Mind Blowing Architecture: Hundertwasser in Vienna

While Matt and I visited Vienna, we made sure to check out the Hundertwasserhaus and the Kunst Haus Wien. The Hundertwasserhaus is an apartment complex that Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed. People still live in the building. Hundertwasser is an architect that favors having humans connect with nature even in the city. Undulating floors provide your feet an experience that you have never felt before; Hundertwasser describes it as a symphony for your feet and I couldn’t agree more. Tree tenants populate the building in order to promote cleaner air, quiet, and bring nature into the city. You can’t go in the interior of the Hundertwasserhaus but you can visit the outside. It’s interesting and definitely worth your time. Plus, it is very, very close to Kunst Haus Wien. Hundertwasser designed this museum that houses an extensive collection of his works on paper. The museum is a piece of art in itself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures of his work but I was able to photograph some of the interior, specifically the museum cafe. If you use the museum cafe you’ll get an opportunity to sit and soak in Hundertwasser’s architecture a bit more while enjoying some typical food from Vienna.

 

Entrance to Tian Bistro in Kunst Haus Wien

                                                                       Entrance to Tian Bistro in Kunst Haus Wien                                                                          (It’s a bit difficult to see but the floor isn’t flat.)

 

Although I tried to get as many photos as possible, it was difficult to get much at all because of the museum’s policies. If you’re ever in Vienna, take the time to stop at both the Hundertwasserhaus and the Kunst Haus Wien. Both are experiences that should not be missed. In the meantime, read a few quotes from Hundertwasser to get an idea of his thought process.

Entrance to Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

Entrance to Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

 

“The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity.”

 

“You are a guest of nature – behave.”

 

“We must at last put a stop to having people move into their quarters like chickens and rabbits into their coops.”

 

“Today we live in a chaos of straight lines, in a jungle of straight lines. If you do not believe this, take the trouble to count the straight lines which surround you. Then you will understand for you will never finish counting.”

View of Hundertwasserhaus from the Street, Vienna

                                                               View of Hundertwasserhaus from the Street, Vienna                                                                  (Notice the tree tenants that are growing out of the building.)

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Note One: The featured image for this piece is a look at Kunst Haus Wien’s facade details.


Note Two: I found the above quotes on Brainy Quote, Good Reads, and IZ Quotes.

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Cool Art at the East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

The East Side Gallery hosts over a hundred paintings by international artists. The paintings have been directly applied to a portion of the Berlin Wall. These massive murals are both interesting and eye-catching. If you ever find yourself in Berlin, check out this monument. I think that it is a great use for remnants of the Berlin Wall. Here are some pieces you might find interesting:

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Go Underground in Poland: Facts about the Wieliczka Salt Mine

A twenty minute drive from Krakow will take you to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This site is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It’s a pretty cool place. I’ve always been partial to seeing underground sites and caves (you can thank my grandfather for that one) so this place was just my cup of tea. Matt absolutely loved the salt mine. It was his first underground tour as well. I think just about anyone would find it fun. Well, except for if you don’t like being underground. Here’s a few facts about the Wieliczka Salt Mine that you might find interesting.

Everything is Made of Salt: Barring the wooden supports, everything is salt. Go ahead! Lick the walls. Or touch the wall and then lick your hand. The salt gets rid of bacteria too so you’re good to go. On the tour you will get the opportunity to taste water that is partial brine and full brine. A delicacy!

There’s Some Cool Art Down There: All of the sculptures are made of salt and done by miners who have worked there.

Copernicus Sculpture, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Copernicus Sculpture, Wieliczka Salt Mine

You Can Have a Wedding There: There’s a huge salt chapel in the mine and you can get married there. It’s quite beautiful and definitely unique. The gorgeous chandeliers are even made of salt.

Salt Petrifies Wood: Take a look at the older wooden support beams. They kind of look like salt, right? They’ve been petrified by salt over time.

Salty Wall, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salty Wall, Wieliczka Salt Mine

You Can’t Drown In the Lakes: There’s so much salt in the lakes found in the mine that you can’t drown in them. You just float to the surface. Scuba divers tried to reach the bottom of one of the lakes and had to use quite a bit of additional weight to touch it. The only recorded death in water in the mine is a group of drunk men who got trapped under their boat that they overturned.

