24th June, 2020.
Fritz Wotruba’s life was one of profound turbulence defined by an incessant searching for outlets that would ultimately keep him alive and out of prison. The culmination of his life’s path is Wotruba Church in Vienna which stands as a physical and metaphorical manifestation of one man’s battle to remain on the straight and narrow.
Born in Vienna in 1907 to an abusive and alcoholic father, Fritz Wotruba was the youngest of eight children. His three elder brothers and father held extensive criminal records and Fritz was kept under close surveillance by police as a consequence. In an effort to avoid derailment that was almost predestined, Wotruba immersed himself in work and the pursuit of creative mediums. This combination of art and trade informed a multi-disciplinary approach to works that ranged in scale but were unified by sculptural qualities.
Wotruba Church is perhaps one of the world’s most iconic examples of brutalist architecture. Constructed in the 1970’s, one year after Fritz’s death, his planning for the building is inspired by the concept that the considered arrangement of asymmetric objects – in this case 152 conrete cubes – should ultimately result in aesthetic harmony. It is debatable as to whether or not this was actually achieved although there is no doubt that the Wotruba Church stands as a singularly dynamic form of somewhat chaotic form juxtaposed by the surrounding harmony of the serene landscape.
Project architect, Fritz G. Mayr, has been all but forgotten in the development of Wotruba Church however it was his determination to realise the vision of the artist that has assured this building a place in history as one of the most profound examples of artist and architect collaboration. The attention to detail is as meticulous as the attention to aesthetics and form. The interior is rendered with an affectingly spiritual essence largely due to the premeditated planning of a sculptors eye when it came to the placement of windows. Directional light is engagingly beautiful against the material strength of the intimidating concrete blocks that haphazardly stack upwards. It was Mayr’s accuracy and dedication that saw the sculpture assume the realm of architecture and it was the respect of one man for another mans work that realised the shared vision that became Wotruba Church.
Words by Tiffany Jade.
Images by Denis Esakov and Anton Bauder.