Café Museum, Vienna

Vienna has a few wonderful features: Cafés and their cakes, and architecture. We’re not talking about the architecture that resembles the cakes, but the more 20th century movement that took hold in middle Europe embraced by Macintosh and which led to the wonderful [in our humble opinion] Bauhaus movement. Ok there were some pretty brutal parts of the Bauhaus design, but we’ll be covering that next year after our visit to Berlin and Dessau.

In Vienna you had a movement of painters, artists and architects that were rejecting traditional decoration [about time too…ed] in favour of more simple buildings. Still grand but without all the unnecessary frills. The emergence of Art Nouveau and Modernism, promoted by the likes of Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos […or Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos as he’s known by his friends]. Wagner – trained architect, visual artist and brick layer – founded the Vienna Secession movement, a radical movement developing at the junction of Art Nouveau and Modernism. The Vienna Secession building holds striking murals by Gustav Klimt…

With the Beethoven frieze, Gustav Klimt visualised Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The 34 metre long fresco runs round the walls of an entire room and is so beautiful you could wrap yourself in it. The frieze groups different allegoric characters into a cycle, which symbolise the search of man for happiness: joy, passion, violence, illness, madness, death, the arts, lust and unchastity.

It’s mostly depressing. More lively is Klimt’s “The Kiss” which you can see in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere. You can’t really get close as it’s surrounded by hordes of Japanese and Chinese tourist all vying to take selfies with it. Why? What on earth do they think when they get home? We like standing in the way.

Wagner’s Post Office is magnificent, with most of the original detail preserved. A mention for Loos too, who’s eschewing of ornament was a major influence on the Modernists and the architects who came afterwards.

In his essays, Loos used provocative catchphrases and is noted for the essay/manifesto entitled Ornament and Crime, given in a lecture in 1910 and first published in 1913. He explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects, and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete. His careful selection of materials, passion for craftsmanship and use of ‘Raumplan’-the considered ordering and size of interior spaces based on function—are still admired.

Quite right too. So many building plans are full of useless spaces – rooms so long and thin that, if you want to get anything from the back, you have to move everything else. Javelin stores we call ’em.

Meanwhile, Otto Wagner had a similar philosophy…

  • Meticulous definition and complete accomplishment of purpose [to the minutest detail
  • Felicitous choice of material [that is to say, easily available, easily workable, durable, economical]
  • Simple and economical construction, and, only after consideration of these three main points,
  • The form resulting from these premises [it will flow from the pen by itself and will always turn out easily comprehensible].

So, to a place they all used to hang out across the road from the Secession Building. The Café Museum has an interior designed by Loos and you can sit outside and pretend to be discussing the theory of architecture and life, with a Spritz in your hand. Good food, nice atmosphere and lots of history. Vienna, we love it.

Café Museum, Vienna

Cafe Museum

…it’s what we came for

Adolf Loos “Looshaus”

Wagner’s Post Office

Wagner’s Post Office


Vienna Secession Building

Klimt’s “The Kiss” as seen by tourists…


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