Miners Work There to Save the Town from Destruction: The mine isn’t used as much anymore for actually mining salt. The miners who work there now do a lot of preventative work to make sure that the mine doesn’t collapse and that visitors can enjoy the site. If the mine goes down, the whole city of Wieliczka goes down as it sits directly on top of the mine.

Cathedral, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Cathedral, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Follow the White: If you visit the mine, you’ll notice that some of the walls are painted white. This helped the miners find the exits in the dark as the white would reflect the light better.

Ride a Fun Cage to the Surface: To reach the bottom of the mine, you take fifty-four flights down by foot but you get to ride up in an elevator. It’s the weirdest elevator you’ve probably ever seen with multiple cages stacked on top of each other. Each cage fits eight people tightly and you zoom up to the surface.

Detail of Salt Chandelier, Cathedral, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Detail of Salt Chandelier, Cathedral, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Feeling Sick? Stay a Bit Longer: There’s a sanitarium in the mine. People with health problems can stay in the mine as the air in the mine is known to improve health. Actually, anyone can stay there. You just need to pay for a room.

Horses Used to Live Down There: In the past the miners used horses down in the mines. The horses never came back up once they were brought down because it was such a stressful experience to get them down there in the first place. The horses in the mine were extremely well taken care of by the miners because they needed them to get their work done efficiently. You can see an old stable when you go on your tour.

Like Alice in Wonderland: Sound Art at Mucsarnok, Budapest

This exhibition (“On the Edge of Perceptibility – Sound Art” at the Mucsarnok in Budapest, Hungary) was completely different from any exhibit that I have ever been to before. The Mucsarnok will be hosting the exhibit until the 23rd of November 2014 so get there if you can. If you can’t, I expect great things from this museum so check it out the next time you are in Budapest.

Christian Skjodt, Vibrant Disturbances III, 2014

Christian Skjodt, Vibrant Disturbances III, 2014

 

“On the Edge of Perceptibility” looks at sound as a medium in the visual arts. The exhibit addresses the limits of perception with a focus on, no surprise here, sound. The works in the exhibition highlight this medium rather than attempt to create a timeline of its use. Both international and Hungarian artists contributed to the exhibition. Let me tell you, it was cool. To quote Matt, “The best part about this exhibition is that I can touch it…” The museum professional in me slightly started to panic and I’m sure Matt saw it in my eyes so he said, “… with my ears.” Matt’s a really tactile person so there’s always a conversation of why things can’t be touched even though he never actually touches any of the objects. But I digress. You are let into this first room where hundreds of speakers dangle from the ceiling emitting various white noise sounds. These sounds change as the light changes throughout the day. Pretty cool, huh? The doorways between the rooms are covered with two curtains of heavy cloth on each side. This helps to dull the noise from the other rooms but it also creates this feeling of going from one world into another. As we move from the first well-lit room to the second room with three tea kettles on pedestals illuminated in this dimly-lit room with this calming sound enveloping me, I turn to Matt and whisper, “I feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland.”

Thanos Chrysakis, Encounters, 2002-2014

Thanos Chrysakis, Encounters, 2002-2014

 

The work these artists have done and the way the curators and designers set the exhibition up is superb. Each room is its own little world unique from all the others. It manages to really get across the theme of perception of sound. I enter one room with daylight streaming through three windows while sounds of wind fill the room. I go to another room where there is this alien, magical, entrancing music that fits perfectly with the moving projections on the wall that, in my mind, can only be described as the way water looks when you lay on the bottom of a pool and look up at the sunlight playing on the surface. I cuddled up on one of the bean bags in that room and wanted to stay there all day. (Anybody who knows me knows that I love water.) Another room has an interactive piece where the closer you get to the rocks in the center of the room, the image projected on the rocks as well as the accompanying sound changes. There’s also a completely dark room where only one person is permitted to enter at a time. The exhibit responds to your movements and changes the noise based on what you do. I must have stepped too close to a sensor or something because the loudest noise was made that caused me to cover my ears and bolt from the room. Don’t forget that I was in complete darkness and was not expecting it at all.

Binaura Csoport, Alpha, 2011

Binaura Csoport, Alpha, 2011

 

The exhibition was an adventure. Matt was so pleased and fascinated to see art that he could interact with so completely. I have to say that I felt the same way. It was different and refreshing after seeing a lot of the same medium so often during our trip. It was one of the exhibits on my backpacking journey that completely surprised me and will be something I won’t soon forget.

