Described by Richard Meier as an architect whose “groundbreaking ideas” have “had a major impact on the thinking of designers and architects,” Austrian artist, architect, designer, theoretician and Pritzker Prize laureate Hans Hollein worked in all aspects of design, from architecture to furniture, jewelry, glasses, lamps – even door handles. Known in particular for his museum designs, from the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach to the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt to Vienna’s Haas House, Hollein’s work manifests a unique, fascinating take on 1950s Modernism.
Hollein, who was born in Vienna in 1934, was born into a family of mining engineers. Studying at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts before heading to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and the University of California in Berkeley, Hollein dedicated himself to the works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Buckminster Fuller (whom he got to know personally) and became an advocate of Modernism. Throughout the 50s and 60s, he became known for his trailblazing theoretical writings and visionary architectural drawings, models, and collages. Hollein’s unbuilt competition entries – such as his designs for the Guggenheim Museum in Salzburg’s Mönchsberg - have particularly garnered interest.
Hollein’s architectural office in Vienna was established in 1964, his first independent commission being the design of the Retti candle shop. In 1972, he represented Austria at the Venice Biennale with his installation Work and Behavior, Life and Death, Everyday Situations. He then continued to be Austria’s commissioner for the Venice Art Biennale from 1978 to 1990 and commissioner of the Biennale for Architecture in 1991, 1996, and 2000, as well as its director in 1996. The Haas House (1986 – 1990), situated diagonally opposite St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the centre of Austria’s capital, is perhaps Hollein’s best known and also most controversial buildings. Objections centred around placing such a contemporary structure in the city’s historical heart, yet it has become a significant landmark. Most recently, the two-hundred-meter-high SBF Tower is currently under construction in Shenzhen.