Austrian Influence

Resident Alien will chronicle the contributions of Austrian-American architects

Pile City Vienna by Peter Trummer with Elisabeth Sinnesberger will be on view at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. (Courtesy Peter Trummer Architect)

Adolf Loos is widely known for setting the stage for the modernist movement in architecture, and the Austrian architect and theorist is arguably one of the most influential practitioners ever born. At the height of his impact in the late 19th century, when he designing structures both in Austria and what’s now the Czech Republic, Loos began writing seriously on the subject of minimalism and why architecture should do without ornamentation. 

Richard Neutra was coming of age at the same time, along with his would-be close friend Rudolph Schindler. Both Vienna-born men had hugely successful careers designing modernist homes in Southern California—structures that were undoubtedly guided by the teachings of Loos. 

An upcoming exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is shining a light on the distinct cultural contributions that Austrian-American architects like Loos, Neutra, and Schindler have made over the last century in the United States. On view starting in September, Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America will feature numerous practitioners whose expertise not only changed the profession but in some cases, the American zeitgeist. Think Victor Gruen, inventor of the mid-century American shopping mall

A city with parametric growths overlain on top

Formations / Architecture and Recursive Geometry (Concept), 2010, SPAN (Courtesy Austrian Cultural Forum)

Curated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Architecture professor Stephen Phillips and Cal Poly Pomona professor Axel Schmitzberger, the exhibition will break down the impact of the migrant architects through three ethereal categories: Cloud Structures, Media Atmosphere, and Urban Terrestrials. The organizers will rely on the help of designer and UCLA professor, Julia Koerner, as well as B+U co-founder and SCI-Arc professor Herwig Baumgartner, to chronicle the works of their Austrian predecessors in America. Both young architects will also be featured in the show. 

According to a press release, Resident Alien will bring a much-needed dialogue about the momentous immigration architects made from Austria to the U.S. during the modernist period, and why it so heavily affected American architecture. The curators will also explore the concept of bicultural heritage and how it has been, and is currently, communicated through space, technology, art, education, and more today. 

While details on the makeup and materials of the exhibition haven’t been released yet, the other contemporary architects represented will include Carl Pruscha, Hans Hollein, Peter Trummer, and Mark Mack, as well as the partners at Coop Himmelb(l)au, Barbara Imhof of Liquifer Systems Group, Maties Del Campo and Sandra Maninger of SPAN Architecture, and Andrea Lenardin of A-L-M Projects, among others. The late Raimund Abraham, who designed the Austrian Cultural Forum’s New York building itself, as well as Liane Zimbler, the first European woman to get an architecture degree, will also be featured. Resident Alien will run through February 2020. 

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