Casa Batllo

We toured the Casa Batllo. I loved it! The mushroom fireplace, the lovely curved doors and windows, the delightful stone and tile-encrusted façade all brought me some joy! The private garden in the back on part of the roof was enchanting.

Unfortunately we could not get tickets to Park Guell, so I guess I will have to go back to Barcelona one day to view this park and see how it compares to the Rogner Bad Blumau.

I find it so unusual that one man, born in the mid 1850s and dying in 1926, who based his architecture on his religious beliefs; and another man born in 1928, who died in 2000, and had to escape from religious persecution, both designed buildings with such unique and imaginative styles.

Although some believe the word gaudy comes from Antoine Gaudi’s name, it does not. My search of several dictionaries revealed that the word, gaudy, was first used in the 1500s to mean garish or flashy. Yes, it is somewhat like Gaudi’s buildings, but in this case his name was not the reason for the word, just a serendipitous event.

And although some might call Gaudi’s works gaudy, to me they are inspiration! To me, to be honest, neither the work of Gaudi nor the work of Hundretwasser should ever be considered gaudy, rather they should be seen as works of imagination! Just as the song about Figment in the Disney ride “Imagination” used to say, “One little spark of inspiration is at the heart of all creation!”

I believe their designs will be joy to many others for generations because they hold the spark of imagination. And so I will continue my architectural love affair with their buildings.

Update with a newest Gaudi visit:

My second Gaudí adventure:

2 Responses to “My Architectural Love Affair With Hundertwasser and Gaudi”


  1. Missing the Frank Gehry Museum, My Only Regret | zicharonot - April 4, 2017

    […] So I must admit,  my only regret of our South American/Panama Canal vacation was missing a trip to this museum. I guess I will have to go back.… […]

  2. I Do Love Gaudi! My Second Barcelona Gaudi Adventure. | zicharonot - October 8, 2018

    […] […]

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