Focus Scientific Research

Hermann Czech - Architecture and critic of language in postwar Vienna

Liane Lefaivre

Institute of Architecture

Subject of the research project is a contextual biography of the Viennese architect Hermann Czech. Following the actual precedents in architectural biographies it will reconstruct the development of his intellectual position as an architect and the formation of his main projects in the historic cultural context. Hermann Czech is one of the most interesting personalities of contemporary architecture in Vienna especially in relation to the emergence of new architectural positions in the 50ties and 60ties in the newly founded Second republic of Austria after the occupation following the Second World War. In that context Hermann Czech takes a sole position. He neither was part of the group around the arbeitsgruppe 4 who tried to tie up with the traditions of modern architecture in Austria before the country slid into fascism in 1934 and was connected by the Third Reich in 1938 when modern architecture was completely banned. Nor did Czech follow Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler who proclaimed an architecture of irrational and sensitive qualities without clear functions. Hermann Czech followed his own ideas that took the traditions of Modern Viennese architecture as a basis but also further developed them according to the new historical circumstances. He occupied himself with a rigorous research into the means of architecture and their meanings for the user. He was concerned how architecture activated unconscious and conscious feelings in the user and searched for and defined terms for the architectural discourse. In that context the research project sees Czech in the tradition of groups and people who focused on "Sprachkritik" (the critique of language) in Vienna like the Wiener Kreis and its contemporaries like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos. Although Hermann Czech has written a lot and is more self reflective than most Austrian architects, his work needs to be contextualized to be understood in its complexity. Beside the focus on Hermann Czech's intellectual biography the present research aims at discussing the work and notions by Hermann Czech critically in the historical context of the first decades of the Second Republic of Austria and within the before mentioned cultural references. The sources of the study will be talks with Hermann Czech and important persons in his life, the use of his own archive at his office in Vienna. A concise graphic documentation of his main projects and buildings as well as unpublished personal photographs will go along with the research. An entire chronological index of all of his work (projects, buildings and texts) will complete the study. In that way the study aims to reach a broad group of interested persons as general historians, art historians, architectural historians and theorists and the group of practising architects.