Material Transformations in Architecture: Tracing the Design Process of the Iron Column in Wagner's Postsparkasse

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In architecture, thinking and making are in a continuous dialogue, particularly in situations where designers are confronted with material innovations. Whereas historical research of iconic buildings typically documents the work of the architect, this chapter proposes an alternative reading by emphasizing the role of the material. Otto Wagner’s Postal Savings Bank in Vienna (1906) offers an insight into how material innovations in iron are entangled with the genesis of the project. A detailed archival study on the iron column in the central banking hall traces its conversion from material to architectural element. Ideas on ‘Construction’ and ‘Composition’, which Wagner had developed as separate chapters in his book ‘Moderne Architektur’, are merged into the design. The properties of iron, its production process and assembly, enabled Wagner to reconsider the relations between object, ornament and space, resulting in an innovative, abstract and modern style.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPenser-Faire. Thinking-Making
Subtitle of host publicationQuand des architectes se mêlent de construction. When Architects Engage in Construction
EditorsPauline Lefebvre, Julie Neuwels, Jean-Philippe Possoz
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherÉditions de l'Université de Bruxelles
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-2-8004-1757-8
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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