October 17: awesomehof

2012/10/17 § Leave a comment

During this month in 2006 the Kirche am Steinhof reopened.

The restoration was completed for the centennial of the church, designed by his wunderbarness, Otto Wagner.  The Kirche am Steinhof is the culmination of Wagner’s theory and practice, which drew from honorable traditions of planning, architectural form and the use of ornament, to serve contemporary needs of a very particular community.  Although churches had for centuries dominated the hierarchy of architectural type, this particular one posed special challenges as its congregation was drawn from the patients of the psychiatric hospital on whose grounds it stands.  Wagner’s church looks and acts like a church: a triumphant portal welcomes worshippers into the broad space of a Latin Cross, topped by a golden dome that is flanked by towers on the exterior.  Glorious figural ornament–the two dedicatory saints of the church  seated on the towers (Richard Luksch), the angels over the portico (Othmar Schimkowitz), images of saints in the stained glass and mosaics inside (Koloman Moser)–all contribute to the story-telling traditions of Catholic church architecture.  Specific considerations for his clientele included an especially broad nave and relatively short pews, so that orderlies could quickly access any patient in need of sudden care.  All the furniture, including pews and the confessionals, were designed by Wagner to be in keeping with the overall design and also with smooth corners and rounded edges to avoid harm to congregants.  The spread of contagion was addressed by fonts that drip holy water into a draining basin.  All these matters of physical care and hygiene were met subtly and with the same concern for the overarching architectural impression that serves the worship service.  The restoration project has returned the church to its luminous original state.  It’s a wonderful church for any era, and arguably the greatest achievement of the Viennese Secession, not to mention Herr Wagner’s amazing career (although the Postsparkasse is a very, very close second).

Image: front of the Kirche (Clio’s)

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