“Neeraja, you have to come and see this place,” Michel told me over the phone on his and Louise’s last day in Vienna. “It’s as if Gaudi came to Vienna!”

Gaudi it was not, though some might deem it gaudy, but colorful it certainly was. The “it” in question being the Hundertwasserhaus, the realized product of the vision of one Austrian-born artist+architect who took on his name of Hundertwasser and later bestowed it upon his handiwork. Photos don’t do it enough justice actually – they simply don’t have the same impact of color and confused space that one gets from being there. In fact the only colorful pictures on this post were lifted from – dare i confess? – Wikipedia, and the photos from Louise Mom or myself are rather bleached. Which, by the way, is how he wanted it to be. So much so that he made a stipulation in his will that the colors etc would not be refreshed, restored or otherwise changed.

The profusion of colors is perhaps the tamest thing about Hundertwasserhaus, which according to various pieces of paperwork, is an apartment complex with 52 residential units (we’re not allowed to visit those), four offices, 16 private terraces, and three communal one, a garden (er.. a lawn more like) on the roof and 250 trees. Floors undulate, balconies seem precariously perched on crooked pillars, fountains fount, and trees and other members of the plant world are quite wont to peep out at you from unexpected places. All in all the effect is interesting to say the least, although I’m not certain I’d like to live in an apartment where a midnight trip to get a glass of water could trip me up.

The apartment complex was not Hundertwasser’s only legacy to Vienna. Not far from it, also in the third district, is an art gallery called Kunsthauswien, which bears many of the artistic and architechtural landmarks of the apartment complex. It is home to a permanent collection of the artist’s work and also exhibits various contemporary works. I didn’t make it there, but did get out to his third handiwork, the regional heating plant (incinerator) in Spittelau. On a bright Sunday morning Amma and I set out bright and early on the subway out to visit the Setagaya Japanese garden. The garden was calm and soothing and beautiful as all such gardens are, but our visit lasted about the fraction of the time it took us to get there. Much to our delight on reaching the end of the subway line, we discovered that the heating plant whose golden globe is visible from many vantage points in Vienna (and had hence aroused Amma’s curiosity) was within walking distance. So after the garden we walked over and around it and took some pictures. The plant still functions as an incinerator, only the outside is decorated in the style of the hundred waters! The colors and funky style appealed to Amma so much that she made it a point on her last but one day in Vienna to go over and check out the Hundertwasserhaus, in all its gaudy Gaudi-esque glory!


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