Design & Decoration S03 ep6 : Hans Hollein, Hollein Architect, [Vienna]

Interview with Hans Hollein

Hans Hollein studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, Masterclass for Architecture Prof. C. Holzmeister, Diploma 1956; at IIT, Chicago (1958-59) Architecture and City Planning and at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) 1960. Hans Hollein was professor for Architecture at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf 1967 - 1976, he was professor for Design from 1976 to 1986 and professor for Architecture from 1976 until 2002 at the University of Applied Art in Vienna where he also acted as Dean of the Architecture Department from 1995 to 1999. He was guest professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, at the Yale University in New Haven and at the Ohio State University in Columbus. 


For me, architecture and other arts like sculpture like painting, for me this is a fluent thing, there
is no clear border.

My father died early. I went to a very progressive, it’s not a school . It was a man known very well
known in the United States - Cizek's Youth Art Classes who had the idea about children who are
starting to grow up to work with painting with the sculpting.

In Vienna at the time when I started in the early 50’s you could buy a Klimt drawing for $10 and
people didn’t know who was Otto Wagner and who was Joseph Hoffman who still was alive. You
had extremely little information. And few we are let’s say maximum of 20 started to rediscover the
glorious past of Vienna in modernism yeah, beginning with the turn of the Century and of course
all are looking for what’s happening outside. You know a little about l… here, you knew very little
about Frank Lloyd Wright.

I started with a professor who had to leave Austria when there was Hitler coming to Vienna, he
was working in Turkey and Brazil and it was a kind of little window opening into the

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I went back to Scandinavia for a short time to work there and then I had an opportunity to get the
very important fellowship which financed two years for me in the United States.

I got $7 per day and I had a car so and I have been going 50,000 miles through America by car
because I wanted to experience those American cities life, but also then looking for instance at all
the Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings.

I would like to meet Frank Lloyd Wright to I just phoned … told them whom I am and they said
well … we can tell you within a week or so and then I called and said you come for Saturday
evening dinner … I came there and then they brought me to Frank Lloyd Wright and to studio and
see a painting and I say this is a Klimt and he says you are the first guy since years who knows so
this was a first good start, I had the opportunity to be at this dinner and it was 3 months before his
death he was I think 96.

I had the privilege to have seen Mies Van de Rohe in his studio he offered me a cigar and then I
had to smoke the cigar but I didn’t want to sort of refuse so and then he helped me with the … all
that kind of thing so that you remember.

Turning point was sort of in the last year of my study. I thought that the telephone was the ideal
object to communicate all over the world, I also developed the telephone booth in which it could

I had the invitation to contribute to the Biennale in Paris and I only got a space of one square metre
and they apparently thought about have a little model of a building or so, I said I will send a
telephone booth, one square metre.

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There were a lot of telephone booths out of sort of order in the back yard of the phone company
and I said can you lend me or sell me to a low price and they said no, they don’t want funness
being done with their telephone booths so I couldn’t do this, I didn’t participate. But then I
suddenly saw the power of the media because after the opening of the exhibition there was an
article and it mentioned my telephone booth, even though it was not there, so I saw that okay you
don’t even have to build things they are suddenly they come back and people talk about them as if
it would be sort of alright …

I found later in my work that many of the things are invented or imagined or made a proposal
would not be built. The Guggenheim Museum in the rock in Salzburg is one of the most published
objects of mine, it’s … not built, people think it is built very often because this is a model which is
so realistic that they think it’s built.

Before I did my first building people knew very much already about my ideas and even like for
instance my aircraft carrier in the landscape was … the Museum of Modern Art in New York
bought while my first real built project was a little candle shop in Vienna. It’s now a listed

Some of the messages architecture can convey you can also today transmit with different media so
you can come up with project where you know there will only and … to be as an idea partly
visually or for instance my architecture building which I invented to can swallow a pill and then
you get the … Sophia or you, it comes from the treatment of people who have claustrophobia or
agoraphobia. That you sort of can manipulate space and the invasion of space just with a little pill.

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There is a sort of connecting line in my work and in my life’s work and in my sort of ideas so I
don’t have period one, period two, period three and then I say forget about period one, I can come
back to an ideas I had 50 years ago and it’s still relevant and we could be, do build some of these

Genoa was two years ago the culture capital of Europe and they ask me to do a sculpture, this was
the Golden Calf, the Golden Calf.

I don’t know I have seen on Michaela Plaza made a cut through the square and you see 2000 years
of building in Vienna you see a part of a Roman building, you see the rest of the Roman Road and
then you see basements of medieval buildings and you see the corner of the original Hoffberg.

A lot of building for instance in the European union where there’s public money involved you have
to have competitions. I have won many competitions but competition is a kind of shotgun wedding
yeah the client doesn’t know you, you don’t know the client, like this building here in Lima is
there was international competition and I won it and I found out that they were the perfect client.

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I was Director of the Architecture Biennale in Venice for several years and when I made one of the
big exhibition of contemporary architecture the first object at the entrance was the Sydney Opera
House. It … not have been built it had a very strong impact on the development of architecture.

… was very famous for soccer and this was the first new idea about museums, architects at that
time didn’t the museums they wanted town halls and they wanted churches.

Tom Krantz the director of the Guggenheim he was offered in Germany big palace by accident he
came to see a project of mine for a museum in Salzburg, there was a discussion that the director of
the museum said and he really doesn’t want to have a museum in the rock, Tom Krantz said if they
don’t do it, we do it. It unfortunately never came up but it’s one of the most known ample things of
mine and from this time on he said I had the relation but to come up with a new Guggenheim it
should be also a new statement in architecture.

Frank Gehry did the opening of Bilbao then the press conference said without M… Bilbao would
not have been possible.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Hans Hollein, Hollein Architect, Vienna