Karl Schwanzer (May 21, 1918 in Vienna – August 20, 1975, Vienna) was an Austrian architect. He was an important figure of post-war architecture.
Karl Schwanzer studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, graduating in 1940. In 1941 he received a PhD for his work "Arbeit Neues Bauen im befreiten Oberschlesien. Der Ring in Sohrau. Entschandelung und Gestaltung" (New construction work in liberated Upper Silesia. The ring in Żory. Refurbishment and design).
In 1947 Schwanzer opened his own studio. At the beginning of his career as a freelance architect he worked on smaller projects, such as entrance halls and exhibitions, leading to new contracts in the early years. No matter how small the task, Schwanzer completed the assignment with outstanding energy and ingenuity. Successes in national and international competitions helped the studio grow, gaining international recognition with working methods guided by the principle: "Quality is more important than merit". Schwanzer strove for perfection, expanding on an original idea in terms of architecture and functionality. "Hour after hour, day after day, and long into the night, approaches were planned, discussed, modified, discarded and revived time and time again."
In his creative period from 1947 to 1975, Schwanzer developed a variety of distinctive buildings, closely relating a building's design to its function and structure, often exploring new architectural approaches. He also designed furniture and fittings and founded the Österreichische Institut für Formgebung (Austrian Institute for Design). In 1967 he opened a second studio in Munich.
From 1947 to 1951, Schwanzer was a lecturer at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. In 1959, he became a full professor at the Technical University of Vienna and head of the Institute for Architecture and Design. For over 15 years he trained a large number of architects, many of them gaining international recognition. From 1965 to 1966, he was Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture.
Schwanzer was also in demand as a visiting professor at a number of universities, including the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt (1964–65), the Technical University of Budapest (1967), and the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia (1972).
Buildings and projects
1962: House Vienna
The house was built on a slope with two floors, where the main floor is connected with the garden. It includes a number of variable sliding elements that allow for spatial groupings. By avoiding solid floor plan splits, Schwanzer created an atmosphere of large living space. The choice of fine materials adds to the intimacy of place.
1964: 20er Haus | Museum of the 20th Century. Vienna
The steel-framed building was originally designed as the Austrian Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair of 1958. The rectangular structure includes a courtyard between the pylons. The ground floor was constructed as a covered space.
Initially the building was designed as a temporary structure. However it was later transferred to the Swiss Garden in Vienna, where it was adapted for use as a museum of modern art. The framework of the information pavilion was used for the entrance hall, office and staff rooms, a small exhibition space and a lecture theatre. The courtyard was closed in (covered) and the ground floor was fitted with glass windows. This provided three areas so that, in addition to the museum in the exhibition area, space was available for other purposes. The purist design of the building was in line with international standards of modern architecture.
1967: World's Fair in Montreal - the City of Vienna Kindergarten
The City of Vienna Kindergarten Building at the Montreal Expo was designed to have a facade depicting the world of children. This was achieved by means of a simple modular system. Through the familiar elements of toy building sets, it was designed to make it easier for children to adapt to the initially unfamiliar atmosphere in the kindergarten community by means of an intimate, affective relationship. Children should be able to truly enjoy their building. They should be happy to go there and want to return, remembered the colourful modular bricks.
In contrast to its colourful external appearance, the interior of the building was kept plain so as to provide opportunities for children to use their imagination, creating a world in which they alone provided colour and activity.
The combination of successful Viennese kindergarten floor plan layouts resulted in a richly structured common room, changing room and toilets. It also included various other areas for activities such as housekeeping, dolls, building and painting. The interior space protrudes from the centre of the building, bring the inside together with the outside in a common habitat for the children.
1967: Austria Pavilion Montreal
To express the multiformity of Austria, Schwanzer designed an impressive building consisting of crystalline structures. The design of the building resulted in simultaneous reduction of the components of typical basic elements, reminiscent of the geometrical precision of the molecular structure of crystals in cubic elements. Indications of mountains, precious stones and landscapes should be addressed, as well as notions of precision, geometry, technology and system.
The prefabricated units using aluminium frames were designed as a self-sustainable construction. The exterior and the interior wall were constructed as one. The assembly was put together using the triangular surface elements, which can always be modular, cube-like forms. It represented different examples of variation. The building appeared alive as growth and change were possible. The Austria Pavilion set out to transcend the need for residential buildings to be no more than objects, instead advocating a sculptural installation and aggressive architecture with industrially prefabricated components.
1968: Vienna City Centre Project
The project aimed to partly cover the Danube Canal, use the space as a parking lot on the lower level and a pedestrian level above, connected by footbridges with sidewalks adjacent to the road sections. The City Centre, to be connected to the railway and subway system, was designed as a centrally located open space, form where tourists could directly embark on city tour buses and airport buses. Numerous boutiques and shops located on several tiers could function as a large open department store with an urban atmosphere.
1968-1972: BMW buildings in Munich
- BMW administration building
The BMW administration tower was built between 1968 and 1972, just in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics. The 101 m (roughly 331 feet) building is located near the Olympic Village and is often cited as one of the most notable examples of architecture in Munich. The large cathedral exterior is supposed to mimic the shape of a tire in a racing car, with the garage representing the cylinder head.
The main tower consists of four vertical cylinders standing next to and across from each other. Each cylinder is divided horizontally in its centre by a mold in the facade. Notably, these cylinders do not stand on the ground, they are suspended on a central support tower. During construction, individual floors were assembled on the ground and then elevated, allowing for simultaneous execution of the shell and the finished work. The tower has a diameter of 52.30 meters (roughly 171 feet). The building has 22 occupied floors, two of which are basements and 18 serve as office space. The layout allows a functional summary of an entire floor, while preserving intimacy of the group space in the three-quarter circle.
- BMW museum
The BMW Museum is located next to the administration building. It was established in 1972. The futuristic building is known as the salad bowl or white cauldron. Its roughly circular base is only 20 meters in diameter. The flat roof covers about 40 meters. An escalator takes visitors up to the top floor from where they can look down over the exhibition.
1972: Economic development institute (WIFI) in Sankt Pölten
In line with the educational centre's intended function, Schwanzer designed a clearly defined and easily organizable building, providing the interiors and working spaces with the all the flexibility needed for adaptation to new requirements.
1975: Austrian Embassy in Brasilia
The building is characterized by the desire to achieve a balanced overall effect. In its outer appearance, the building represents a country with a high degree of cultural heritage while the interior induces an intimate atmosphere of hospitality and charm.
The gleaming white building in local prefabricated lightweight concrete elements provides a strong contrast between the clear blue sky and the red soil of Brazil. A shallow, narrow watercourse, rather than fencing or hedging, defines the boundary between the property and the street. The ground floor reception rooms occupy almost the full extent of the site. The living quarters and offices lining the cantilevered upper floor are shielded from the strong sunlight but nevertheless provide views of the Baroque garden, the embassy's iconic green surroundings and the open countryside beyond.
Awards and honours
- 1954 Josef Hoffmann award of the Viennese Secession
- 1958 Silver Medal for Merit to the Republic of Austria
- 1958 Grand Prix for architecture at the Brussels World's Fair
- 1959 City of Vienna Prize for Architecture
- 1963 Honorary Corresponding Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
- 1965 Officer of Merit Touristique, France
- 1969 Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- 1969 Corresponding member of the honor of German Architects (BDA)
- 1969 Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- 1973 BDA Award Bavaria
- 1974 Concrete Architecture Award of the Federal Association of German Cement Industry
- 1975 Grand Austrian State Prize for Architecture (posthumously)
- 2008 Street named after Karl Schwanzer in Wien Favoriten