THE OTTO WAGNER VILLA
In 1888, Otto Wagner, the famous Jugendstil architect, designed and built a villa for himself and his family in Hütteldorf which was then an elegant suburb of Vienna bordering the Wiener Wald. Today, it is part of the capital as its 14th district. The Wagner-Villa was designed as a summer palais in the style of a Roman villa. Wagner’s favorite architect Palladio served as his inspiration. Coinciding with its construction, the architectural plans for the project were exhibited at various European architecture competitions.
Its unusual design soon aroused international attention; the house was a sensation. When the project was presented in Berlin, the press wrote the following: “A strange allure is evoked by this peculiar villa of the artist in Vienna, Hütteldorf. Completely deviating from the usual appearance of similar buildings, the frontal view of the house that sits on the flank of a hill, only shows a large open hall between two side wings.”
As early as 1895, the villa’s ride side wing, the ‘Orangerie’ was winter-proofed by installing large transparent glass windows and now served Otto Wagner as a game and pool hall. In 1900, Otto Wagner turned the left wing of this classical villa into one of the most stunning Jugendstil halls of all of Vienna. This left wing contains the most precious Tiffany glass windows which were designed and named by the artist Adolf Böhm.
Until 1911, the Otto-Wagner-Villa served mainly as a place for representation. It was here that the crème de la crème, the Viennese high society of the time feted numerous legendary summer balls and parties. Legends like Adolf Loos, Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Gustav Klimt and Wagner student Josef Hoffmann would go in and out on a regular basis.
After finishing the works on his largest projects like the Viennese overground, the post office savings bank, as well as the church at Steinhof, Otto Wagner started building a smaller villa right next to his large summer palais. The grand villa was then sold to wealthy investor and successful businessman Ben Tiber who also happened to be director of the Ronacher, and Apollo Revue theatres.
The Viennese would now refer to the house as Ben Tiber-Villa. Escaping from the Nazis, Tiber, who was of Jewish origin, left Austria in the mid-1930’s already. His villa was expropriated. During the Second World War, it served as headquarters for Baldur von Schierach who planned and organized the activities of the Hitler Youth from here.
After World War II, the house fell into oblivion and was eventually endangered by decay. “This strange and magnificent house in midst the Haltertal”, so the words of famous poet and writer Heimito von Doderer in his last novel “Der Grenzwald”, never lost its magical spirit however.
Doderer further described the house “on the right, across the street there laid a house upon a hill, really a palace, that does not exist anywhere else. A flat roof floats upon high and mighty pillars. On the left and right of a massive central structure, which was towering above its own terrace, were two comparably delicate side wings whose walls seemed to only consist of colorful glass.”