THE NEW MYTHOS

VI­ENNA CEL­E­BRATES ITS MOD­ERNIST MOVE­MENT THIS YEAR. FOR ALL THE RAD­I­CAL DEC­LA­RA­TIONS OF ITS DE­SIGN­ERS, AR­CHI­TECTS AND ARTISTS, THEIR WORK DIS­PLAYS A TOUCH­ING NOS­TAL­GIA – AL­BEIT FOR A PAST OF THEIR OWN DE­VIS­ING.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - LUKE SLAT­TERY

Ifind my­self perched on a banquette in the world’s most beau­ti­ful bar at the hap­pi­est hour of all: the dreamy crowd-free midafter­noon zone be­tween the lunch-time lin­ger­ers and the early-knock­off drinkers. The Vi­en­nese air on this clear win­ter day is crisp and while there’s still light in the sky the streets are rapidly dark­en­ing. But in­side the Adolf Loos-de­signed Amer­i­can Bar, which served its first Man­hat­tans in 1908, all is aglow. The cof­fered African mar­ble ceil­ings give off a cosy warmth, the bot­tles be­hind the bar wink invit­ingly, and the coral-wood walls blush like the belly of a Stradi­var­ius. The god of holy drinkers is in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

The bar mea­sures a mere 6m x 4.5m, but ev­ery cor­ner seems to un­fold like a jew­ellery box. The oc­tag­o­nal ta­bles are topped with opa­line glass lit from be­low – a made-in-Vi­enna im­i­ta­tion will set you back $19,000. The floor is che­quer-boarded with pine-green mar­ble, the lamps are adorned with lit­tle gauzy cov­er­ings, as if to pro­tect their pri­vacy, and the mir­rors re­fract the ceil­ing pat­tern to cre­ate an il­lu­sion of boun­ti­ful space in a bar the size of a bus shel­ter.

Soon the place will be as packed as a pen­guin colony. But for these blessed few min­utes of tran­quil­lity there’s just me, Adolf Loos, and the ge­nius of fin-de­siè­cle Vi­enna. It de­serves a toast!

Around the turn of the 20th cen­tury, and a few decades be­yond, the Hab­s­burg im­pe­rial capital at the junc­ture of East and West was a cru­cible of cre­ativ­ity. To­day an ef­fort is re­quired to ap­pre­ci­ate Schoenberg’s 12 tones and Robert Musil’s un­fin­ished Mod­ernist doorstop­per, The Man With­out Qual­i­ties. But Vi­enna’s ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage is laid out on the grand buf­fet of the city’s im­pe­rial streetscape, for ev­ery­one to share.

I’m here on a tour of Vi­en­nese Mod­ernism, as this year the city is cel­e­brat­ing its Mod­ernist legacy. Why did the move­ment hap­pen here and why at the turn of the cen­tury, I ask our guide, art his­to­rian Chris­tian Wit­tDör­ring, as we set out on a walk­ing tour amid vol­leys of sleet. He puffs on his cig­a­rette and, with­out break­ing stride, says that while there’s no one sim­ple an­swer, a good start is the emer­gence of a for­ward­think­ing, largely Jewish middle-class anx­ious to ex­press its ris­ing cultural sta­tus. With­out a class of will­ing artis­tic pa­trons keen to live in mod­ern apart­ments dec­o­rated with mod­ern fur­nish­ings and mod­ern art­works, there would not, in short, have been a

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