Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Fragments from an autumnal Vienna: the sentinel figures atop the cornice of the Museum of Natural History, near our hotel; figure of a saint at a local church; Fischer von Erlach's baroque library, embedded in the Hapsburg palace complex; apples in a market, for a bit of color.

Schloss Belvedere, Vienna and its tricky garden axis. Looks complete from above, but it is broken into three parterres at different levels, with fountains interrupting movement down its center. Realized by Dominique Girard, a pupil of Le Nôtre.

Otto Wager's Church at Steinhof.

Finally, red velvet and leopard-print rugs: the bar at the old Bristol Hotel, still purporting to be a 5-star establishment, located across the street from the Opera on the Ringstrasse.

I was surprised that so many of the classic Viennese cafés are tucked into hotels. They reminded me of mid-town Manhattan, circa 1950, with the tripartite wall sconces with little lampshades and the rugged floors and upholstered walls, cozy places for a cold winter night after the opera (Café Sacher, in the Hotel Sacher). Though I suppose the influence goes the other way. Admittedly I missed some other famous ones. But I'll stick with the grand old cafes of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Except for the pastries. (Below, Mary's picture of the café in the Hotel Sacher).

See my related post on the Karl Marx Hof.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Karl Marx Hof, Vienna

Karl Marx Hof, Vienna
Karl Ehn, 1927-30
Visited November 8, 2017

Beside the rhetorical arches, which seem a bit over-exposed at this point, the interior courtyards are impressive in their own right.

We did housing block studies like this at Columbia under Kenneth Frampton. His models were mainly Dutch, but the corner turns here bring it all back.

The complex is about a kilometer long and includes baths, a laundry, a kindergarten and a medical clinic, all inside the blocks facing intermediate streets that cross through them. The multi-arched section is only a single volume deep, with a large park on one side and rail and metro connections on the other. It is flanked by two long courtyard blocks, each spanning intermediate streets. The lot is irregular, so the volumes taper as the extend outwards in each direction. and the volumetric massing becomes simpler, less original but still very fine. Brick is used sparingly as accents in the window strips and around the openings into the blocks. The complex has been beautifully restored.

I imagined the setting to be much more gritty, but it is leafy and suburban, near the end of a streetcar line in a prosperous-looking neighborhood. I guess I was too much influenced by  "Night Porter" - it's where Dick Bogart's character supposedly lives, in a cramped flat. (The flats reportedly range from 30 to 60 square meters).

Photos: DC and Mary Dreyer

Source: Hilary French: Key Urban Housing of the Twentieth Century, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London, 2008

Far reaches of block, exterior view

Laundry and baths
Additional images and data can be found at the link below. Photos include pre-restoration views:
Tamás Perényi, Tamás Niczki, Zsófia Dankó, Boglárka Szentirmai
Multi-Apartment buildings
Department of Residential Buildings
Budapest University of Technology and Economics

 For more on my visit to Vienna, click here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bot Slave


 After posting images of the Karl Marx Hof housing project in Vienna on Facebook, around November 10, today I received the following email from my dormant Pinterest account:

"New ideas for you in Karl marx"
"We found some Pins we think might be right up your alley"
With of course images of the venerable.

I couldn't help myself, I answered the email. And it answered back. The conversation went like this:
Me: "Stupid bot."
Bot: "Thanks for reaching out! A little robot is sending you this auto-reply since we don't check this account. For how-to information, our Help Center is a good place to start."

If you have a conversation with a bot, is it a conversation? I guess it depends on how many other bots are listening in, and what they do about it: NSA, FBI, Facebook thought police, etc. etc. Hello, everyone.

I spent the day filling out forms, official documents required every year for the Foundation Amelia Moreno. I'm feeling somewhat like a bot myself.

Have you noticed how much time you spend filling out forms under the supervision of a bot? The truth is, we are at the service of the bots. We are at their beck and call, we are their humble, obedient wait staff, and no indiscipline will be tolerated. Talk back to a bot and you will be hauled into line: fill out the form, stupid. Stick to the program.