Be it baroque vedute, magnificent Renaissance buildings, or architectural ensembles like Vienna’s Ring Road: the Architecture Collection at the ALBERTINA Museum embodies a fascinating overview of the genre of architectural drawing that numbers over 50,000 plans, studies, and models. Extending from the Late Gothic period to the architecture of the present, the museum's holdings include seminal works by Bernini, Borromini, Hansen, Wagner, Loos, Hollein, Hadid, and many others.
The "founding father" of the Architectural Collection was Philipp Freiherr [i.e., Baron] von Stosch (1691-1757), to whom the ALBERTINA Museum owes a significant stock of some 2,000 sheets of Italian architectural drawings of the 16th, 17th and early 18th century.
Baron Stosch was one of the most respected of specialists on Roman antiquities, a well-read polymath and at the same time a keen-to-buy amateur and middleman-dealer in sculptural found objects, medals, cameos and copper engravings as well as drawings. Among many other things, he succeeded in striking a veritable mother lode when he acquired the estate of Francesco Borromini, the principal master of Roman Seicento architecture.
In addition, Baron Stosch produced a pictorial atlas, which, in a kind of general panoramic view, united the façades of all the famous and stately Roman buildings in frontal perspectives. Following his death, the complete Stosch Collection was auctioned off in Hamburg in 1769, with 324 glued-together volumes of the "Stosch Atlas", upon the initiative of the library prefect, Gerhard van Swieten, being acquired by the Royal Imperial Court Library in Vienna. These albums were retained in their original form until 1841 but were then unpicked and absorbed into the panoramic collection of the German Museum of Prints and Drawings (Kupferstichkabinett).
When, in 1905, a separate geographic section was established, the material was finally disassembled once and for all. Over 3,800 maps and panoramic city views were added to the collection of maps. The art historian H. Egger began, at this time, to sort through the architectural hand drawings, and to do scholarly research on them. Following the establishment of the ALBERTINA Museum Graphic Collection in 1919, the holdings were once more mingled with sheets from other provenances.
Apart from the homogenous block of the "Stosch Atlas", the ALBERTINA Museum’s architectural section holds another large group of drawings, covering more than 4,000 exhibits, which originated in the Court Building Department, which later, still under monarchic rule, became the State Building Department. The drawings themselves were kept in several of the royal and imperial archives, until 1918. Afterwards, they were handed, for the most part, to the ALBERTINA Museum. It was intended that by thus uniting the entire production of the drawing offices that had once been domiciled at the Vienna Court Building Department, it would be possible to provide a comprehensive documentation of the Habsburgian building activity between the years 1700 and 1918.
The topographical range of the Court Building Department drawings covers an area from Vienna via the Austrian provinces on to the former Habsburgian crown lands and finally, via the buildings erected by Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, even into far-away Central America. Further European countries, among them, Belgium, Germany, France, as well as Latvia and Russia, are represented by sheets from other imperial collections held at the ALBERTINA Museum.
As a rule, the estates of Austrian architects entered the Architectural Collection at the initiative of their respective heirs and/or employees of the ALBERTINA Museum. However, the holdings that have been accumulated in this way over the past decades are, strictly speaking, not exclusively artistic ‘estates’ of architects, but frequently encompass plans, studies, photographs, sketchbooks, and letters that have only been acquired after the death of their authors. This is why the ALBERTINA Museum likes to refer to these holdings as ‘archives’.
The Architectural Collection keeps archives of architects who graduated from both of Vienna’s traditional architectural schools, the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Technology. Josef Frank, Clemens Holzmeister, Heinrich Kulka, and Helmut Wagner-Freynsheim were trained under Carl König at the University of Technology (then the Academy of Technology), whereas Leopold Bauer, Hubert Gessner, and Hans Kestranek studied under König’s antipode, Otto Wagner, at the Academy of Fine Arts. In a supplementary effort, the plans and drawings by Carl von Hasenauer, Otto Wagner’s predecessor at the Academy, have been brought together from diverse sources and assembled in an archive of their own.
The holdings of works by Lois Welzenbacher, who studied at the Academy of Technology in Munich, and Adolf Loos, who was trained in Dresden and the United States, represent further architectural schools.
Due to all of these architectural archives, the ALBERTINA Museum’s Architectural Collection is capable of visualizing the entire spectrum of twentieth-century architecture, from traditional buildings (such as those by Leopold Bauer) to radical Functionalism (represented, for example, through Helmut Wagner-Freynsheim).
Further holdings of architectural drawings dating from the epoch in question include, among other groups of works, the estate of Adolf Kautzki, a student of Peter Behrens who conceived buildings for the Afghan government in the 1950s and 1960s, the estate of Ernst Kirsch, a student of Friedrich Ohmann, as well as several drawings by Friedrich Ohmann himself.
Up to now, four major archives have been made accessible online, offering a representative survey of this part of the Architectural Collection:
The Carl Hasenauer Archive keeps the largest and most relevant part of the entire estate of this renowned architect of the Ringstrasse era, who together with Gottfried Semper planned and supervised the construction of the Museums of Art History and Natural History and the Burgtheater in Vienna. This section encompasses plans from the Architectural Collection and the Carl Hasenauer archive proper, as it was originally preserved in our museum, as well as revealing additions that used to be stored in the attic of the Vienna Burgtheater.
The Clemens Holzmeister Archive includes parts of the architect’s artistic estate. Holzmeister’s substantial oeuvre, which results from a long life and career, is comprehensively documented in the ALBERTINA Museum according to a topographic system and in alphabetical order. It comprises some 5,000 objects of mostly large-sized sketches and drawings (predominantly in charcoal, chalk, or pencil on transparent paper).
After the death of Josef Frank in Stockholm in 1967, his estate of artistic works and writings was split up among several collections. A major part of his late designs entered the ALBERTINA Museum in the early 1970s, thanks to the intervention of the architect Hermann Czech and through Dagmar Grill, with whom Frank had lived in Stockholm during the final decade of his life. The architect’s large watercolors, laid down on cardboard, represent a particularly appealing part of his archive.
In 1961, Grete Welzenbacher, the widow of the architect Lois Welzenbacher, donated to the ALBERTINA Museum the drawings and sketches by her husband, who had died in 1955. At the time, the University of Technology in Munich was also interested in the estate. But since the widow wished that emphasis be placed on the aspect of the architect’s draughtsmanship, she decided in favor of the ALBERTINA Museum as the permanent home of her husband’s drawn oeuvre.
In 1995, by dint of a magnanimous gesture by the Technical University of Vienna, almost 100, mostly relatively small, scale-models relating to modern international architecture were bequeathed to the ALBERTINA Museum. These had been developed under the direction of Professor Hans Puchhammer at the Department of Architectural Construction and Design of the Institute of Structural Engineering. The models cover buildings designed by Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto.
In 2002, a further set of eleven true-in-detail wooden models of public buildings originally erected by Adolf Loos were deeded to the ALBERTINA Museum by the Technical University of Vienna, where these models had been created under the supervision of Professor Anton Schweighofer.