PRINT May 2001

Wolf Prix

THE TALENT OF AUSTRIAN ARCHITECTS IS baroque. They celebrate space, unlike the Calvinists from Switzerland and Holland who like to rationalize it.

Form is space and space is fluid. It’s only in this sense that the Austrian-born architect R.M. Schindler is Austrian, for he built not in Vienna but in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles: The eternal comparison, Schindler versus Neutra, should be replaced by another parallel, Schindler and Kiesler. Friedrick Kiesler, too, was unable to build in Vienna. And his mythical ideas of infinite space, the spatial city, and the spatial theater disappeared without a trace in the swamp of bourgeois Viennese society.

Only recently have Kiesler’s thoughts on space begun, slowly but surely, to influence members of architecture’s current avant-garde. These practitioners, however, try to get a grip on the problem of infinite space mathematically, with the help of the latest computer software. And they will fail—because of the missing emotional layer on the one hand and the fact that digital images do not root themselves in long-term memory on the other: This is an unremarked revolution in our visual world that will effect a decisive change in the images of architecture as well.

The sequencing of space shows up in Schindler’s plans and buildings again and again—sometimes it is pronounced, sometimes not; sometimes it is impermeable, sometimes careless, sometimes elegant. The transitions from material to space are boundary breaking. Schindler’s spaces flow quickly. They are the architecture of rapid eye movement. One can’t see them slowly.


Wolf Prix cofounded the Viennese architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au in 1968. In addition to major commissions including the Museum Pavilion in Groningen, Netherlands, and a plan for the city of Melun-Sénart in France, the firm has realized a number of residential projects as well as exhibition designs. Represented in the Biennale di Architettura in Venice 1996 and 2000, Coop Himmelb(l)au was honored with a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 1992.