Architecture: The development of architecture in Austria was to a large extent determined by the cultural and geographic conditions in the country. In Austria, architectural principles were taken over from Italy and the German-speaking areas as well as from the France. The integration process had different outcomes in the different parts of the country, and in some epochs works of global significance were created. One characteristic of Austrian architecture is the synthesis of architectural concepts. This is reflected in the fact that in Austria, in comparison with other European countries, the periods between two architectural styles are generally prolonged and have gained a significance of their own. This was especially so in the first half of the 16th century and around 1800. Major architectural works and styles were created by all social classes: The clergy built churches and monasteries, the nobility constructed castles, palaces and town residences, the bourgeoisie erected town and country houses, the peasantry developed regional types of farmhouses, and, finally, council houses were built in the time between the two World Wars to serve the needs of the labourers.
Earliest examples of construction in Austria have been preserved from the 2nd century A.D. There are remains of a Roman town in Carnuntum and at Magdalensberg Mountain, and some smaller, pre-Romanesque places of worship have also been preserved. Pre-Romanesque structures are rare, because wood construction prevailed at those times, and the old cathedral of the town of Salzburg was pulled down to create space for new structures.
In the Romanesque period (from the 11th century onward), building began to flourish in Austria, which was due to the growing importance of the land under the Babenberg rulers. Castles, monasteries and churches were the main building projects. Most Austrian castles that exist to date were built in that period, and although many were altered in the late Middle Ages and the modern period, old parts have been preserved in many instances, such as keeps, chapels or the main residential tract. Monasteries were constructed either in the Benedictine or in the Cistercian tradition. Early church buildings frequently followed the basilica plan with three naves and with apses but without vaults. Only few large structures have been preserved, such as the cathedral in Gurk, but there are a great number of village churches (usually with one nave only) with a square chancel and a dominant tower. A special category of church are fortified churches, which were equipped with defensive walls for protection of the rural population. A typical structure to be found in Austria is the ossuary, with either a round or a polygonal base (e.g. in the towns of Tulln, Hartberg).
The transition to the Gothic style took place slowly in the 13th century, and it occurred first in the Babenberg marches. Architects directly took over French forms (e.g. the Capella Speciosa in Klosterneuburg). It was again the Cistercians who played a leading role, as was demonstrated with the construction of hall-type chancels in the monasteries of Heiligenkreuz and Lilienfeld. The new style spread only slowly to other parts of the country, with the Mendicant Orders playing a leading role. The main agents of the new architectural ideas, were, however, the lodges of craftsmen and masters ( Building Lodge). The lodge involved in the construction of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna was the chief body of churchbuilders in Austria. It erected churches in the provinces of Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Styria.
The transition from massive Romanesque construction to Gothic skeleton construction was completed in the 14th century. High Gothic religious buildings are characterised by lofty interior spaces of great height, created through the use of very slim supportive and weight-carrying piers that are decorated with columns and pilasters (ribbing). A projecting system of buttresses and flying buttresses projects weight outward. It carries the weight of the vaults and leaves the interior walls quasi de-materialised. Later on, the Romanesque basilica plan was gradually abandoned in favour of structures showing strong tendencies toward a single room plan: The classical basilica (characterised by different height of nave and aisles, with the nave having its own windows) was superseded by an intermediary type of church with a windowless nave and aisles of different height and subsequently by the hall church. Accordingly, the extreme exploitation of the vertical line was followed by rooms laid out in a more horizontal plan in the 15th century (late Gothic period). The overflowing abundance of architectural forms is visible in the decoration of windows and portals and in intricate vault forms such as stellar and net vaults and flying ribs. Austria played a significant role in the construction of towers in those times. The Gothic tower on the south transept of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, for example, is exemplary in Europe. Interesting polygonal spires can be seen in the church of Maria am Gestade in Vienna, in the pilgrim church of Judendorf-Strassengel and in the parish church of Steyr.
During the late medieval times, the nobility enlarged their castles, which became fairly complex, while the rise of the burghers led to increased building activity in the towns. Numerous Austrian towns have Gothic structures at their centre (e.g. Steyr, Krems, Bruck an der Mur, Innsbruck, Feldkirch).
There are very few religious buildings in the Renaissance style in Austria, as this style was mainly advocated by the Catholic Imperial Court and its adherents, while Protestants were reluctant to accept the new architectural ideas. From the 16th century on, Renaissance principles, coming from Italy, first permeated the southern areas of the country (examples are Porcia Palace in Spittal an der Drau and the Landhaus residence in Graz). Later they spread further north, where the style was strongly influenced by traditions from the German Laender. The assimilation of the new style was frequently restricted to isolated elements which were subject to independent architectural interpretation, especially in the case of burgher's residences. This was mainly the case with columns and arcades and can be seen in arcaded courts in the Wachau region and in the area south of Vienna. As the façades were remodelled, the aspect of the cities, formerly dominated by gabled town houses, also underwent changes. The Renaissance style played an important role in the construction of fortifications, castles and palaces. This was true for new edifices as well as for the modernisation of existing medieval structures.
