Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ringstraße Buildings

Cambridge, July 27, 2013

One way or another, all of the Ringstraße buildings are a little weird.  You don't have to read Adolf Loos to notice that there is something strange about all those styles from different places and historic periods--the Renaissance University, the Classical Parliament, the Gothic City Hall, the Baroque Theater, etc.--all coming together around the all-purpose urbanism of the Ring.

But there is one particular building whose urbanism I particularly like: the Burgtheater.  Most of the buildings along the Ringstraße are simply oriented parallel or perpendicular to the avenue, with their main entrances gesturing towards the Ring.  That would be also the case with the convex façade of the Burgtheater, if it weren't for its two lateral wings that establish a much more deliberate and energetic frontality, articulate a foreground of nuanced scale (both larger and smaller) for the old city behind, and create an elaborate set of open spaces at the back.

And then you have to do decide what to do with these appendages that have little to do with the typical theater plan, something that the architects--Gottfired Semper and Karl von Hasenauer--exploited brilliantly with rather unprecedented monumental stairs extending in a long straight shot, one for the old imperial court to the south and another for the new bourgeoisie to the north.

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