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On the Road with Hans Hollein
Eva Branscome
TUE, 23.1.2024, 18:00 – Seminarraum Argentinierstraße 8, TU WIEN

About the lecture:
The young Austrian artist/writer/architect Hans Hollein came to the USA between 1958 and 1960 to study and travel. Desperate to learn about architectural modernism and conscious that, from 1933 until the late-1940s, Austria had existed in a state of cultural isolation, Hollein hit the road thanks to a generous grant from the Commonwealth Fund in New York.
If Hollein left Austria hoping to learn from Mies, during his time in the US, he appears however to have been primarily affected by the American way of life and the condition of modernity: New York, coca-cola, Jazz, popular culture, the thrill of driving across vast open spaces. In the West and Mexico, he discovered the neglected culture of Native American building. He sought the familiar within this unfamiliar nation researching the architecture of the Austrian émigré Rudolf Schindler. Travelling as he wished in his funded car and devising his own agenda regarding cultural exposure, let Hollein cheat the limitations of time and space, zooming in and out of cities/landscapes/cultures. While these interests bewildered his sponsors who had expected him to be impressed by the American cultural assets of education and progress, they allowed and financed his 50.000-mile tour.
During his stay, Hollein made over 3000 slides, some 300 drawings and a large collection of jazz records. Very few of these made it back to Austria. On the eve of his departure everything was stolen from Hollein’s car in New York. What has survived is the archive of poetic, articulate and often candid letters he was required to write to the Commonwealth Fund as he was travelling. There are also a handful of slides and some rare drawings.
Benefiting from access to vast and under researched archives, this lecture looks at the importance of American exchange on the ideas/work of the Austrian architect and how this then influenced Austrian and European architecture.

About the speaker:
Eva Branscome is Professor of Architecture and Cultural Heritage at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture. Originally trained as an interior architect, her research work follows two strands: the links between built heritage and cultural practices in contemporary cities, and the modern architectural history of Central Europe. She is the author of Hans Hollein and Postmodernism (2018), the first major monograph on that famous Austrian architect-artist. Increasingly her research is engaged in examining the complicity of architecture with social injustice, as seen in the UCL/SAHGB conference that she organised in May 2023 titled ‘Constructing Coloniality: British Imperialism and the Built Environment’.

Image caption:
This photograph was taken during the interview procedure and shows an energetic, fun and inquisitive young Hollein in a slightly oversized suit. (Courtesy of Rockefeller Archive Centre). From the publication: Eva Branscome, Hans Hollein and Postmodernism, Art and Architecture in Austria, 1958-1985. London: Routledge, 2018.