In today’s conversation we have invited two distinct guests, one based in Spain and another in Austria. The two share a similar intention at their conception and a common start in life, however although both largely succesful now, they occupy a very different status today. In the following quite existential talk between Casa Batllo from Barcelona and Hundertwasserhaus from Vienna, they discuss topics such as concept display, meaning of existence and ways to connect to the public.
Fair Tales Blog: Welcome and thank you very much for joining this panel discussion with us today. Firstly, I would like to introduce our guests – Casa Batllo and Hundertwasserhaus. Both buildings are conceived by famous architects of their day,even more admired now, Antonio Gaudi and Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Both of them had a prevailing concept of nature as a driving force of shape and a strive for harmony with the elements. Described as both architects and artists, both the architects and the buildings stand for freedom of artistic expression, power of creativity and opposition to established norms. However, with all that in common, today very different fate has reached them – after in 2005 Casa Batllo was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site it has become a tourist attraction, open entirely to visitors, housing an office and shop. On the other hand, although a distinguished part of Austrian cultural heritage itself, Hunderwasserhaus still functions as originally intended and is home to multiple families. So there also our main questions tonight: Now that your designers are gone do you feel that their concepts were appreciated and realized today? What are your dreams and aspirations for the future and in how far do you agree with your present occupancy?
Casa Batllo: Hello and thank you for your questions.
Antonio was a genius, a mad man, but extraordinary. I am so glad to see his hard work pay off the way it does – I am a sensation in Barcelona! Millions of people come to the city just to visit me, I cannot be more proud, it is such an honour. Since you ask if I agree with my present function – I am so pleased about it. I feel like for the first time I can be fully appreciated, all the pictures they take of me, it is really lovely. And what I love about it most, when visiting me, people talk only about me! Before, when I was just a residential building, of course I was always special, but back then the family used to talk constantly about its everyday little dramas and concerns. At first they admired me, but with time they didn’t notice me anymore. It’s much better now – I hope the future brings even more interest. The more interest there is, the more they study me and renovate and take better care, all due to the larger finances. It is great, I never want to go back!
Hundertwasserhaus: Oh I cannot be more surprised by your opinion. I picture the day I become an empty house for mass tourism to claim as the worst day and the end of my existence. As much as I am a work of art, I don’t belong in a museum – neither am I a museum. My function is what defines me, what makes me most beautiful, what makes me real and if that is taken away from me I certainly wouldn’t be the masterpiece planned by Friedensreich. It is my residents that give me life, I love their small daily chatter and I am most proud when they don’t even notice my best qualities – for it is then I know that we have grown together like a tree, naturally, just the way Hundertwasser envisioned. I hope this will never have to change.
Casa Batllo: Very modest of you, but haven’t you noticed, the crowds of tourist have already noticed you – they are just not allowed inside yet. They have a full setup with their cameras downstairs and favourite angles are already established. Even your residents are not all that happy – most of the original ones have already moved out and the ones who remained complain about nothing being the way it was. It will be difficult for you in the next years, but you see, I am almost 80 years older. I know how time passes and future bringing changes. If you don’t change, your image will and soon you won’t be such a masterpiece anymore. You need to embrace it.
Hundertwasserhaus: I would still dread the day I have to become an exhibition piece. I would rather be demolished.
This is a post in the series By Buildings. For more of the kind, look for the rubric on the main page.
Unten hat ein Tourist schon sein Stativ aufgestellt, Der Standard Zeitung, Oktober 2016, Franziska Zoidl