Innovation- Vienna Secession


History of Architecture and Interior Design from the 19th Century


Chapter 20     Innovation- Vienna Secession:  1897-1920’s



The Vienna Secession, also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, was formed in 1897 by a group of painters, sculptors, and architects. The first president of the Secession was Gustav Klimt, and Rudolf von Alt was made honorary president.  Unlike other movements, there is not one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession.  Along with painters and sculptors, there were several prominent architects who became associated with The Vienna Secession. During this time, architects focused on bringing purer geometric forms into the designs of their buildings.


Concepts:  Secession members call for architecture, interiors, and furnishings that develop from contemporary life.  Additionally, they strive to dissolve divisions between the fine and decorative arts and design through their exhibitions.  Emphasis is put on honest use of materials and excellent craftsmanship.


Design Characteristics:  Architecture, interiors, furnishings, decorative arts, and textiles exhibit minimalism, geometric silhouettes, and strong contrast.  All emphasize geometric forms, shapes, repetition, defines outlines, vertical movement, functionalism, and simplicity.

Motifs include square and checkered patterns, dots, repetitive geometric designs, medallions, circles, carved floral ornament, sunflowers, roses, and leaves.


Architecture: Design goals include rectangular and cube like forms, monumental mass, and sparingly used decoration.

               Of all the buildings that the Secessionists designed and built in Vienna, the Secessionist Building was the most symbolic, the most iconic. Since the young artists who started the Vienna Secession in 1897 wanted to identify themselves as modern and different, their building had to clearly break away from the rigidity of Vienna’s long standing Academic taste. The building was to be their administrative headquarters, but it was also to be a vitally important exhibition space.

Interiors:  Interior design was considered to be equal in importance to architecture.  Designers strive to create total works of art deriving from form, function, simplicity, geometric forms, defined outlines, and smooth surfaces.  Rooms are uncluttered and reveal geometric patterns and details.  White walls are standard often with doors and trim painted black.  Bright reds, green, blue, yellow, and rose are popular colors.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts:  Mainly influenced by English Arts and Crafts, and Mackintosh’s innovative furniture that is individually designed for each space.  Interiors mush achieve harmony with the exterior of the structure.  Truth to material in design and construction was important.  Designs are simple, modest, and use classical proportions.



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