Alternative Vienna: The Imperial City Through Hundertwasser’s Eyes

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. No, I’ve not just put an ancient Germanic curse on you, silly! Much like Barcelona has Antoni Gaudí, Vienna prides itself on another architectural mastermind – Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Much like Gaudi, Hundertwasser was anything but a minimalist – he envisioned houses painted with vibrant colours, decorated with innovative textures and overgrown with lush carpets of greenery. In short, he was overflowing with ideas and wanted nothing more than to put them into practice. The only problem? He wasn’t an architect.

Luckily for him, in 1977 the city of Vienna finally succumbed to the appeal of what he called a “high-rise meadow house” – with that name you’d be crazy not to! – and allowed him to pursue an ambitious housing project which would later come to be known as Hundertwasserhaus. Finished in 1986, the house is perfectly in sync with my vision of 80s subcultures – a psychedelic paradise fit for an acid-popping raver. Nature-loving Hudertwasser would probably disagree, but he was all about leaving his work open to individual interpretation so let your imagination roam as we visit his stunning architectural masterpiece and see the elegant city of Vienna through his eyes!


First, we must visit the Hundertwasserhaus in Kegelgasse, of course! I’ve already told you a bit about the house’s history, but let’s talk about Mr Hundertwasser himself. Much like yours truly, he was a dedicated globetrotter – he was born in Austria in 1928 and very much in love with his motherland, but he spent long periods of time travelling around places like Morocco, France or Cape Verde. Eventually he moved to New Zealand, where he was also buried after his death. His life was anything but boring – in 1959 he was involved in helping arrange the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet and in 1983 he designed New Zealand’s Koru Flag. In short, he was the kind of guy you’d wanna go for a beer with.

Please bear in mind that the Hundertwasserhaus is a residential building, so – unless you like being handcuffed on vacation (and not the good kind!) – don’t try to pay its tenants a visit. What you can and should do is walk around, take photos and silently wish that your house was one eighth as nice as this one. Once you get sick of questioning your life choices and wondering if you will ever be able to live in a fairytale castle, follow me down the street. We’re going to Kunst Haus Wien, which lies just around the corner!

Kunst Haus Wien

Just like Hundertwasserhaus, the Kunst Haus Wien was built around the architect’s unusual principles. I learned this the hard way. Upon entering I almost tripped over my own foot and I mentally reprimanded myself for wearing high heels to go sightseeing. This stumbling went on for few more minutes and as I was wondering if somebody spiked my orange juice with pure ethanol, I crashed into a sign with the words “About The Uneven Floor” embossed on top. Ah! “If man is forced to walk on flat floors as they were planned thoughtlessly in designers’ offices, estranged from man’s age old relationship and contact to earth,” the text continued, “a decisive part of man withers and dies. This has catastrophic consequences for the soul, the equilibrium, the well being and the health of man. Man’s ability to experience ceases and he becomes disabled, mentally and organically.”

I could say that it was his uneven floors that almost made me disabled, mentally and organically, but that’s just me trying to be funny. In reality, I find his principles truly fascinating. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably realised that I have a soft spot for anything out of the ordinary and Hundertwasser’s entire philosophy is grounded in expressionist weirdness. Just look at that unassuming fountain behind me. Seemingly elementary it, too, is an exercise in surreality – the water runs upward and the stones used to build it came from fifty different parts of the world. In that tiny square of stone, the entire world from Australia to Turkey lies united – how’s that for a traveller hangout spot?

Do you see how happy I look? I’m slowly beginning to resemble one of those ladies laughing alone with a salad and it doesn’t even worry me. Why should it? I just returned from a day of skipping around a modern fairytale castle come to life!

Feast your eyes on the the collages above, for they are wholly and thoroughly illegal. Do you know those assholes who ignore signs that say “No Photography Please”? I’m one of them. That’s right, not even a genuine plea written on a gigantic sign can tame my rebellious heart. “What is that? A ‘no photo’ sign?” my brain whispers. “I dare you to take one.” And I, for once, listen.Anyway – these lovely illicitly-snapped images were taken in an exhibition in the building, a fascinating walk through Hundertwasser’s life spanning two floors. The Kunst Haus Wien regularly holds amazing temporary exhibitions like the one I’m going to show you next, but the permanent exhibition seen above is an absolute must-see.

The temporary exhibition, “SHOEting Star”, was a huge exhibition of absolutely insane shoes. “Lady Gaga would totally wear these,” I thought while looking at a pair of slick red platform shoes. I looked over at the sign and it confirmed my theory – she not only would, but did wear these shoes during one of her performances. If I wasn’t limited to living out of a suitcase, you betcha I’d wear them too!

Just looking at all those high heels made me really tired, so when I saw this delightful little restaurant through a crack in the wall, I knew it had to be my next stop. The indoor seating was beautiful, but I decided to sit outside and fraternise with nature to make Hundertwasser proud!

I was very pleased with my choice of venue, because all the food in Tian bistro proved to be organic and incredibly delicious. It almost felt too healthy, so I order a glass of Prosecco with elderflower syrup – you can’t overdo it with these healthy things otherwise you might, you know, eat a well-balanced diet and feel good about yourself! That’s a big no-no among us twentysomethings!

But you know what isn’t a big no-no? Matching your entire outfit to a column! I hope it isn’t, anyway, because it’s one of my few marketable strengths!

General Info
Opening hours: 10am-7pm
Admission: around €10 (depends on exhibition)If that’s not enough Hundertwasser for you, you can also visit the nearby heating plant of Spittelau and the MS Vindobona ship. Vienna is so much more than a boring graveyard for kaisers and music composers!

Would you add Kunst Haus Wien to your Vienna itinerary? Are you familiar with Friedensreich Hundertwasser? What do you think about his architecture? As always, comment below – I love hearing your opinions!