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'Fantastically inventive' Hans Hollein dies

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Austrian Pritzker Prize winner and Postmodern pioneer Hans Hollein has died aged 80

The architect and artist is best known for his Haas Haus shopping mall, Retti Candle Shop in Vienna and his product design for Alessi and the Memphis Group.

Hollein, who was described as an ‘Austrian Archigram-wannabe’, was born in Vienna in 1934 and received his diploma from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1956 before heading to the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1959, and a year later to the University of California, Berkeley.

During his time in America he met Mies van der RoheFrank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra, and worked in several offices in the United States and Sweden before returning to Vienna to set up his own practice in 1964.

His first commission was the tiny Retti shop (1965), which won the Reynolds Memorial Prize – the $25,000 job cost less than the prize money.

Continuing in this ‘genre of the exquisite’, Hollein designed two Schullin jewellery shops in 1975 and in 1982, both in Vienna.

He picked up the Prtizker Prize in 1985. The international jury who selected Hollein described him an ‘architect who is also an artist… one who, with wit and eclectic gusto, draws upon the traditions of the New World as readily as upon those of the Old.’

Sean Griffiths, formerly of FAT said: ‘Hollein was brilliant. Fantastically inventive and a true artist in the medium of architecture. His work was, to its credit, not easy but brave, challenging and iconoclastic.

‘He was a great conceptual architect [Aircraft Carrier City in the landscape], a brilliant interior designer [Retti Candle Shop, Schullin jewellery shop and Vienna travel agency’ and equally adept at big buildings [Haas Haus in Vienna and Monchengladbach Museum]. He also did a snazzy line in sunglasses.’

Asked whether he thought Hollein had been influential as an architect, Griffiths added: ‘Not anywhere near enough here in the UK, where architecture is decidedly bland and conservative in comparison to his work.’

Architect Laureate (AJ 17.04.1985)

Hans Hollein, the Austrian architect, has won the 1985 Pritzker architecture prize. The award was made on 3 April at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hollein received a tax-free grant of $US 100,000 and will also be given a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Sandy Heck reports

The international jury who selected Hollein commended him as ‘an architect who is also an artist… one who with wit and eclectic gusto draws upon the traditions of the New World  as readily as upon those of the Old.’

Hollein was born in Vienna in 1934. He graduated from the city’s Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in 1956. During the late ’50s a Harkness Fellowship gave him the opportunity travel in the US. In 1958-59 he did graduate study at the lllinois Institute of Technology; in 1960 he took a Master of Architecture degree at the University of California, Berkeley. At this time he met and studied with Mies van der Rοhe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra.

After briefly working abroad, Hollein returned to Vienna to begin his own practice. His first commission was the tiny Retti candleshop (1965), which won the Reynolds memorial prize and $US25 OOO-the job cost less than the prize money. Continuing in this genre of the exquisite, Hollein designed two Schullin jewellery shops, in 1975 and one in 1982, both in Vienna.

Hollein has realised a number of projects in New York City: the former Richard L Feigen Gallery (1969); MANtransFORMS (1974-76); the opening exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum; and the Ludwig Beck shop at the Trump Tower (1983). Hollein’s sterling silver set is among the 11 by architects in Max Protetch’s Tea & Coffee Piazza. Hollein’s photomontage, aircraft carrier city (1964), is in the MOMA’s permanent collection. He is an honorary fellow of the AIA.

In 1975 Hollein redesigned the interior of Leo von Klenze’s Munich town-house as the HQ for the lighting manufacturer, Siemens. This Gesamstkunstwerke incorporates a nineteenth century urban axis in its modern boardroom, and the windows’ predominant arch theme is echoed in its specially designed furniture (AR June 1981).

Hollein’s Austrian Tourist Office of 1978, in Vienna, with its vaulted ceiling and palm trees, is more than a little reminiscent of Otto Wagner and John Nash (AR October 1980). His Museum of Glass and Ceramics, also of 1978, in Tehran, uses a variety of cases not only to display objects but also to highlight the original Adam-like detail and to signify its contemporary Iranian cultural context (AR December 1980).

One of the best

In 1982 Hollein completed the Municiple Museum at Abteiberg, Monchengladbach. The Sunday Times Magazine last year named this as one of the world’s top 10 best buildings. It would seem that in museum design, Hollein – maker of objects, exhibitions and buildings – is in his element.

Hollein recently won first prize in two international competitions: his Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt (AR February 1984) and for his Cultural Forum, Berlin. Other current proposals include social housing and a department store, both in Vienna. It will travel to the Pompidou Centre later this year and to the MOMA in 1986.

Hollein has as yet not built in the UK. He is a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Dusseldorf, and head of the School and Institute of Design at the Academy of Applied Art, Vienna.

 Winning plea

After the MOMA ceremony, Hollein commented that perhaps winning this most prestigious of international architectural prizes would encourage more timorous clients to approach more creative architects. But Richard Meier, last year’s Pritzker winner, thought that clients might have been deterred from bringing their small jobs into his office. Meier did, however, see an advantage to winning the Pritzker: ‘It lets you pay the bills.’



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