 

Museum Magic & the Leopold Museum

Despite some controversies associated with the Leopold Museum, specifically issues of repatriation of art stolen by the Nazis (watch the documentary Portrait of Wally if you’re curious), I decided to visit this museum. Just so you know, the museum did end up paying the families for the paintings they acquired in a less than savory manner. I was curious to visit this museum after seeing the documentary. There’s no denying it, the dude (Leopold) is rich and egotistical. You can see it in the text panels that pay him homage. It’s his museum so I understand where the ego comes from; not many people have the resources to put together a museum like this. It was definitely an experience I will not soon forget.

And now a magical museum moment that I believe proves the power of these institutions:

When Matt and I arrive at the museum, we jump into our usual routine: ditch the bags and look for the bathroom. Matt pays one euro for coat check. (Slightly annoying but whatever. You know the place has enough money to do a free coat check.) We then figure out that the bathroom is in the basement. We briskly descend stairs and weave our way through a few corridors. I’m walking about a room behind Matt because I have shorter legs. I turn the corner. “Oh wow,” I whisper. The pathway to the water closet is intersected by the Giacometti temporary exhibition and it stops me right in my tracks. It’s something that I know I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I’d seen some of Giacometti’s smaller scale work and studied him briefly before but now his tall, thin sculptures tower over me. I should  mention that I’ve had my awed moments in museums before (why else would I have paid money for a Museum Studies degree) but this is the first time I felt that an exhibit actually halted me and took me completely by surprise. It’s surreal and special. The statues rest on pedestals but a few inches above the ground with illumination underneath each. The floor is grey (reminiscent of Giacometti’s studio) and the walls are a metallic bronze (reminding us of the material he used). On the wall opposite from me are silhouettes of the statues rendered in cream (a reference to the plaster). This room is magic. The designers and curators crafted it in such a way that it does perfect homage to Giacometti’s work. I feel as if I’m in a sacred space and I hate when art museums feel like that but I’m cool with it this time. Whoever set that up, they are damn good. It really got you to look at the artists work and engage with the whole environment. And it was a moment that made me put my knowledge on the back burner and look at the objects. I often find myself evaluating design decisions but that urge was completely erased when I entered that exhibition. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures of the temporary exhibit so I just have this lame photo of a free leaflet they were giving out. I have to say that I do like it though.

Giacometti Exhibition Pamphlet

Giacometti Exhibition Pamphlet

The rest of the art work that I viewed while at the Leopold were on the typical white walls that you tend to see in permanent exhibition spaces. Of course there were plenty of works by Egon Schiele (you’ll see that they take up most of the photos below) but there were plenty of other artists represented. Leopold was obsessed with Schiele’s work so I only thought it appropriate to present those to you. I threw in a Klimt and one by Albert Birkle for fun. I love the expression and eye’s of the subject in Birkle’s painting.

Egon Schiele, House Wall on the River, 1915

Egon Schiele, House Wall on the River, 1915

Egon Schiele, Detail of Chrysanthemums, 1910

Egon Schiele, Detail of Chrysanthemums, 1910

Egon Schiele, Crescent of of Houses II (Island Town), 1915

Egon Schiele, Crescent of of Houses II (Island Town), 1915

Egon Schiele, Detail of Mother and Daughter, 1913

Egon Schiele, Detail of Mother and Daughter, 1913

Egon Schiele, Detail of Stylized Flowers in Front of a Decorative Background, 1908

Egon Schiele, Detail of Stylized Flowers in Front of a Decorative Background, 1908

Gustav Klimt, Detail of Death and Life, 1910-1911, reworked 1915-1916

Gustav Klimt, Detail of Death and Life, 1910-1911, reworked 1915-1916

Albert Birkle, Man with Fur Cap (My Brother the Animal), 1923

Albert Birkle, Man with Fur Cap (My Brother the Animal), 1923

 

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Please note that the featured image is another detail of Egon Schiele’s Chrysanthemums, 1910.

