Otto Wagner was unquestionably the father and leader of the Viennese school of architecture that produced Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffmann, Josef Olbrich, and others. After training in Vienna and Berlin, he began his career with buildings noted for their classicist approach—an approach he never forsook.
It is as an architect who reacted against Viennese historicism that Wagner is chiefly remembered, as well as for his important contributions to town planning. The Vienna Stadtbahn (metropolitan railway) project of the mid 1890s was an enterprise of vast scope; it remains today a monument to his imagination, technical ingenuity, and concern for the minutiae of detail. Aesthetically it is predominantly a Jugendstil work. Wagner adopted the style at this time, possibly under the influence of pupils like Olbrich; he also used it in two blocks of flats in Vienna, numbers 38 to 40 Linke Wienzeile (1898 - 9).
Wagner's most influential book of architectural theory was Moderne Architektur (1894). Its crucial point was that architecture must create new forms by taking into account both contemporary social needs and advances in technology such as engineering. He also recommended the rejection of unnecessary ornament.
Two of Wagner's post-1900 commissions were of particular importance: the monumental church Am Steinhof (1905), and the Post Office Savings Bank in Vienna (1904 - 6). The latter work—with its use of aluminum, steel, glass, and marble cladding, its masterly handling of space, and its logical, practical design—is justly considered a major building in the development of 20th-century architecture.
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