The area of the former “New World”, an entertainment district of the monarchy at the gates of the city, is not only a residential area for the wealthy to this day – it is above all a walk-in museum of architecture and building history, but it was created in the parceled area in the piece of cake between Hietzinger Hauptstrasse and Lainzerstrasse between 1870 and the 1930s, some buildings that mark the departure of Vienna from the Wilhelminian era into classic modernism.
Under this motto, the Villa Beer in Wenzgasse can be visited this Saturday and Sunday with experts from the AzW. The garden is also open. Further visits are to follow.
Works by Adolf Loos and Josef Plecnik can be discovered in the territory of the “New World”. And the Villa Beer, which has been decaying for years and was realized by Oskar Wlach and Josef Frank between 1929 and 1931, is part of the “New World”. “Actually,” says the new owner of the villa, Lothar Trierenberg, “the villa was built exactly where the entrance area to the ‘New World’ was”. The trees in the garden of the villa tell a story that goes back well into the 19th century – and at the same time poses a problem for the historical substance, as the areas of the terrace in the garden are deeply rooted in the trees.
A dialogue with nature
“Frank”, says the design enthusiast Trierenberg, who among other things founded the well-known Vienna “das möbel” and the associated restaurant, “wanted to set the house in a dialogue with nature”. Frank emphasized a very clear distinction between inside and outside, but the different window scenarios and the nesting of the floors always directs the view outside – through very large panes or through the legendary “moon window” to Wenzgasse 8.
From Wenzgasse you could have a look at the increasingly sad state of this Landmark Buildings throw the classical modern. From the very beginning, Frank’s plant was under a bad luck: the industrial family Beer had taken over the building and had to pledge it to the bank as early as the 1930s. According to Trierenberg, the later owner family was smart enough after the war to offer it to the British for their zone of occupation immediately. And so the building became the headquarters of the British secret service in Austria – with a communication center built next door, which today belongs to a large Austrian telephone provider, but is actually also empty.
Photo gallery with 8 pictures
A dispute among the descendants ultimately led to the property being divided into two parts – and to its unfortunate condition up to now. Part of the villa was sold in 2008 – but shared use and thus revitalization of the villa could not be realized.
Buy from your heart and soul
“In 2020 the whole villa was on the market,” says Trierenberg, who, as he describes as a fan of classic design, had to strike immediately – despite the time to think about it, which actually wasn’t. Now the new owner is there with a property that represents something like a life’s work. Neither the federal government nor the city fought for the Villa Beer – probably also in the knowledge that the renovation of a building as a public authority can only fail or make mistakes, which in turn can easily be torn apart in the media.
The spatial experience with Josef Frank
In the last few years, the only thing that has remained is the activism, which the Architekturzentrum Wien is passionately pursuing, to allow the public to take a look at the property on selected days. “Everyone who was in here immediately succumbed to the spatial feeling of this exhibit,” says Trierenberg. As often as possible, as now this weekend as part of the AzW “Alle Frank” campaign, Trierenberg wants to open its house – and increasingly raise awareness. The renovation will then begin next year, says Trierenberg, who is currently subjecting the building to an extensive inspection between the monument protection requirements.
A base renovation for the exhibit is just as important as the renovation of the windows and the facade with its cast concrete elements that have become porous. “The roof,” says the Josef Frank lover, “is thankfully ok”. Otherwise, the following applies to him during the renovation: as gently as possible – and as much preservation of the many details as possible.
Photo gallery with 14 pictures
Different usage scenarios
Trierenberg has different models of use after the renovation in mind. A museum business with a partner such as AzW, MAK or the Historisches Museum. Or alone. Trierenberg would like to turn the bedrooms on the upper floor into three apartments that can be used and rented temporarily. “Anyone who rents here should also be able to go down to the villa after the museum closes and experience the rooms,” says Trierenberg, who focuses on charity in all his activities.
As he says, he wants to uphold the work of Frank, who fled the Nazis to Sweden and started a second career there. A combination of the work on the Villa Beer with the conception of the Werkbundsiedlung, which Frank helped to design and completed at the same time as the Villa Beer, is also conceivable for him.
Photo gallery with 9 pictures
Trierenberg does not want a museum with historical furniture “which one is then not allowed to use”. “But”, he adds, “as much as possible preservation of Frank’s work in these rooms”, that is his goal.
If all goes well, Villa Beer could be a museum with the intended use in 2024. Until then, other buildings in the area could be described and explored as part of an architecture walk. Just a course through the neighboring Beckgasse reveals insights into the building history of the turn of the century – and many a renovation case.