The Fates Exhibition, Secession, Vienna

Diana Al-Hadid’s The Fates exhibition at Secession in Vienna was breathtaking. It afforded me the opportunity to see art in a way I had never seen it before. Moments like that are rare and amazing. I went through the exhibition in the order that they were presented in the text panel which was immediately to my left upon entering the space. The text is unobtrusive and only found in one spot; it allows you to focus on the art rather than look for labels. The only exception to following the panel was Phantom Limb which you find dead center upon entering the space. Both Still Life with Gold and Sleep Walker are unique in that Al-Hadid creates a painting in three dimensions by removing pieces of the walk on both sides. It was fascinating to be able to see through the walls. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of Sleep Walker and Moving Target; you can see a shot of the two lined up perfectly below. Ending with Untitled and Blind Bust II across from each other, I found myself pondering about the message that Al-Hadid was trying to convey. I like art that makes me think so I liked Al-Hadid’s The Fates. I look forward to doing more research into her work.

Diana Al-Hadid, Phantom Limb, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Phantom Limb, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Detail of Phantom Limb, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Detail of Phantom Limb, 2014

The Fates Exhibition View (Left: Moving Target, 2014, Right: Sleep Walker, 2014

The Fates Exhibition View (Left: Diana Al-Hadid, Moving Target, 2014, Right: Diana Al-Hadid, Sleep Walker, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Still Life with Gold, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Still Life with Gold, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Detail of Untitled, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Detail of Untitled, 2014

Diana Al-Hadid, Blind Bust II, 2012

Diana Al-Hadid, Blind Bust II, 2012

 

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Please note that the featured image is a detail from Diana Al-Hadid’s Phantom Limb, 2014.

Must Sees at the Berlin Zoo

The Berlin Zoo & Aquarium provides an entertaining experience that could potentially last all day but Matt and I only spent about three and a half hours there. The park is spacious and beautiful. For twenty euros each, Matt and I got entrance to both the zoo and the aquarium. The admission fees are thirteen euro for both the zoo or the aquarium if you only want to visit one. It’s worth it to pay to see both at once. The zoo is massive and the aquarium has three floors. Overall I was extremely impressed and wished we had arrived at the park sooner. I could easily have seen us spending a few extra hours sitting on the benches and enjoying people watching (watching kids see animals for the first time can be really entertaining and cute) or a nice lunch. We walked around the whole time and stayed until closing.

Puffer Fish Giving Me a Kiss

Puffer Fish Giving Me a Kiss (Perfect Timing Courtesy of Matt)

 

I was honestly blown away by the breadth of the collection at the Berlin Zoo & Aquarium. They have so many different types of animals that I have never seen. The animals also seem well cared for (that’s important to me as I prefer to put my money towards a zoo that does their job properly). It was fascinating to see so many new animals. Here are a five highlights that I found particularly interesting. I could easily say the whole park but I figured I should give a few examples.

 

Ant Air Walk: The ant air walk is on the top floor of the beautiful aquarium. There are lots of different fish and amphibians to see but also lots of insects. (I had only seen insects in pet stores up until then so that was cool to see them displayed in an educational way.) Back to the ants! The aquarium has created this piping system that the ants can crawl around the room in up near the ceiling. Park of this piping system has a walkway for the ants that is exposed to the air. It was pretty cool to see.

Hippos: Okay! I have never seen a hippo and for some reason I have never looked up hippo videos on Youtube. Seeing a hippo swim underwater is amazing. They just glide through the water so gracefully. It was impressive. The downside is that their habitat has murkier water so I couldn’t see them unless they were closer to the glass which wasn’t very often. I would have gladly stayed at that exhibit longer to watch them bounce around weightless but we didn’t have the time.

Polar Bears

Polar Bears

Polar Bears: This was Matt’s selection for the list. I had never seen a polar bear at a zoo before so it was cool to see them as well. They seemed a bit sleepy while we were there but one was doing a two step which was curious.

Baby Monkey

Baby Monkey

All Primates: I love visiting the primates although I find the visits often sad. It is fascinating to watch them interact with each other and the visitors. It makes me want to do research into zoos a bit more to see how they care for the animals and if the animals get enough physical exertion and mental stimulation. Even so, monkeys have had a place near to my heart ever since I was a kid. The vast majority seem lively and playful which are the monkeys that I prefer to watch. (The great apes seem less content to be captive so it tugs at my heartstrings quite a bit.) There were also baby monkeys which were super cute. I saw so many species here that I had never seen before

Rhino

Rhino

Rhinos: This was the first time I have ever seen a rhino. There were two at the zoo but one of the two (can’t remember the type) looked like he was all in armor. It was pretty awesome to see. They even appear to be really powerful creatures.

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If you like animal pictures (and, come on, who doesn’t), check out my Flickr page to see more animals at the Berlin Zoo.