The Baroque style spread through all of Austria in the course of the Counter-Reformation. The first precursor of Baroque architecture north of the Alps is seen in the cathedral of Salzburg, which was erected from 1614 on and was directly influenced by Italian architectural art of that time. The major role in spreading the Baroque style (17th century) was, however, played by the Jesuits (wall-pillar churches in Innsbruck, Vienna, Leoben, Linz) and by visiting Italian architects.
The victory over the Turks near Vienna (1683) caused a considerable increase in building in Austria, and numerous church, prestige and residential buildings from that period still dominate the picture of many Austrian towns and villages. Austria was lucky to have a number of highly qualified architects when she regained her position as a major power in Europe and enjoyed a period of economic prosperity. Amongst the architects who were to leave their marks on Austrian architecture for a long time to come, is J. B. Fischer von Erlach, whose work displays strong Italian influences and who was active in Salzburg (Holy Trinity Church and Collegiate Church) and in Vienna (Schwarzenberg Palace and St. Charles' Church). Other representatives are J. L. von Hildebrandt, who was trained in Rome and created one of Austria´s most significant palaces, the Belvedere in Vienna, J. Prandtauer, whose main achievement was the construction of monasteries (Melk, St. Florian), M. Steinl, who worked in several artistic fields and as an academy professor influenced the following generation of architects (Duernstein and Zwettl). Somewhat later there was also J. Munggenast (Altenburg monastery). In the province of Upper Austria, the main Baroque architect was J. M. Prunner (Stadl-Paura), in Tirol the Gumpp family had a decisive influence on Baroque architecture, and in Styria the style saw a late peak in the middle of the 18th century owing to J. G. Stengg and J. Hueber. Architecture in the age of
Enlightenment and Romanticism in Austria was initially promoted by artists trained in France (I. Canevale, C. de Moreau, L. Montoyer). Later on, markedly bourgeois variations of the style developed, especially in the style of interior decoration ( Biedermeier) that was considered exemplary for a long time. The chief Biedermeier architect was J. Kornhaeusel. Late Classicistic style was markedly sober and functional. Representative structures are various administration buildings built under the rule of Franz I. The bareness of the style was broken in the middle of the 19th century through the use of small ornaments that had developed from the historical repertoire of forms (Romantic Historicism). At the same time, heterogeneous motifs were freely combined (Vienna Opera House by A. Sicard von Sicardsburg and E. van der Nuell), while later stylistic purity was desired (strict Historicism). The Vienna Ringstrasse boulevard is a so-called Gesamtkunstwerk in townscaping (a "total work of art" in which architecture expresses a dominant idea) created by important foreign (T. von Hansen, G. Semper, F. von Schmidt) and local (H. von Ferstel, C. von Hasenauer) architects. Historicism was superseded by architecture that was determined by function and new materials. The new style was mainly developed by O. Wagner. He had initially experimented with Jugendstil and consequently developed a style characterised by clear forms (Postal Savings Bank in Vienna). As a teacher, he had a strong influence on a number of leading architects (J. M. Olbrich, J. Hoffmann, J. Plečnik). After 1900 a specifically Viennese style developed, which focused on geometrical form with sparingly used decoration. The generation of Wagner's students chiefly determined the architecture of Vienna´s council houses constructed in the time between the two World Wars, which sometimes exhibited regional characteristics and sometimes indulged in a somewhat pompous language of form. These council houses were exemplary on an international scale because they were equipped with facilities such as laundries, kindergartens, libraries, etc. A. Loos gained world renown for his architectural work, and even more for his publications. He considered building an activity determined by cultural and historical factors. In his view, ornamentation had become useless as a consequence of the progress of culture. Architects under his influence working abroad (J. Frank, R. Neutra, E. A. Plischke) played a major role in the development of the International Style, while in Austria the aim was to create a national style that would integrate Alpine traditions (C. Holzmeister, L. Welzenbacher). After World War II, architects strove to bring Austrian architecture in line with international developments (R. Rainer, K. Schwanzer). In recent times Graz has developed into an architectural centre (G. Domenig) next to Vienna (H. Hollein, W. Holzbauer, G. Peichl, Coop Himmelblau), while an independent tradition mainly focussing on favourably priced wood constructions in domestic architecture has gained ground in the province of Vorarlberg.
Literature#Oesterr. Kunsttopographie, 1907ff.; Dehio-handbook Kunstdenkmaeler Oesterr., 1933ff.; W. Buchowiecki, Die gotischen Kirchen Oesterreichs, 1952; R. Wagner-Rieger (ed.), Die Wiener Ringstrasse, 11 vols., 1967-1981; R. Wagner-Rieger, Wiens Architektur im 19. Jahrhundert, 1970; F. Achleitner, Oesterr. Architektur im 20. Jahrhundert, 4 vols., 1980ff.; G. Brucher, Barockarchitektur in Oesterreich, 1983; idem, Gotische Baukunst in Oesterreich, 1990.