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Aside from the residential projects of Majolikahaus and Ankerhaus, and the large constructions of the Postsparkase, the touch of distinction that is characteristic of the architecture of Otto Wagner can also be seen today in the historic though still functional stations of the Stadtbahn, the city's first metropolitan railway.
Conceived in the late nineteenth century, the original Stadtbahn lines have today been integrated into the U-Bahn system, the modern Vienna underground. The authorities of the era entrusted the design of this new transport system to Otto Wagner, and the architect, aware that he was involved in a major upheaval for the city, approached the design as an integrated project in which equal attention would be paid to the major infrastructures, such as bridges and stations, as would be paid to seemingly lesser details, such as signage or lighting.
Highlights off these designs include various structures that were formerly part of the stations and which remain today as faithful witnesses to the work of this visionary architect. On the one hand there is the Hofpavilion, designed by Wagner as a station for the exclusive use of the emperor and members of the court, though it would appear that Emperor Franz Joseph used it only twice.
The architect developed this pavilion in collaboration with Josef Maria Olbrich, and the main attractions are the copper dome and the interior of the waiting room, exquisitely decorated with gold ornaments, silk wallpaper and mahogany. Other noteworthy elements are the elegant carpet and the paintings of Carl Moll representing a cityscape of Vienna.
This gem is one of the unique examples of interior design by Otto Wagner that still remain. The stairs to the platforms were removed in 1961 and today this building near the Hietzing station is part of the network of spaces administered by the Wien Museum.
Far more famous are the pavilions located in Karlsplatz which, as a result of their elegant beauty, are frequent prey to tourists' cameras. Designed as entrances to the former Stadtbahn station in Karlsplatz, they were built in 1898.
For their shape, these eminent examples of Viennese Jugendstil have sometimes been compared with luxurious sweet tins. The beautiful golden ornaments, marble slabs and floral motifs blend seamlessly with the building's evident modernity, which is clearly exemplified by the use of prefabricated metal structures and decorative elements produced in series.
The green copper serves to highlight the white marble and gilded ornamentation. Notice how often Otto Wagner's favourite motif, the sunflower, is repeated. However, the most beautiful and striking element of all is the elegant curve of the roof.
The Karlsplatz pavilions are one of those monuments for which the Viennese show particular affection. In the 60s, when, as part of the remodelling of the U-Bahn network, the possibility of demolishing the pavilions was suggested, the public outcry was such that the authorities were forced to find solutions to conserve them. Finally, they were dismantled and reassembled in 1977.
As you can they were placed facing each other, one now carrying out the function of an exhibition space where visitors can brush up on the great Otto Wagner, a figure whose artistic and technical achievements are often the cause of genuine fascination. The other is a lively cafe. So the choice is yours - a little Otto or a cup of coffee.
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